Interview: Bao Hoang, Roll'd Vietnamese | Global Franchise
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Saturday 24th February, 2024

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Interview: Bao Hoang, Roll’d Vietnamese


Interview: Bao Hoang, Roll’d Vietnamese

Roll’d Vietnamese is embarking on the journey of American domination, co-founder Bao Hoang joins us to speak about the brand’s plans and strategy

Roll’d Vietnamese was inspired by Bao Hoang’s love for his mother’s traditional, Vietnamese food. With the help of his co-founder, Bao has managed to grow the brand’s footprint considerably, to over 100 stores and even have store-sized concessions in a major Australian supermarket. 

Bao is now looking to conquer foreign territories, and especially the ever-popular American market. To get some insight into how the American expansion will unfold, as well as some of his insight into the industry, we sat down and picked Bao’s brain. With a strong concept and solid idea of how the brand will expand, Roll’ds international expansion could be a model to follow for many to come in the future. 

RP: How did you manage to establish a chain focused on Vietnamese cuisine in Australia? Did you find that people needed to warm up to your food, or did they take to it straight away? 

BH: Vietnamese cuisine is one of the healthiest cuisines in the world and the ingredients are simple, and vibrant so visually they are naturally luring. With that in mind, we ensured from the get-go that our store design allowed for maximum visual display and theatre, including: our ‘fresh’ bar full of all the fresh, wholesome ingredients used for all our menu items, a custom soup pot station to show the hot broth ladled before serving, our ‘rolling station’ to demonstrate how we roll, as well as drive home our ‘Fast. Fresh.’ message, and of course our ‘jewelry box’ of SoldiersR (rice paper rolls), which is the main attraction. 

Before we opened the doors of our first store, there was a waiting queue of about 30 people, so there was definitely an audience for fresh Vietnamese food. The popularity of Thai and Chinese cuisine has introduced similar flavors to the masses, and foodies were familiar with the classics such as Pho and Banh Mi, however, the rest of the menu was largely unknown. We always knew there was a big education piece we needed to include, hence the inclusion of name pronunciations on the menu boards, and how-to-eat cards on purchase. Overall, the vibrancy and natural healthiness of the cuisine is a major drawcard, and then the taste speaks for itself. 

RP: How would you say the QSR scene has changed in the decade since launching Roll’d, and how are you adapting your development strategy to align with this? 

BH: Over the decade, the QSR industry has seen a huge shift towards health, and the accommodation of the many and varied allergies and dietary preferences. Therefore, both existing and new businesses have had to create non-traditional menu items to capture these audiences. 

The QSR space has also seen an increase in the number and variety of quality food being offered, hence businesses are under more pressure, particularly the traditional fast-food chains, to produce high quality at more affordable prices. Value-for-money has always been a priority for Roll’d, and the uptake of our quality, fresh menu gives us the confidence that we’re hitting this marker. 

And finally, the recent pandemic has customers demanding more choice and convenience in the way they consume our product, so we’ve seen a rise in digital ordering, delivery options, and drive-thrus. Roll’d currently exists on all the major delivery services and will in the very near future launch drive-thru locations and is already currently trialing drone deliveries in Canberra, Australia. The team at Roll’d understands the role of technology in the food industry and investing in staying at the forefront. 

This means no soggy or stale snacks on display, inherited from the day before. Countertops, tables, floors are kept sanitized and sparkling. Not because we have to – because we want to

RP: How do you think Australia differs from the rest of the Anglosphere, and how will those differences inform your expansion strategy? 

BH: There are easily identifiable and more objective differences such as legal, food and safety standards, employer/employee rights and responsibilities, as well as financial variables, such as costs in wages, utilities, and rent. 

One major difference between Australia and the U.S. for example, is the tipping culture. However, we are optimistic given we pride ourselves on memorable experiences. 

Specifically in the food space, there are some distinct differences that will influence our operations. For example, the U.S. portion sizes are much larger than Australian standards overall, hence we will review our menu and pricing accordingly. The menu mix will also be reviewed for any market we are looking to enter. 

Vietnamese has a large portion of pork on the menu, so we will need to adapt our mix, and processes in countries such as Dubai and Malaysia. Lastly, customization whilst ordering (similar to Subway) is not hugely prevalent in Australia, however very popular in the U.S. market, so this will also be considered. 

Overall, Vietnamese food is simple, and our aces are the freshness of the ingredients, balanced textures, punchy, generational recipes, and family value-based hospitality. We are confident we can adapt the Roll’d experience to nearly any environment. 

RP: Do you see Vietnamese food becoming an international staple in the way that Chinese, Italian and Indian food have become? 

BH: Of course – that’s why we started Roll’d! Vietnamese cuisine has been fast, fresh and nutritious since always. Along Vietnam’s bustling streets lined with food stalls, vendors serve thousands of people a day, and we plan to do the same – around the world! 

Each Roll’d dish is fundamentally fresh, balancing textures and vivid colors, drizzled in punchy sauces. A seductive variety of spicy, sour, salty and sweet flavors that suit any palate, any time. 

With every bite, we deliver the taste of adventure our customers are craving. But affordable, healthy food is only half the serving. With every visit to Roll’d, guests embark on a taste adventure they can trust. 

We have been building the groundwork for international expansion for a long time now, and have fortunately built great local connections with experienced people in the industry

This means no soggy or stale snacks on display, inherited from the day before. Countertops, tables, floors are kept sanitized and sparkling. Not because we have to – because we want to. Everything we roll, stir, sizzle and splash is made daily. Our smiles beam. Our service is genuine. And our banter is as fresh as our ingredients. Not unlike the late Steve Jobs, our end goal is to see Roll’d every table around the world – the dining table. 

RP: How will transferring employees in Australia to the U.S. work, and is that a concern for you? 

BH: Our overall objective is to build a local team, however in the initial stages our plan is to send an ‘A-team’ from key management to team members from various departments to set up, train and build our Roll’d culture – which we see as essential to our success. 

Key management will stay for a set period, and likely fly in and out as required, whilst key operators will stay longer term to build strong foundations for further expansion. 

We have been building the groundwork for international expansion for a long time now, and have fortunately built great local connections with experienced people in the industry in the U.S. and other Asian countries. Internally, we also have years of experience with international business and operations. We will obviously go through the correct processes and legalities to operate without any concerns, so our team can concentrate on delivering a memorable and consistent Roll’d experience to our new audiences. 

RP: Are you going to look into non-traditional locations outside of Australia? In a similar vein to the full-store sized concession within the Coles store in Moonee Ponds. 

BH: Absolutely! The U.S. for example, has been playing this space for a while already with places such as Walmart including chains such as Wendy’s, Shawarma Press and previously, McDonald’s within their stores. Dark kitchens, which are relatively new in Australia, have also been in the U.S. for years, and all are supported with more advanced technology. We have already flagged the above models as opportunities for the Roll’d brand to expand into numerous geographical locations. 

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