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Chains press on with expansion

The restaurant chains Chester's Grill and Bar-B-Q Plaza will continue their expansion plans this year despite the country's political problems.

Many of their new restaurants will be opened upcountry, where locals still lead their normal lives amid the coup, while the purchasing power of people in major cities is high.

Boonyanuch Boonbumrungsub, marketing director at Bar BQ Plaza Co, said the company would not suspend store expansions or marketing activities.

It will spend 100 million baht to open new branches this year and use more online media to reach customers, she said.

"We're trying to open our new branches in new locations in order to get new customers," Ms Boonyanuch said.

Its first new branch this year will open in The Union Mall shopping complex near the Lat Phrao intersection on Saturday, followed by another in The Siam One complex opposite Siam Paragon on June 5. Eight more branches will be added in the second half of this year.

"Sales dropped by 20% when the protestors occupied nearby major shopping centres, but business returned to normal after they moved somewhere else," she said.

The company did not evaluate losses after opening times were cut by two hours after the curfew was imposed. Normally, branches close at 10pm.

Sales are expected to increase by 15% to 2.64 billion baht this year.

Meanwhile, Chester's Food Co, the operator of Chester's Grill food chain, plans to open more than 20 new branches this year, focusing on upcountry areas. Each requires an investment of 6 million baht. The opening of new branches will bring the total to 200 by the year-end.

The company is set to spend another 60 million baht to renovate its 20 existing branches this year.

Vice-president Suwat Songphatanayothin said four new upcountry branches opened in the first four months of this year. All received a better than expected response from customers.

"Sales in the first four months grew by 8% year-on-year. That's quite good amid the current economic and political situation," he said.