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Gong Cha will be back ‘bigger, better’

This article is more than 12 months old

Singapore's cup of bubble tea may runneth over.

The parent company behind popular brand Gong Cha said the chain is returning in the next several months in a "bigger, better, upgraded format".

"We just want to make it clear to our Singapore customers that we are not leaving the market and we plan to come back pretty soon," Mr Kim Soomin, a partner at Japanese private equity company Unison Capital, told The Straits Times.

Unison Capital owns Royal Tea Taiwan, the company that founded the Gong Cha brand.

"Together with (South) Korea and Taiwan, Singapore is one of the most strategically important and successful markets for Gong Cha's growth, so there is no way we want to leave," said Mr Kim.

He added that the company has not set a target for the number of outlets it plans to open by the end of the year, but said it would be "as many as we can".

He said: "We are not in a rush to grow in terms of quantity."

The announcement comes after all 80 Gong Cha stores here converted to LiHo outlets.

The move was completed on Monday by RTG Holdings, which brought Gong Cha here in 2009 and expanded it islandwide.

Before the conversion, Gong Cha outlets here were raking in about $30 million in annual revenue, making the country one of the top three contributors to the brand's overall turnover, which stood at more than US$70 million (S$97 million) last year.

There are about 1,400 Gong Cha outlets worldwide.

RTG managing director Rodney Tang decided to leave the Gong Cha franchise when he learnt that Royal Tea Taiwan had been sold to Unison Capital without his knowledge.

He had also found the terms for renewing his Gong Cha franchising licence more restrictive, with clauses that would have affected his ability to manage RTG's other brands effectively.

RTG also runs Nene Chicken, South Korean fast-food chain; Bornga, a Korean barbecue restaurant; and Paik's Bibim, which sells bibimbap.

Mr Tang told The Straits Times he was glad to hear that Gong Cha would be returning.

"The brand has a special place in the hearts of Singaporeans and I wish them all the best making it as big as we did in the last eight years," he said.

Said Mr Kim: "We had a tremendous relationship with Rodney.

"It is sad things didn't work out... but I think both parties have to move on. We are not here to compete with LiHo."