It’s not often that one gets to see the words “healthy” and “fast food” legitimately associated with each other, but co-founders Mark Carroll and Andreas Borgman have managed to do just that (and achieve success as well) with their Dubai-headquartered food and lifestyle company, Kcal Healthy Fast Food. While Kcal’s restaurants have become known as a wholesome, nourishing, and yes, tasty alternative to the regular fast food outlets seen in this part of the world, its Kcal Extra division helps people lead better lifestyles by delivering bespoke healthy meals directly to their homes.
Since its launch in the UAE in 2010 with a workforce of just 12 people, Kcal is today a 350-member enterprise with seven restaurants in the country, and it is now all set to expand its operations in the Middle East with the launch of its first non-UAE franchise in Egypt. Given the political situation of the country, the choice of Egypt to launch Kcal’s Middle East expansion may seem like a curious one, but Carroll and Borgman say the research they did about the nation convinced them it was the right place to grow their business in the region.
“When we started looking at Egypt, it wasn’t a great time,” Borgman remembers. “At first, we weren’t sure if it was the right market to start our global roll-out in, but our minds were changed after we visited the country. We saw an energetic country with huge potential, and of course, people always need to eat. We conducted a thorough market study, which involved analyzing demographics, consumer behavior trends and competitors, and realized Egypt was perfect for Kcal. We have also partnered up with a franchise partner who is aligned with our beliefs.”
But Kcal’s launch in Egypt marks just the start of the company’s growth plan. “We have an aggressive expansion plan for 2015,” Carroll says. “We want to roll out more Kcal Healthy Fast Food restaurants in Dubai, and we are planning to launch Kcal Healthy Fast Food and Kcal Extra in the other Emirates [of the UAE] and throughout MENA. 2015 will see us opening franchises in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan. These are areas we have identified, and [we] are in the closing stages with franchise partners.” And the Kcal team is leaving no stone unturned in their attempt to ensure a streamlined, strategic rollout of their various franchises in the region. “We have partnered with the reputed franchising consultant, Francorp Middle East,” Carroll says. “Working alongside them, we are working toward implementing a sustainable franchising model. Within our franchises, we have area coordinators and a franchise team, which will ensure proper quality standards are being adhered to.”
“In order to ensure the same standards and quality [across all our branches], we pride ourselves on having a detailed franchising manual describing operational procedures, marketing strategies, hiring policies and everything else that needs to be kept in mind about the Kcal brand,” Borgman explains. “I’d also say that having a good solid working relationship with our franchise partners is key, allowing for communication lines to be open. Having the right team makes it so much easier.” But that’s not to take away from the important roles Carroll and Borgman are playing in building and growing the Kcal brand- the two of them are strong proponents for a holistic approach toward healthy living and active lifestyles.
“As obesity numbers reach alarming heights globally, urbanization and the sedentary modern lifestyle are not helping the world cope with its obesity problems,” Borgman says. “We have identified that there is real need for real food and healthy alternatives in the fast food category, particularly in the MENA countries. Kcal Healthy Fast Food fulfills that need.”
“Today, Kcal is more than just a foodie company,” Carroll says. “Kcal embodies a life- style that caters for all those who want to eat well and feel good about themselves. Fast food needn’t be boring or restrictive. Quite the opposite, because with Kcal, you don’t need to sacrifice the food you love to be healthy. We’re passionate about conveying this message, which lies at our very core. We want to capture hearts and minds, not just locally or regionally, but globally. We want to make the world a better place. And we believe Kcal is just what the world has been waiting for. Eat well. Be well. That’s all it boils down to, really.”
Dubai-based retail and hospitality firm Marka announced that it has acquired the Middle Esat franchise operations of luxury ice cream brand Morelli’s Gelato.
The deal was worth Dhs 31m, the company said in a statement.
The acquisition, which includes five outlets, will be integrated into Marka’s dedicated food and beverage division Marka Hospitality. Post the deal, Marka said that it will expand the brand by opening 17 additional Morelli’s Gelato outlets in the MENA region by 2020.
“Morelli’s Gelato is an important addition to Marka’s hospitality portfolio,” said Marka’s CEO Nick Peel.
“It is a renowned and profitable brand with a solid growth trajectory and an experienced and entrepreneurial management team. Morelli’s has an enviable operational and financial reputation and is a perfect fit with Marka’s next phase of growth and expansion.”
