For franchisors looking to expand their concepts into a more Eastern market, the city-state of Singapore is the perfect hive of franchise business and entrepreneurial drive. It’s commonly known as a bridge between the East and the West, thanks to its many active franchise networks and proven ease of business. The Singapore people understand franchising, and franchise opportunities from food delivery to retail franchises are seeing increased levels of demand from this bustling region.
Despite all of this buzz, however, this jewel of Southeast Asia is still unknown to many foreign investors. Terms such as ‘where is Singapore’ and even ‘is Singapore a country’ show up in popular search results, indicating that not nearly enough information is out there for entrepreneurs looking to develop the franchise model in the Asia-Pacific region.
To help fill in the gaps, we’ve compiled this comprehensive report of info about franchising in Singapore, covering everything from what kind of franchise owner fits into this market, as well as information on the Singapore economy, Singapore people, and Singapore government that will prove invaluable for future international franchise expansion deals.
How to start a franchise in Singapore
The Singapore government has always been an advocate for removing red tape when it comes to foreign investment in its market, which has proven popular among both domestic and international franchisors looking to make it big in this franchising hub in Southeastern Asia.
As such, there are no specific laws or regulations governing either Singaporean franchises or their overseas counterparts. It’s often down to individual franchisees and their respective franchisors to agree on a course of action, which may be unfamiliar to business owners coming into the city-state from certain international markets.
This is very different from nearby countries such as Malaysia, for example, as the Malaysian franchise industry is governed by strict laws that determine development agreements, corporate franchisees, and initial capital disclosure.
This model comes with pros and cons, of course, which could either inspire an innovative business model, or possible legal troubles that could escalate into serious headaches for the unprepared. The lack of franchising-specific legislation in the region means that if anything goes awry between franchise owners and their respective franchise brands, you’d have less legal backing than in a country with strict, ingrained laws.
In light of this, it’s a good idea for brands to engage the services of development assistance organizations and local legal experts well before liquid capital or any kind of other franchise fee comes into question. This could be an organization like Asiawide Franchise Consultants, that is deeply immersed in the nuances of the local franchising market.
International franchises thriving in Singapore
It’s all well and good enthusing about the benefits of taking your brand into Southeast Asia, but nothing speaks louder than stories of existing franchises targeting Singaporean growth and succeeding in their efforts.
As such, let’s take a look at some of the biggest names in franchising that have banked big on impressing the Singapore people in recent months:
Barbecue restaurants of all shapes and sizes are popular throughout the Asia-Pacific region, thanks in no small part to huge international names introducing brand-new menu items to its hungry consumers.
One such brand is Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, led by CEO Laura Rea Dickey. In January 2021, the Dallas-based barbecue concept announced it would be targeting Singapore growth with a delivery-first approach in partnership with franchise group Texas Smoker PTE. LTD.
As part of a multi-country deal covering Southeast Asia, Topgolf partnered with TG SEA Development Pte., Ltd earlier this year to open new golfing entertainment venues throughout Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Vietnam.
It identified countries throughout Asia, such as Singapore, as suitable locations for its technology-driven golfing experience.
Fitness franchises have been a popular part of the Singapore market for years, with everything from big-box operations to boutique studios finding success among the market’s workout-focused population.
Club Pilates, an Xponential Fitness-backed boutique fitness brand, set its sights on Singapore back in 2020, with the signing of a master franchise agreement between its parent company and Idea Link Pte. Ltd., which is owned and operated by Naoki Shimabukuro and Akira Onoue.
At the time of this announcement, John Kersh, chief international development officer for Xponential Fitness, had this to say: “With the rapid growth of the fitness market in Singapore, we believe that Club Pilates will be an excellent and strategic fit for our business.
“We continue to see international expansion as a growth opportunity and are excited to partner again with Naoki and Akira to introduce Xponential Fitness to another new market and to bring the Club Pilates brand to this burgeoning fitness community.”
As part of a master franchising deal that covered the entire country, Robb Spearman, Realty ONE Group Heartland Region’s regional director and the co-owner of Realty ONE Group Impact in Iowa, along with his wife Sock Hoon Spearman, acquired the rights to bring the realty franchisor to Singapore in May 2021.
“Singapore is my homeland and we want Singapore’s property agencies and agents to achieve greater success, faster with the Realty ONE Group’s model,” said Sock Hoon Spearman.
“We bought into the Realty ONE Group’s concept and ‘COOLTURE’ on day one and we know that others will too when they see the passion we have to help everyone win,” said Robb Spearman.
The parent company of Fatburger, Buffalo’s Express, and several other restaurant concepts is using co-branded locations to expand throughout Singapore. It has multiple sites of this kind in the country, offering loyal customers of both brands the opportunity to dine at a one-stop-shop.
At the time of opening its fourth co-branded site last November, Andy Widerhorn, CEO of FAT Brands, had this to say: “Singapore has been a great growth market for us. We just opened in NEWest at the end of August and are excited to provide yet another location for locals to indulge in our tasty burgers and wings.”
Should you franchise in Singapore?
Singapore is a fruitful franchise market for the right kind of brand, and Singaporeans are very entrepreneurial and connected throughout Asia; especially among ethnic Chinese communities in other countries. Singapore itself has quite a small population, but it can be an excellent jumping-off point into other parts of Asia.
However, be aware that real estate is limited and expensive, so the site characteristics that work for you in your home market may be different in Singapore (and other Asian markets).
That being said, Singapore is possibly the most western of all Asian cities, with a significant expatriate population accustomed to Western products and services. Provided your franchise cost is right, and customer service is at the forefront of your development plans, this could be a very successful endeavor.