US fast-food chain Taco Bell Corp is planning a spiced-up expansion in Thailand as the company grows its global footprint.

The firm expects to open 40 restaurants in Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy by 2023, Liz Williams, the president of its international division, said in an interview. The first is due to open in Bangkok on January 24 and flavours in offerings such as tacos and burritos have been tweaked to suit local tastes.

‘What we think is hot and spicy in the US is just starting off in Thailand on the spice scale, so we dialled up the sauces,’ Williams said in the interview Tuesday in Bangkok. ‘We’re starting first with Thailand, and then building the business model here and seeing what could translate to neighbouring countries.’

Williams said Asia’s large population, growth potential and awareness of the brand are driving Taco Bell’s expansion. The Yum! Brands Inc, Mexican-inspired subsidiary has 450 restaurants outside the US, which includes almost 100 in the Asia-Pacific region. There are nearly 7,000 outlets in the US.

The size of the fast-food sector in Thailand is set to climb 22 per cent to 138 billion baht ($4.3 billion) by 2022, from 113 billion baht in 2018, according to Euromonitor International estimates.

Taco Bell’s franchisee in Thailand is Bangkok-based Thoresen Thai Agencies Pcl, a shipping company that also has units operating in the food sector. Thoresen Thai Agencies is already the local franchisee for Pizza Hut, another chain by Yum! Brands.