Morelli’s started as an ice cream parlour in England and later was established in locations such as Cafe de Paris in Monte-Carlo, Harrods Candy Store and more recently Covent Garden in London.
Currently franchised in the Middle East through Gourmet Gulf Food, Morelli’s outlets are located at Dubai Mall, The Beach opposite JBR, Bahrain City Centre, The Avenues mall in Kuwait and Mall of Dhahran in Saudi Arabia. A sixth store is being planned at Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates.
Apart from the UAE, Marka added that it is also planning to expand Morelli’s to other new markets such as Qatar, Oman, Lebanon, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The expansion is in line with the company’s strategy of placing a selective focus on markets that combine luxury with economic growth, Marka said.
Marka, which has acquired a number of top brands such as UK-based e-commerce site Icons and Reem Al Bawadi chain of restaurants, has said that it finds the region’s food and beverage sector the most attractive to invest in.
The Dubai-listed firm has invested up to Dhs 600m this year in acquisitions and is planning to invest Dhs 250m by the end of this year, officials said.
At the time of its listing in April last year, Marka said that it aims to open more than 100 fashion stores, restaurants and cafes in the GCC over the next five years.
Congratulations to Francorp Pakistan’s client for the opening of Steak Escape in Lahore, Pakistan.
KARACHI: Activity in the fast food sector was sluggish in Ramazan, with dine-in sales for restaurants in particular declined sharply.
A source at a major fast food franchise said that sales dropped in the fasting month.
“Ramazan means that companies have to take a more conservative approach, aiming to usually break even on costs for the holy month rather than looking at any profits,” the source commented.
Moona Sohail, Managing Partner at Francorp, franchising company, seemed to concur with this view as well, although she added that the market did improve a little as the month progressed.
“The activity did improve in Ramazan especially after the first few days or so but there was still an appreciable deviation as compared to normal months,” she said,
One of the main reasons of depressed activity in the segment seemed to be the fact that restaurants operate on reduced operating hours.
Activity during the daytime in these restaurants in particular comes to a standstill, she added, that the government regulations require restaurants to stay shut for most of the day time in the holy month.
For example restaurants such as (certain branches of) KFC and Mcdonald’s open at 5pm and 6pm respectively compared to their near or complete 24-hour service for the rest of the year.
MENAFA is officially on Dubai Chamber / Dubai Association Center (DAC) website as the only registered franchise association in the UAE.
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Middle Eastern franchise chain, Sumo Sushi & Bento, that specialises in Japanese food, is bullish about entering the Indian market through the Master Franchise route. The brand is on the lookout for three master franchisees to run their operations across India, for the North-East, West-Central and South regions, respectively. Sumo Sushi & Bento is also offering area-wise opportunities mainly in Jaipur, Gurgaon, Noida, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Udaipur, Ludhiana, Raipur and Kolkata, Vadodara, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Goa, Bhopal and Indore, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Vizag, Coimbatore and Bhuvneshwar.
Alpha Maiava, Director-Franchise Sales & International Growth, Sumo Sushi & Bento said: “Our entry in India is via 100% franchising with Indian investors. We are aiming at teaming up with three master franchisees for expanding across India. Franchise fee for a single unit will be around USD$20,000 while build-out cost will be determined by location and equipment availability as per local requirement. Depending upon the locality the outlets will be mainly of three sizes including 150 sqm., 200 sqm. and 300sqm.”
Speaking over the Return on Investment (RoI), Maiava further added: “We do not make promises on ROI. It is all dependent upon the amount fully invested for build out, timeframe and speed of go-to-market, aggressiveness of marketing, etc. Based on our findings and research for the market, we anticipate a payback period between 16– 18 months.”
Sumo Sushi & Bento has been serving Japanese cuisines since 2000. After establishing their foothold across the Middle East region – Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaima, and Bahrain, the brand is now aiming at widening its base in Asia, mainly in India through the franchise route.
Entry of Japanese Food Brands in Indian market
In such a diversified nation like India, there is ample opportunity for Japanese food providers to fortify their position and multiply. Benihana is a Doral, Florida-based American restaurant chain that recently entered the Indian market. Another such player in the same segment is Middle East franchise chain of Japanese cuisine Sumo Sushi & Bento that is all set to foray in the Indian market.
