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Restaurant chains quit Thailand as Covid impact cuts trade

Global food chains Carl's Jr and Marugame Seimen have ceased their operations in Bangkok.


The two restaurants will join the ranks of thousands of stores affected by the pandemic and the restrictions imposed worldwide in recent years.


Udon chain Marugame Seimen will close indefinitely after its two remaining branches in the city – at The Promenade and Gateway Ekamai – shut down on March 31, and its branch in Pattaya, at Terminal 21, closed on March 26.


"We are sorry to announce that Marugame Seimen (Thailand) will be closed permanently," the Japanese restaurant advised customers on its facebook page. "Thank you for all your support, and hope to see you again."

 

Established in 2000 by Japan's Toridoll Corporation, the udon chain has served Thais bestsellers like tempura, noodle dishes, and fried kara-age chicken since 2012 at one point reaching nearly 30 branches nationwide. It is famous for its flavourful bukkake udon – noodles in cold soy-based broth topped with assorted condiments.

Carl’s Jr is closing its Thai stores, a victim of the Covid disruption. Image: @kelymartinez6936 via Twenty20

At the same time, US burger chain Carl's Jr has begun closing all of its six branches in Thailand. 


The food chain is known for its char-broiled burger patties and North American fast food selection similar to McDonald’s and Burger King. 


R&R Restaurant Group, the burger chain’s operator, stated that it could no longer afford to keep the restaurant running. 

 

"We tried to get through it during the second half of 2021," explains the company. "But we were forced to import our ingredients solely from the US due to the restrictions imposed by CKE Restaurants Holdings." 


That proved uneconomical for the operator given increased freight costs and supply-chain instability at a time when customer numbers were impacted by a lack of in-bound tourists.

 

As of last June, more than 50,000 restaurants have shut down in Thailand, either permanently or temporarily, and the Thai Restaurant Association told Reuters it expected at least 10,000 would go out of business completely by the end of the outbreak.

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