Moving Forward

Maxim’s journey from start-up to Hong Kong’s largest restaurant group

The restaurant group 50 per cent owned by Dairy Farm employs 24,000 workers in 900 outlets

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 April, 2016, 10:01pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 May, 2016, 4:08pm

Maxim’s is well known in Hong Kong for its cake shops, moon cakes and dim sum, but it actually began life as a western restaurant 60 years ago, founded by S.T. Wu and his brother James in Central on the site where the Landmark now stands.

The brothers decided to set up their own establishment after often finding themselves seated next to the toilets in other restaurants because many owners at the time thought Chinese were not important customers.

From that single site the company has travelled a long way to become Hong Kong’s largest restaurant group. Now 50 per cent owned by Dairy Farm, part of the Jardine Matheson Group, the Wu family still runs the business, but makes use of its partner to secure prime locations for its restaurants.

A major turning point for the group came in 2000, when Michael Wu Wei-kuo, the grandson of the founder, brought expanded the group beyond Chinese restaurants and launched different brands featuring Japanese, Western, Thai and Vietnamese cuisines as well as many food products including moon cakes and other festive foods items.

Since that year, the company’s staff headcount and number of restaurants have doubled, and it now has more than 24,000 employees at over 900 outlets.

This includes Chinese restaurants under 27 brands including Maxim’s Palace, Jade Garden and Peking Garden, which have expanded into mainland cities including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu.

It also runs the western restaurant grouping m.a.x. concepts, which has 21 brands including Lawry’s The Prime Rib, and cafe chain simplylife, as well as seven fast-food brands including MX and Canteen and six Japanese restaurant chains including Ippudo and Dondonya Shokudo.

It bought the local franchise of Japan’s Genki Sushi 10 years ago and has held the franchise for Starbucks in Hong Kong and Macau since 2000. There are now 140 Starbucks in the two cities, and Maxim’s has expanded the franchise into Vietnam and Cambodia.

The latest name to join the group is Italian deluxe bakery and restaurant Cova, whose franchise it took on from April 1.

The restaurants of Maxim’s Group now serve 680,000 customers every day. It also has cake shops under seven brands including Maxim’s Cake, commonly found at MTR stations across Hong Kong, and Arome.

It will open a new franchise of US brand The Cheesecake Factory in Shanghai Disneyland when the park opens in June.