Speaking over the prospects of Japanese food in India, Alpha Maiava, Director – Franchise Sales and International Growth, Sumo Sushi & Bento, says: “For Japanese food, India is a very special place. Many Japanese dishes are vegetarian and Japan is one of the few nations worldwide that has truly mastered the art of delicious and premium non meat dishes. This is an ideal situation for our restaurant since we flourish in markets where there is a demand for quality sushi and market catered for families and casual dining.”
Diljeet S Bindra, General Manager, Benihana India opines, “These days edo–style of Japanese food is gaining grounds in India, especially raw food, means the dishes are served with uncooked ingredients. However, there are a few countable exclusive Japanese restaurants, but these days a lot of cafes and restaurants are introducing Japanese cuisines in their menus. With even Japanese burgers coming into the picture, the number of exclusive Japanese outlets is expected to rise in the coming days especially in the big cities like Mumbai and Delhi.”
Target Locations for expansion
Alpha Maiava says, “In the coming years, potential entrepreneurs may opt for having a franchise of a Japanese restaurant seeing the inclination of youths. We are also planning to expand via franchising route. Our expansion plans requires three master franchisees to own and operate in India that includes, three regions; first is North–East encompassing Jaipur, Gurgaon, Noida, New Delhi, Chandigarh, Udaipur, Ludhiana, Raipur & Kolkata. West – Central includes Vadodara, Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Ahmedabad, Goa, Bhopal and Indore. In the South, we aim at expanding in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Vizag, Coimbatore and Bhuvaneshwar.”
Diljeet S Bindra says, “In the coming days, as the Japanese outlets grow in number, having a franchise of Japanese restaurant will be a safe business plan for potential entrepreneurs. Our prime targets are big cities like Mumbai and Bangalore.”
Customisation is the way to go
Japanese restaurants these days are making every possible effort to twist their menu as per the demand of the Indian market that encompasses customers ranging from non-vegetarian to purely vegetarian and spendthrift to penny-wise. So, comprehending the demanding needs of the market, Japanese food providers are breaking the label of their cuisines as only non-vegetarian and expensive.
Alpha Maiava says: “In terms of our menu offering, we anticipated our India entry a year ago by increasing our vegetarian offerings which is popular with our existing health conscious and vegetarian customers in the markets we’re already in. On top of that, our experienced team of chefs put efforts into studying the local palate to see what kind of additions or edits we require to ensure it matches our local clientele’s taste buds. Apart from a large number of amazing fish dishes, as well as chicken and Japanese curries, Japanese is also a center of culinary excellence for vegetarian food and one of the staple foods in Sushi is rice.”
Popular Japanese retaurants in India
Japanese cuisines spreading pan-India
Alpha Maiava says, “India has enjoyed many years of economic growth and the youth have benefitted greatly. They have been able to travel, had access to education and international culture. Because of this they are open to a new range of experiences and Japanese food including sushi. What’s even more exciting is that when the youth introduces their family to Sushi and growth in demand in Japanese food continues to snowball throughout the country.” Over the popularity of Japanese food, Diljeet S Bindra says, “The credit behind the popularity of Japanese food goes to the development of Japanese culture over the five years due to the growing tourism sector and cross cultural activities with a large number of MNC’s opening properties in India.”
With the growing population, disposable incomes, urge to taste something different and, above all, inclination towards having hygienic stuff, the Japanese cuisines are expected to make a mark in the race among Chinese, Italian, and Continental cuisines. It’s a promising call to potential entrepreneurs who not only can start a Japanese food business but also, get a franchise of a Japanese restaurant for hard-to-believe returns.
The Roundup food trucks will comprise eclectic food brands like MOB, Fit, Calle Tacos, Bio Bean, Shawarma Station, Jordanian Brisket Truck, Toasted Grilled Cheese & Gobai.
For those that are new to the concept, food trucks are essentially restaurants on wheels. Over the past few years food trucks have evolved into an established service concept, particularly in the USA.
The UAE’s 54 East will launch 12 Roundup food trucks by August and will expand its fleet to 100 by end of 2015. Each truck has the capacity to cater to more than 2000 people. 54 East eventually plans to expand business across Middle East with a goal of 1500 trucks. The Roundup food trucks will comprise eclectic food brands like MOB, Fit, Calle Tacos, Bio Bean, Shawarma Station, Jordanian Brisket Truck, Toasted Grilled Cheese & Gobai.