Itochu to operate restaurant, cafe chains in China

Itochu to operate restaurant, cafe chains in ChinaTrading house Itochu Corp. said Wednesday it has established a joint venture company in the Cayman Islands to operate chains of grilled beef restaurants and cafes in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The new company, Ting Chuang (Cayman Islands) Holdings Corp., is capitalized at $4 million and owned 35% by Itochu and 65% by Tingqiao (Cayman Islands) Ltd., a Chinese restaurant chain operator based in Tianjin.

Established in January, the joint company has plans to be operating 100 grilled beef restaurants and as many cafes in five years. Combined sales from the 200 outlets are projected at 2.8 billion yen a year.

The first beef restaurant was opened in Beijing last December.

For the cafe chain that will feature freshly baked bread, the first outlet is planned to begin operating in Shanghai sometime between April and June.

The restaurant business in China has maintained double-digit growth over the past 12 years, according to Itochu. In 2002, the market was worth 6.6 trillion yen, up 16.5% over the previous year, and accounted for 5.1% of China's gross domestic product.