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Fast-food franchises flock to East Timor

Coming soon to East Timor.

JAKARTA -- Satisfying your craving for Western-style fast food is getting easier in East Timor.

     U.S. chain Burger King plans to double its stable of stores there to around eight or more over the next five years. And Beard Papa, a Japanese chain of cream puff shops, plans to open its first outlet in the Southeast Asian country in March.

     East Timor is a small nation of just 1.2 million people, but half the population is 15 or under. That demographic, together with a growing middle class, is an appealing combination expected to attract fast-food chains.

     The plans for burgers and cream puffs were revealed by Samitha Aluwihare, chief operating officer of East Timor Trading, a local company handling the franchises for both fast-food brands.

     East Timor Trading opened its first Burger King in 2013 in the capital of Dili. The fourth, opened in September 2015, was the first store in East Timor to have a drive-thru window. Over the next five to 10 years, the company plans to open more stores in Dili for a total of seven or eight, and also to expand Burger King into provincial cities as demand warrants.

     Beard Papa, the chain of cream puff shops that operates as part of Japan's Nagatanien Holdings group, will open in Dili in March, becoming the first Japanese fast-food chain to set up shop in East Timor. The initial objective will be to expand the chain to five shops there.

     Gloria Jean's Coffee, an Australian specialty coffee franchise, is also expanding it presence in East Timor by adding more shops.

     Despite its tiny size and small population, demand for fast food is expected to continue to grow in East Timor as its large population of young people comes of age and its middle class swells. Aluwihare noted that only 20% of customers at the Burger Kings are foreigners, with 80% locals.

     Global brand beer is also coming to the nation as Dutch brewer Heineken works to complete a brewery there.

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