New Year, New Expansion: McDonald's to Open First Restaurant in Vietnam

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McDonald's  will venture into a new country in the new year, opening its first restaurant in Vietnam in early 2014.

The country's first McDonald's will open after Tet, Vietnam's lunar New Year on Jan. 31, according to reports. The McDonald's will be Vietnam's first drive-thru eatery, located in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. 

"I have been a big fan of McDonald's my whole life and have had so many wonderful experiences there, including one of my first jobs when I was a teenager," said Henry Nguyen, who as developmental licensee will oversee McDonald's in Vietnam, in a statement  earlier this year. "I have dreamed of one day opening a McDonald's restaurant in my native country ever since my return to Vietnam more than a decade ago." 

In July, McDonald's announced that Nguyen would be the developmental licensee for building the McDonald's brand in Vietnam. In Vietnam, as well as 65 other countries, development licensees, unlike franchisees, front all real estate and capital funding for the stores, in addition to paying McDonald's for the use of its name and resources.

Related: 99 Percent of November's Franchise Growth Was in the Restaurant Industry (Infographic)

Nguygen, the son-in-law of Vietnam prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung, attended Harvard University for undergrad and received an MD and MBA from Northwestern before returning to Vietnam after a stint at Goldman Sachs. He has previously worked with food franchising in Vietnam as the director of IFB Holdings, the company that franchises Pizza Hut in the country.

Several other U.S. food franchises have already started to move into the region. Vietnam is home to more than 130 KFC restaurants and 30 Pizza Huts. Subway also has restaurants in the country. 

McDonald's November comparable sales revealed a struggling market in Asia/Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA). While McDonald's global comparable sales increased 0.5 percent in November, compared to 2.4 percent for the same period in 2012, APMEA sales decreased 2.3 percent, compared to a 0.6 percent increase in 2012. McDonald's said the decline was due primarily to negative results in Japan. 

Related: McDonald's U.S. November Sales Unexpectedly Fall