Whenever I see a signage of Nam Kee Spring Roll Noodle, my tummy automatically growls, prompting me to enter the shop, take a seat, and order a piping-hot bowl of fish ball noodles and fried spring rolls.
I feel that I am not alone in having this constant craving for Nam Kee’s signature dishes because their outlets are almost always crowded with customers, who, like me, attack their orders with such gusto that they finish quickly and leave the shop with a burp of satisfaction.
Founded by Ngai Yuen-mou and his four kids in the late ’70s, Nam Kee started by operating a street cart that sells noodles in Wong Cheuk Hang before establishing its first store in the early ’80s.
Nam Kee has a longer history than Tam Chai Yunnan Mixian, a popular spicy noodle shop that was snapped up by Tokyo-based Toridoll Holdings for about HK$1 billion last year.
Tam Chai’s Sichuan-style noodles must have been very good. The Japanese noodle franchise paid another HK$1.1 billion months later to buy out Tam Chai’s spinoff, Tam Jai Sam Gor Mixian.
Unlike Tam Chai, Nam Kee has been rather cautious in its expansion. It has only 18 outlets so far, compared with the combined 108 restaurants of Tam Chai and Sam Gor.
Noodles are a thriving business in Hong Kong. Tasty Concepts Holding, which runs noodle shops under the Butao Ramen brand, sells 2,300 bowls of noodles per day for an average of HK$90 each.
The chain, which has filed an application for listing on the Growth Enterprise Market, made nearly HK$13 million in the year ending March 2018, a growth of over 100 percent.
Nam Kee, in an effort to increase its revenue, has come up with a couple of new ideas. Last year, it offered hotpot packs targeting the home-dining market and expanded into the home delivery market by partnering with Uber Eats.
After establishing an alliance with the Uber’s food delivery arm in February 2017, Nam Kee was able to sell more than 280,000 bowls of noodles in the subsequent 12 months.
That accounted for 70 percent of the total number of orders on the Uber Eats platform, which, incidentally, is celebrating its second year of operation in Hong Kong.
Nam Kee also sold 14 million spring rolls during the period, of which 55,000 were ordered through the Uber platform.
With the Uber partnership, Nam Kee hopes to maintain the momentum and double its sales next year.
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