Is the franchised restaurant a worthy competitor?

Caterer's editor discusses the potential for more chains in the region

Hannah-Farah Abdulla
Hannah-Farah Abdulla

They’re great for drumming up debate – for some they’re awesome and others, they just rub up the wrong way.

The arrival of US brands Chillis, Applebees, Tim Hortons and more recently the Cheesecake Factory and the International House of Pancakes have engulfed the industry into huge discussions – who are they? Why are they here? What do they want? And not forgetting the famous one: will they last?

Well, with reports that The Cheesecake Factory in Dubai Mall is making AED70,000 (US$19,000) a day – it looks like they may stick around a bit longer.

But why do franchises stir up so much passion within the industry? Well, they lack initiative, they don’t take risks and they are stopping the region from being recognised as a culinary hotspot – is what I’ve been told...

My thoughts? Since you asked, is that due to all of the above, many in the industry feel chains don’t deserve to be taking such a big slice of the cake. Do they even deserve to be called ‘competition?’

Well, after an engaging and rather insightful discussion with a group of gents that own and operate franchise brands, ones that are based on international concepts and others that have been born right here, ‘yes’ is my answer.

I refer to my previous point about the brands born right here with one particular franchise brand in mind – the one that gets over 100 franchise requests per day and has recently taken its brand outside of the UAE, outside of the region, in fact to the world’s favourite capital – London.

It’s a clever concept, it’s unique, it’s popular – moreover it’s sailing across to another part of the world has thrown Dubai into the limelight as a place where great F&B concepts are born.

You could argue that standalones do this too; take Okku for example. But I’ve a sneaky feeling Just Falafel is rather quickly going to be seen as a worthy F&B competitor in the rest of the world – even if it is just another chain. (That’s my 2013 prediction – let’s revisit next Jan!)

People like them, no – they love them, as has been proven by The Cheesecake Factory. I agree that there is a need for new, fresh, vibrant, home-grown concepts, but I’m not sure I agree with the thought that there isn’t room for more chains.

If anything, the franchise sector allows the region to show off the diversity of its F&B concepts – the choice of food options in Dubai today is quite truly phenomenal.
On a final note, you know what they say: if you can’t beat ’em...

Hannah-Farah Abdulla. Editor
Email: hannah.abdulla@itp.com

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