The Surprising Reason Why “Mos Burger” Became a Very Popular Chain in Taiwan
Mos Burger” is a well-known Japanese hamburger chain, but did you know that there is a country/region that loves Mos Burger even more than Japan? It is Taiwan.
According to Mos Food Service Co., Ltd. the number of Mos Burger restaurants by country/region as of the end of September, 2022, reached 300 in Taiwan, compared to 1259 in Japan. Taiwan has a population of 23.56 million, about one-fifth that of Japan, and the number of Mos Burger restaurants in Taiwan, when converted to the Japanese population, is 1,599, far exceeding the number of restaurants in Japan.
In Taiwan, Mos Burger is called “Mos Hanbao,” and the first store opened in 1991, but it was not all smooth sailing from the start. In the eight years since its entry into the market, the company has opened only 20 stores. Unlike global chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King, the company had little brand recognition overseas, and a period of patience ensued.
However, despite the difficult situation, in 1993, the company launched a series of measures that would lead to its subsequent capture of the Taiwanese market. One was the introduction of a breakfast menu. The breakfast menu of Taiwanese Mos Burger, called “Genki Haya Suan,” has a fairly extensive lineup.
According to the official website, as of November 2010, there are 18 items on the breakfast menu, including hamburgers, sandwiches, and rice burgers, with prices ranging from TWD 40 to 85 (approximately 180 to 380 yen) for single items and TWD 65 to 110 (approximately 290 to 495 yen) for sets. The ham omelet burger (priced at NT$45) has been a longtime hit on the menu for nearly 20 years.
A total of six omelet burgers and sandwiches are available on the breakfast menu, and this is an original menu item for Mos Burger Taiwan. The omelets are prepared at each restaurant, but to maintain uniform quality, the staff must have good cooking skills.
Therefore, it is a difficult menu item for a fast food chain to introduce, but Mos Burger Taiwan has solved this problem through its human resource development system. Taiwan has always had a high ratio of eating out for breakfast, and by capturing such needs, Mos Burger Taiwan earns 30% of its sales from breakfast alone. Mos Burger restaurants in Taipei City sell breakfast items over-the-counter, and they are so popular that at 8:00 a.m. on weekdays, office workers on their way to work line up for them every day.
Incidentally, Mos Burger in Japan also launched “Morning Mos” in March 2010 in response to changes in the living environment caused by the COVID-19 crisis, and also introduced a breakfast menu in 1993. In fact, Taiwan’s breakfast menu was introduced in line with Japan’s Mos Burger, but it is unique in that it quickly disappeared from the menu in Japan, only to take root in Taiwan.
Another reason for Mos Burger’s great success in Taiwan was the introduction of the rice bur ger. As you know, the rice burger is an original Mos Burger that uses rice shaped into a plate instead of a bun. In Japan, two items are available on the grand menu: the Mos Burger Yakiniku (450 yen) and the Mos Rice Burger Seafood Kakiage (400 yen). In 1993, it was added to the menu in Taiwan, where it became a bigger hit than expected. The Yakiniku Rice Burger was particularly well received and has always been a top-selling item.
One of the reasons Mos Burger struggled when it first entered the market was that its main product, the hamburger, was not well received. Hamburgers and other ground-meat products are not well-liked in Taiwan. In addition, the Mos Burger’s main selling point was its large tomato and lettuce sandwich, but at the time of its entry into Taiwan, there was not much of a custom of eating raw vegetables in Taiwan.
The rice burger sandwich with grilled meat covered these weak points of Mos Burger, and at the same time, it helped to promote the uniqueness of the hamburger chain from Japan. The rice burger has become known as Mos Burger’s signature dish, and now accounts for 11 of the 26 hamburger items on the menu.
With the development of the breakfast market and the acquisition of the signature rice burger, Mos Burger has established a unique position in the Taiwanese restaurant market as a hamburger chain. In the 2000s, the company began to accelerate the opening of new stores, reaching 100 stores in 2004 and 200 stores in 2011.
When a restaurant chain expands overseas, the key to success or failure is how to localize the chain to suit the food culture and market of the country or region. In the past, there have been many cases of failure in which brands have lost their uniqueness due to over-localization, but Mos Burger in Taiwan is a successful example where localization has strengthened the uniqueness of the brand. The menu strategy of making the rice burger the signature product has been followed in the company’s subsequent Asian expansion, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, and South Korea.
Interview and text by： Toshiyuki Kurita
Toshiyuki Kurita was born in 1975. After graduating from university, he worked for an editing production company and a recipe book publisher before becoming a freelance reporter in 2005. For more than 15 years as a reporter for "Monthly Shokudo," a restaurant management magazine published by Shibata Shoten Co., Ltd. he has covered major and mid-sized restaurant companies as well as popular and prosperous restaurants. He has been paying attention to "Gyoza no Manzu," which is expanding its store network mainly in Saitama Prefecture, as a modest but solid chain model.