Brazil, Russia, India, and China may get all of the attention when it comes to quick serves expanding overseas, but Sarku Japan is planning big growth in another, less-in-demand market: Columbia.

The Canada-based company recently opened its first three units in the South American nation, and plans on a total of 40 there over the next 20 years.

Ben Kitay, president of Sarku Japan, says the new stores are already exceeding expectations, and that the brand should have at least six units open in Columbia before year’s end.

“I would say it’s a very sophisticated market,” Kitay says. “It’s pretty well developed. … It’s got malls that are U.S.-like, and it’s a good place to do business at the moment.”

Most of Sarku Japan’s U.S. and Canada units are located in malls.

Frisby S.A., a quick-serve company in Columbia that owns the popular Pollos Frisby brand, signed a license agreement to bring Sarku Japan to Columbia.

Kitay says the fact that the company is vertically integrated and well-versed in chicken—a popular ingredient at Sarku Japan—made it a good fit to carry the brand into Columbia. Plus, Alfredo Hoyos Mazuera, owner of Frisby S.A. and a veteran of the industry, made for a “perfect partner” in Columbia, Kitay says.

“He’s the kind of guy who’s really curious about stuff, and he’s constantly looking at trends in the states,” Kitay says. “He looked around in the states and saw us and how we were growing, and saw a fit for not only the consumer in Columbia, but also for his organization in Columbia. He was looking for a growth vehicle down there.”

Jim Spence, vice president of Sarku Japan, says the growing economy in Columbia makes it an appealing market for international expansion.  Too often, he says, Columbia gets a bad reputation in the U.S.

“It’s really surprising how diversified the Columbian marketplace is starting to become,” Spence says. “It’s very surprising, when you go to Columbia and you’re walking through one of the newer malls there, you would not know that you’re not in any metropolis in the United States or in Europe.”

Kitay and Spence say Sarku Japan’s international growth will be focused primarily on Latin America, but that the company is also looking into Southeast Asia for growth opportunities.

By Sam Oches

Denise Lee Yohn: QSR's Marketing Guru, Growth, News, Sarku Japan