The "Legendary Burger" is a staple item on all of Hard Rock Cafe's menus. [Image: Flavio Ensiki]

Hard Rock Café Opens in Yangon

ASEAN The Mekong

“Love all, serve all” is the motto for Hard Rock Café, inspiring its latest venture in Myanmar. The renowned restaurant recently opened its first branch in the country’s largest city Yangon. Located on the fourth floor of the Myanmar Plaza, the café will be serving up American cuisine with staples such as the “Legendary Burger” and hickory smoked barbeque. The 853 square meter space will be equipped for entertainment — with a custom built karaoke room, an indoor stage to host live acts, and a souvenir shop with collectible Yangon city-specific Hard Rock Café merchandise. While enjoying food or drink at the lively location, patrons can even catch a glimpse of the café’s current rotation of rock and roll memorabilia: Elvis Presley’s green and blue pajamas from the 1970s and Aerosmith’s bass drum head from the ‘Nine Lives’ concert tour. This opening is part of Hard Rock Café’s global expansion plans which started in 1983, resulting in the establishment of 46 restaurants in 17 countries within the Asia Pacific region. The Yangon branch was made possible through the partnership of the Orlando-based parent company and Myanmar-based MGS Resort and Entertainment Ltd.

Seen as part of Asia’s “last frontier” for business, Myanmar presents a valuable opportunity for investment and growth. With sanctions being lifted in 2016, US businesses have been looking to tap into Myanmar’s markets. Hard Rock Café’s opening in Yangon is part of a larger wave of American restaurants opening in the country, as the US is the largest source of tourists to Myanmar outside of Asia. The fast food chains Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), Pizza Hut, and Burger King have opened in the country, with KFC currently having seven branches, and Pizza Hut and Burger King with one branch each. These franchises came to fruition through partnerships between US-based food companies and Asian or local Myanmar restaurant groups. Business relationships such as these have been strengthened through the American Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar, which seeks to foster commerce and trade by providing a forum for American and local businesses.

According to the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration in Myanmar, US direct investment in the country amounted to more than $4 million, but indirect investment was almost $2 billion in 2016. Companies such as Coca Cola or Express Food Group Ltd. used to pass through Singapore in light of the economic sanctions, but the business environment is now proving to be more encouraging for the free movement of financial flows. The 2016 restoration of the General System of Preference program under the US-Myanmar Trade and Investment Framework will be further beneficial to this commerce and trade relationship in the future.

Karen Amethyst Mascariñas is Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington, DC and is a graduate student at American University.