|Seungri poses before an Aori Ramen restaurant. Captured from Seungri's Instagram|
By Park Si-soo
High-flying Seungri of K-pop boy band BIGBANG has crashed with a snowballing drug/sex scandal ― and so have sales at his franchised restaurants.
Angry fans appear to be boycotting Aori Ramen, a Japanese-style ramen restaurant chain with 51 outlets ― 44 here and 7 overseas.
"I will never go there ever," said a 20-something ramen lover who had frequently visited the brand's restaurant in Itaewon, Seoul.
During lunch time, people used to queue at outlets in major business districts. But since the scandal hit the headlines, empty seats have outnumbered customers, according to several people who recently visited one of the restaurants.
Calls to boycott the restaurants chain established in June 2016, are seen in several popular online communities.
"You know what, Seungri's family members run outlets in major districts," a netizen wrote. "If you go, your money will end up going to Seungri."
Seungri recently stepped down as executive of the franchise headquarters in an apparent effort to shield the brand from the scandal. But by many accounts, the move seems to be unsuccessful.
An outlet owner vented frustration over declining sales.
"The scandal erupted in less than one year after I started the restaurant," the owner was quoted as saying in a report. "A sales decline is unavoidable. But I've heard nothing from the franchise's headquarters."
A food industry expert said the Seungri scandal would have a "far-reaching impact" on everything related to Seungri, adding that the scandal would "certainly" damage the brand as well as its sales.
According to the Fair Trade Commission, Aori Ramen reported 3.97 billion won ($3.5 million) in sales and 648 million won operating profit in 2017, the latest period for which data figures are available. On a TV show aired last year, Seungri proudly said the brand's sales had exceeded 100 billion won.
Some people have suggested that franchisees of the brand could file a collective damages suit against Seungri for losses resulting from the scandal.
Under the revised franchise business law, effective from Jan. 1, franchisees can seek compensation for losses caused by a crime or misconduct involving franchise headquarters or its executives.