Friday, December 09, 2011

Hanoi is Hungry......

by Beth Solomon

Hanoi is Hungry for American Franchise Brands

Franchise leaders representing 19 U.S. brands kicked off a high-energy trade mission to Vietnam and Indonesia Tuesday, celebrating franchising at an opening reception under the stars hosted by U.S. Ambassador David Shear on the terrace of the Hilton in Hanoi -- a franchise hotel.


"I love seeing American brands in Vietnam, and we look forward to building businesses and trade between our two nations for the benefit of all," said Shear.

"I'm excited about franchising in particular," added U.S. Commercial Service Counselor Sarah Kemp, who worked closely with IFA's Vice President of Development Scott Lehr to develop the trade mission. "Franchising creates jobs and provides training -- especially for young people," she said. Over 60 percent of the population of Vietnam is under 35. 

With economic growth rates that rival China's and a surging middle and upper class of consumers with plentiful disposable income, Vietnam attracted IFA members Applebee's, Denny's, Johnny Rockets, The Melting Pot, Carvel Ice Cream, Cinnabon, Schlotzsky's, Moe's Southwest Grill, Auntie Anne's Pretzels, Seattle's Best Coffee, Great American Cookies, MaggieMoo's, Marble Slab Creamery, Pretzelmaker, Pollo Tropical, Rita's Italian Ice, Round Table Pizza, Which Wich and Wing Zone, Crestcom and The Vitamin Shoppe on the mission co-hosted by IFA, Franchise Times, and the U.S. Commercial Service.

"The people here are very pro-American," said Bill Edwards, founder of Edwards Global Services, which is representing several brands participating in the trade mission. "Also, the Vietnam franchise law is one of the best in the region. If we have a problem, the laws are fair and balanced." 

After briefings by U.S. diplomatic and Commercial Service officials and in-country experts on Vietnam's economy and franchise laws, IFA members met with Vietnam Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Ahn, who said the nation is committed to maintaining a business-friendly environment that attracts U.S. companies. Then, the Americans participated in "matchmaking" sessions with potential partners selected by the U.S. Commercial Service Global Franchise Team, followed by lunch at Vietnamese franchise Pho 24, which has sprouted nearly 80 locations in Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Korea, Cambodia and Australia since its founding in 2003. 

"Trade Missions are a great opportunity for established U.S brands to learn about markets and meet high-level government liaisons and begin a dialogue with vetted and interested local partners," said Franchise Times editor Nancy Weingartner. "As Franchise Times expands its international coverage, trade missions will continue to be an effective and colorful way to be introduced to the brands going overseas and the culture and business practices of other countries."

"Working with the U.S. Commercial Service Global Franchise Team -- a blue-chip organization -- the IFA can deliver the contacts and the resources our members need to seize the opportunities of international expansion that are available right now," said Vice President of Strategic Initiatives & Industry Relations Beth Solomon. "The potential for U.S. brands is huge."