BANGKOK, Thailand -- Papa John's is searching for a master franchisee in Thailand, where it plans to have 50 to 75 outlets operating within five to seven years.

According to the Bangkok Post, Thomas Flaherty, director of global franchising for Papa John's, said the company's interest in Asian markets is evident in recent agreements to open nearly 500 outlets in South Korea, China and Hong Kong. Expansion into Thailand and Singapore will follow.

Flaherty told the Post he believed the Thai market isn't saturated and that potential patrons there have adequate disposable income to fuel Papa John's expansion initiatives.

"We want to have as many as 75 outlets, but it depends on the success of the first unit," said Flaherty, speaking at the first World Franchise Forum 2003 in Bangkok on Sept. 12. "It's still difficult to say when the first outlet will be opened as we have to find the right partner."

Flaherty said the right franchisee will have to be well capitalized and have experience in restaurant operations or franchising.

The cost of opening a unit in Thailand is an estimated 6.1 to 8.15 million baht (U.S. $150,000 to $200,000).

The Post cited an unnamed Thai fast-food industry source claiming Papa John's had earlier tried to enter the Thai market, but made no progress there. And despite the stiff competition in the country, the source claimed, "A newcomer is likely to spice up the competition in this market." To succeed, the source said, Papa John's will have to take away market share currently owned by Pizza Hut and The Pizza Company.

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