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Max’s to open pizza stores in Saudi Arabia, Hawaii

Leading local casual dining chain operator Max’s Group Inc. is set to introduce pizza chain brand Yellow Cab to Saudi Arabia and Hawaii next year as part of its strategy to bring its mainstream brands to new markets that will not necessarily rely on the overseas Filipino community.

In a press briefing during the listing of P3.5 billion worth of follow-on shares issued by Max’s Group, top officials said overseas expansion was part of the company’s growth story.

Eduardo Francisco, president of BDO Capital and Investment Corp.—a co-lead underwriter for the stock sale—said half of the offering was supported by institutional investors who were taking a long-term investment position as they appreciated the group’s track record in operating a vast restaurant chain.

On its international expansion, Max’s has identified four brands that it would bring to more overseas locations—Max’s, Yellow Cab, Pancake House and Teriyaki Boy. While the flagship Max’s will continue to target Filipino communities, the three other brands are seen appealing to a broader market in overseas markets.

Robert Trota, president of Max’s, said the Filipino community was but an entry point for the group but over the long term, the mainstream brands would likely have a faster growth trajectory in the international markets because of their broader appeal. “What we’re trying to introduce is not just Max’s but what Filipino food is all about,” he said.

In the case of Yellow Cab, a New York-style pizza house, this brand already has six existing branches in Qatar. However, the brand is entering Saudi Arabia and Hawaii for the first time.

The group is likewise opening more Max’s restaurants overseas. One will be opened in Daly City (California), another in Hawaii, one in Canada, five in the Middle East and two more in Malaysia.

About half of the business of Yellow Cab in the Philippines comes from delivery orders. The same model is seen for its upcoming branches overseas.

As of end-June this year, the Max’s Group had 525 stores, of which 27 are overseas, including those in North America, Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia.

Franchising is the group’s primary route for its international expansion. “We do have company-owned stores in the US. The reason is we have them already as early as 1982. It gives us a better grasp of the market. After what we have now, it’s going to be all franchised,” Trota said.

For Southeast Asia, the group has Pancake House in Malaysia (two stores in Kuala Lumpur) and Brunei. “We feel that the Asian market will be our better approach for Pancake and even Yellow Cab,” Trota said. “Max’s is also there. We’ve been looking at Indonesia and we’re just assessing formats,” he said.

Max’s chief finance officer Dave Fuentebella said the group was very optimistic on the operating environment.

“We have a base that’s rising. We have a lot of developments going up not only in NCR (National Capital Region) but also in Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. We really feel that because the economy is trending upwards, it’s hitting the emerging middle class, which is where we are strategically situated. We see a lot more people with spending power,” he said.

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