【生活中的品牌故事】譚仔米線是如何「合久必分，分久必合」的？How Tam Jai Mixian Underwent the Cycle of 'Dividing and Reuniting'?
There is a local food and beverage brand that built a 2-billion Hong Kong dollar business in just 20 years. Its Mixian is something you and I have definitely tried before; it's none other than Tam Jai. The brand once split into two factions, with the founders ceasing communication and becoming business rivals. As a result, both companies achieved a value of 1 billion HKD each. Eventually, both were acquired by the same Japanese-funded corporation. The current market value of Tam Jai International now far exceeds that of Café de Coral by double. This intriguing story began with the Tam family from Hunan, China.
Tam family’s grandfather was a wealthy landowner, and Tam's father was criticized and jailed during the Cultural Revolution, with their property seized.In the 1960s, the Tam parents smuggled their children into Hong Kong. Among the brothers, the third brother was passionate about cooking and opened a cha chaan teng, but it closed due to poor performance.
In 1996, the first Tam Jai Yunnan Mixian store opened at 1 Wing Lung Street, Cheung Sha Wan, fusing Sichuan spiciness and Yunnan Mixian. The original shareholders included the third brother, sixth brother, fourth sister's husband, and two classmates of the sixth brother. In 2000, the sixth brother's classmates withdrew their shares, and the fifth brother joined. The third brother once said that he passed on the soup base recipe to his fifth brother to help him financially. In 2003, the four family members registered and established "Tung Sum Catering Limited" and officially began opening branches, with each person holding a 25% stake. Subsequent branch openings were funded by internal company profits.
Following the Death of Tam's Parents, Siblings Parted Ways Due to Divergent Management Philosophies
In 2008, the family decided to break up, evenly dividing the 12 branches at the time. The third and sixth brothers left the "Tam Jai Yunnan Mixian" sign to the fifth brother and the fourth sister's husband and founded "Tam Jai SamGor Mixian" separately, with both parties sharing the trademark and secret recipe. The third brother's side claimed that the soup base recipe was originally created by him, while the fifth brother's side claimed it came from their father. The differences between the two stores can be identified by the signs at the entrance, the colors of the bowls and plates, and the menus.
After Nearly a Decade Apart, Both Sides Were Acquired by the Same Japanese Company Attracted by the Compelling Price
After almost a decade, both businesses were acquired by Toridoll due to attractive valuations. In 2017, Toridoll acquired 100% ownership of "Tam Jai Yunnan Mixian" for 10 billion HKD and later "Tam Jai SamGor Mixian" for 11.1 billion HKD. Now owning 108 Tam Jai stores, Toridoll has about 70% market share in Hong Kong's Yunnan Mixian industry.
Despite the acquisition, both companies retain their distinct characteristics, catering to different clientele. Liu Damin, CEO of Tam Jai International under Toridoll, has said that the two Tam Jai operations have been running for over a decade, each with their own fan base, and when rebranding, they will preserve their distinct features. “Tam Jai” primarily targets family customers, offering larger portion sizes that are suitable for sharing among family members. On the other hand, “Tam Jai SamGor” focuses on younger and more energetic customers, emphasizing "fragrant, numbing, hot and spicy", with a stronger soup base, aiming to "teach Hong Kong people to eat spicy food." Both companies also periodically introduce limited-edition flavors to maintain a sense of novelty for their customers.
Starting from 2020, Tam Jai International has been continuously expanding its business beyond Hong Kong, establishing 19 new restaurants in Hong Kong, 9 in mainland China, 5 in Singapore, and 2 in Japan. Tam Jai International is dedicated to further expanding its store network and has plans to continue broadening its local and international presence.
The differences in style caused by family disagreements have inadvertently created different market positions that can complement each other. When combined, they can fully occupy the rice noodle market. It remains to be seen whether Toridoll will continue to manage Tam Jai successfully in the next ten years.
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