When the Singaporean restaurateurs who own Tim Ho Wan – known as “the cheapest Michelin-star restaurant in the world” – went to Australia three years ago seeking the right property for an outlet in Melbourne, they had stringent demands for the lease.
Global real estate consultancy Knight Frank director Gary Loo says they wanted a site near Chinatown with direct street access and frontage to allow for large signage, plus a weatherproof space for the queues of customers common at their other restaurants (Tim Ho Wan was voted Asia’s top restaurant last year).
Loo says the restaurant owners returned home after searching the CBD without finding their perfect premises, but they left the active brief on the table. Eventually an opportunity came up at 206 Bourke, a retail centre then owned by Singapore-listed company Hiap Hoe. As well as street frontage, there was room for queues inside the centre alongside the space.
Rents at the centre average $2000 a square metre, but the space, occupied by surf-style clothing store Quiksilver, was not big enough. After talking to the Tim Ho Wan owners – both from Singapore and local – Loo started negotiations with the neighbouring tenant, a clothing retailer, suggesting the business relocate further into the centre and take up three shops instead of the original two. This would free up 330 sqm of retail space.
Finally, both the landlord and Tim Ho Wan could start the massive fitout needed for the restaurant, which opened last year. Meanwhile, Loo had also leased another spot in the centre to Chinese tea house Cha-T, and says the new tenants complemented the established restaurants in the centre including China Chilli Hot Pot, China Red, Dragon Boat and Lost Heaven Sichuan.
Tim Ho Wan has since opened a restaurant in Sydney, and now has more than 20 outlets in nine countries including Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand. It started as a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Hong Kong that managed to gain an entry in the Michelin Guide. The brand was jointly introduced into Singapore by chef Mak Kwai Pui and brand manager and service provider Hersing Corporation, based in Singapore.
Headquartered in London, Knight Frank has 13,000-plus associates in more than 400 offices across 58 countries.