10 Facts About Waffletown, The First Fast-Food Restaurant in N.Korea Opened By S’poreans

Image: YouTube (VICE News)

Hey, you! I know you’re probably looking through the Goody Feed app when you’re supposed to be working or studying instead. Don’t worry, we’ve all done that.

So while you’re still here, why not go on a journey with me?

Let’s go to North Korea, the country of openly anti-US imperialist sentiment (at least what it used to be).

We’ll head to the Kumsong Intersection in Pyongyang, where you’ll see a green-tiled establishment with the Korean words Samtaesong, or Three Big Stars, on it.

When you walk in, things start to get a little uncanny. There’s a counter with a brightly lit menu display board, in front of which a smiling person waits to serve you in a clean uniform. On the menu, there are pictures of waffles, fried chicken, fries, hotdogs and hamburgers. Customers can also choose from a selection of soft drinks.

To the left: North Koreans sitting opposite each other in booths, enjoying their food.

“Are you sure we’re still in North Korea? Not South Korea?”

Yes.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about a fast-food restaurant… in North Korea.

Despite its Korean name, Samtaesong is a Waffletown USA fast food franchise.

And here’s something even more shocking: It is North Korea’s very first fast food chain and was opened by 3 Singaporeans.

Yes, SINGAPOREANS.

Here are 10 facts about Waffletown USA in North Korea.

Image: Youtube

Its founder was a steel and minerals trader

Mr Quek Cher Lan, a steel and minerals trader who owns the company Aetna Group, started doing business with the North Koreans over 30 years ago.

Eventually, they asked Quek to invest in their country. Quek agreed and got Mr Timothy, whom he met in Shanghai, involved.

After exploring a few different options, including a supermarket, they eventually decided on a fast-food chain, given that they would face virtually zero competition. As they had no experience in the fast food industry, the duo roped Mr Patrick Soh in.

It opened in 2009

By April 2009, and after US$200,000 worth of investments, Samtaesong had opened its first branch in Pyongyang. They had to use a Korean name as English signage wasn’t allowed in North Korea at that time.

Now, remember: in 2009, Trump and Kim weren’t “in love” yet.

It’s doing really well

Image: Screengrab from YouTube

Waffletown in North Korea now has five large dine-in eateries, over 20 takeaway outlets and an entire food processing plant across the city of Pyongyang, which has a population of over 3 million people. Soh describes the business as ‘healthy’.

Its biggest outlet is in a three-storey building. The production facility is in the basement, restaurant in the first floor and administrative office in the third.

When asked why he thought the restaurant was doing so well, Soh suggested that it could be due to the cold weather. During Pyongyang’s cold winters, locals enjoy the chain’s fried chicken, which is served piping hot.

It’s designed to look like Singapore’s fast-food restaurants

The restaurant’s initial design was modelled after Singapore’s own fast food joints with furniture specially imported from China to achieve its desired layout. Hmm…a piece of Singapore in North Korea, anyone?

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Do you have a friend who’s always smiling? Watch this video and you’ll know why he or she is always so happy: