Business, Finance & Economics

Vietnam embraces Baskin-Robbins


An elderly man pushes his cart past a newly opened Baskin-Robbins ice-cream shop in Ho Chi Minh City, Oct. 21, 1995.


Hoang Dinh Nam

Undaunted by the economic turbulence of 2011, Baskin-Robbins has planned a massive expansion in Vietnam.

According to the Boston Globe:

Baskin-Robbins, a sister chain of Dunkin’ Donuts, announced today that it has signed a master franchise agreement with Blue Star Food Corp., a Vietnamese food manufacturing company. The agreement calls for about 50 Baskin-Robbins restaurants to be opened in Vietnam over the next several years. The first three stores under the agreement open this week in Ho Chi Minh City.

Like many other US food franchises that have ventured abroad (think McArabia), Baskin-Robbins has promised Southeast Asia-friendly flavors like Green Tea and Mango Mania. Yum.

Interestingly, Baskin-Robbins first debuted in Vietnam in the 1990s, following Bill Clinton's formal normalization of ties in 1995 between the US and Vietnam, 20 years after the end of the Vietnam War.

Naturally, a spike in US investment followed, and Baskin-Robbins was the first fast-food franchise in Vietnam, according to Sak Onkvisit and John J. Shaw's text, "International marketing: strategy and theory."

Onkvisit and Shaw wrote that it was Baskin-Robbins that aculturated the Vietnamese to fast-food franchises in general.

Baskin-Robbins, as the first fast food franchise in Vietnam, has to teach the Vietnamese about the concept of fast food. When the ice-cream parlor first opened, most Vietnamese customers walked in and sat down, expecting to be waited on. When they were asked to go to the counter, some felt insulted and left.

Back then, brace yourself, rum raisin was the flavor of the day.

So, what can we make of this new push, albeit a part of a different joint-venture? Is it a sign that Vietnam's economy is headed in the right direction?

Well, the AP reported that Vietnam’s GDP grew more slowly in 2011 (5.9 percent) than in 2010 (6.8 percent), due mainly to high inflation and a trade deficit.

But the government’s General Statistics Office called that growth “reasonable,” all things considered, and just this week announced new "tight" fiscal and monetary policies for 2012 aimed at curbing inflation. They appear hopeful it's an issue that can be tackled.

With a little rum raisin in their bellies before they pull their belts in.