Mango Tree pioneers Lifestyle Concepts to ride Thai Food’s global ‘Second Wave’, eyes 100 outlets Worldwide by 2015
BANGKOK, THAILAND: Chic contemporary designs, celebrity chef endorsements, mixologists and music will be part of the ‘second wave’ of Thai food’s global surge in popularity, according to the man behind one of the world’s leading Thai culinary brands.
Mango Tree restaurants worldwide founder and CEO, Bangkok-based Pitaya Phanphensophon, said this movement was ground-swelling around the world, with Thailand’s Southeast Asian neighbours among those most deeply in love with Thai food’s second coming.
“The first wave was back in the 1980s and 90s, when the world – or the Western world – discovered the existence of Thai food,” Pitaya said. “We’re on the second wave now, and there’s no turning back,” he said, citing an ambitious expansion programme that will increase the company’s branded restaurants and cafes to 100 outlets by 2015 while rolling out ventures in mixology and music under the group’s ‘Ripe’ events and entertainment platform.
The Thai-based restaurant chain plans to double its existing annual turnover to reach USD100 million within two years as it sets its sights on expanding not only throughout Asia Pacific and Middle East, but into the United States with a restaurant opening in Washington DC this September. The group is also actively seeking locations in China and India (after opening its first Mango Tree Bistrobar in Bangalore last month), as well as in Australia, Scandinavia, Italy and Spain.
The move will clearly make the firm, which operates a collection of high-end, stylish restaurants under its flagship Mango Tree brand, as the leading upscale Thai restaurant operator in the world. The company also operates the Mango Tree Bistrobar and Mango Tree Café brands, as well as COCA restaurants.
Pitaya said he was delighted to see the growth of the company with its brands going from strength to strength in many of the world’s major cities, such as Tokyo, London, Dubai, Jakarta, Manila and Hong Kong.
Pitaya, whose father founded the first Coca restaurant in Silom district, Bangkok’s vibrant business centre, outlined a series of bold innovations while hosting journalists from around the world at the original Mango Tree restaurant, founded by Pitaya in 1994, across the road from the original Coca.
He said the group had a number of long-standing partners worldwide, while the unique concept was taking Thai food in an authentic yet contemporary direction, adding value to the dining experience beyond just good food via ambience, décor, presentation, entertainment and tabletop architecture.
“People come to some of our most cutting-edge establishments and they say ‘this does not look like a Thai restaurant’,” Pitaya said. “But this is exactly the reaction we want. We’d rather be known for great service, a fashionable, stylish yet relaxed ambience, a place to have a proper drink and enjoy good music. And, of course, great Thai food that is authentic with just enough of a creative twist to keep things interesting.”
Pitaya said the group was proud of its humble beginnings and having kept its original Mango Tree restaurant ‘preserved in amber’ in its Rama VI era house, along with the original pair of mango trees in the courtyard that gave the group its name.
But the future would be a brave new world of signature Mango Tree restaurants on the leading edge of design and style, such as the first Mango Tree in the US, set to launch in Washington DC later this year, as well as more Mango Tree Bistrobars, like those just opened in Jakarta’s Plaza Senayan centre and in India’s ‘Silicone Valley’, Bangalore, where ‘Bistronomy and Mixology’ were now on the menu along with Tom Yum Koong and chicken green curry.
The group of journalists who visited Mango Tree recently enjoyed a sneak preview of an innovative ‘Thai Tapas’ menu soon to be launched in Mango Tree and Mango Tree Bistrobars, which included new creations and twists on classic tapas such as Mixed Olives & Pickled Garlic, Smoked Salmon Pâté, Spicy Grilled Eggplant Salad, Tom Yum Potato Wedges, Deep Fried Chicken Wings, Chili Dip with Pock Crackling, Shrimp n’ Cheese Spring Roll, Smoked Salmon Spring Roll, Sai Oua (Northern Thai Sausage), Garlic & Spicy Sausage, Lamb Chorizo, Prawn Ceviche, Thod Mun Pla Kray (Deep Fried Feather Back Fish Cake), Chicken Satay, Moo Ping Jim Jaew (Grilled Pork Neck). And Ayutthaya Boat Noodle (kway teeow rua).
A Thai banquet served on the second night of the journalists’ visit at Mango Tree’s original Silom establishment was indicative of where the flagship brand was going with Thai food, Pitaya said. “It’s about keeping the taste, the tradition and the respect, but not being afraid to innovate and get creative here and there.”
On the menu were Taengmo Pla Haeng (Watermelon with dried fish), Yum Tua Plu Koong (Wing bean salad with shrimp), Lobster Lui Suan (Lobster with lemongrass, young coconut, chili and tamarind), Kae Yang Jim Jaew (Grilled lamb chopped Thai style), Gaeng Kew Wan Gai (Green Curry with chicken), Gaeng Pet Ped Yang (Red curry with ringed teal), Chompoo and Mamuang Nahm Pla Wan, (Rose apple and green mango with sweet chili) and Khao Niew Dum with Longan (Black sticky rice with longan).
Pitaya said co-branded ventures with established celebrity chefs, a progressive musical policy and a drive to further engage Asia’s exploding and big-spending middle class by providing them with not just restaurants but places to hang out and chill out while wining and dining were all initiatives Mango Tree would focus on over the next 12 months and beyond.
“Our success so far is down to choosing great partners, having unique concepts, a sound strategy and above all, a team which believes in itself,” Pitaya said. “But we are just getting started. So stay tuned.”
Trevor MacKenzie, the group’s Managing Director and the driving force behind Mango Tree’s success in franchising its brands worldwide, said the group would continue to grow through innovation and creativity which were central to Mango Tree’s popularity.
“High quality ingredients, locally sourced where possible, and respect for tradition are also integral to the Mango Tree experience,” Mr MacKenzie said. “We also try to get the intangibles right. Features like a fully functioning bar to provide theatre and buzz, innovative presentation and unexpected twists on ingredients.
“Our Tom Yam Scampi has been a big hit, and we swap the usual crab with Maine Lobsters in our yellow curry, also a hugely popular dish, as is Char-grilled rib eye with Isan chili dipping sauce and satays served on a special lava grill ensuring they are kept hot, fresh and flavourful as well as introducing a sense of theatre and interactivity into the dining experience.”
Mr MacKenzie and Pitaya are both passionate believers and advocates for their brands. Their ambition is as sweeping as their united vision: taking the Mango Tree brand, and the magic of Thai cooking, to a growing global audience, eventually planting a Mango Tree in every major international city worldwide.