Thursday, September 21, 2017

New pizzeria grabs slice of local market

Downtown Yangon has a new American-style pizza place: Hot Stone Pizza, which opened on Bo Myat Tun Road on August 3.

Photo: Zarni Phyo / The Myanmar TimesPhoto: Zarni Phyo / The Myanmar Times

The halal dining menu features thin and thick crust pizzas ranging in price from K6000 to K21,000, with specialty toppings including mutton keema, seafood medley and teriyaki prawn.

But the options don’t end there: Those looking for non-pizza items will find pasta, four flavours of baked chicken wings (K5000 to K5500 for six pieces); Greek, Caesar, grilled chicken and other salads (K4000 to K4500); and soups such as pumpkin and cream of mushroom (K2000).

Who better to bring American-style pizza to Yangon than a partnership between Myanmar International Food Franchises and Vietnam-based franchisor SKHK, the latter part-owned by Canadian restaurant concept developer Robert Beausoleil, who is based in Ho Chi Minh City?

Born in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 1969, Beausoleil grew up in a restaurant-rich atmosphere, with his father owning eight submarine sandwich and pizza shops.

At the age of 17 Beausoleil opened his first restaurant, called A Matter of Taste, in a four-star hotel and sold it after three years of operation. In subsequent years, he opened and sold a number of other restaurants.

“I’m kind of a five-year guy and get bored – so I sell the restaurants and do something else,” Beausoleil told The Myanmar Times in an interview in Yangon. “People are either restaurant people or they are not. It takes a certain type of person, who likes being sociable – dealing with people – and it makes them happy to provide good service and food.”

He said he enjoys the “challenge of developing something new – coming up with a menu, a theme and style.”

“At the beginning in a restaurant or any business you have to work really hard, making connections, building up customer base, finding out what works what doesn’t and making sure people are happy and become regular customers.”

Beausoleil said bold plans are afoot to open up to 14 more Hot Stone Pizza outlets throughout Myanmar in the coming years, with the next one slated for Mandalay. He said Myanmar offers “very interesting” possibilities for the future, but also said it’s difficult to find good local partners and good staff.

“There were a lot of hurdles, but through a lot of hard work we were able to open [in Yangon] on August 3 as planned,” he said, adding that there are huge opportunities in Myanmar for bringing in Western culture, food and styles.

“It’s a unique experience to watch somebody who never had a pizza enjoy a good slice of pizza,” Beausoleil said. “Pizza … is one of the few Western foods that appeals to every age group. It’s a very consensual food group. Pizza and pasta seem to transcend age groups, countries, cultures.”

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