Caterer Middle East Power 50 2017: Franchisees

The results of Caterer Middle East's 2017 Power List

Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants
Reports, Executive interviews, Restaurants

01. Evgeny Kuzin


Founder and managing partner of Bulldozer group

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Evgeny Kuzin grew up in an environment surrounded by a large family of entrepreneurs. In the seven years that he’s been operating in the region he has been responsible for bringing renowned brands such Novikov, and Cipriani to Dubai. This year, Bulldozer group known for its high-end dining and entertainment venues, made its first foray into casual dining with Eshak in City Walk 2. The Moscow import blends Uzbek, Armenian, Georgian, European and Middle Eastern cuisine in a mid-scale setting and has enjoyed success in the eight months since its launch.

The group may be diversifying its portfolio but 2018 will see Kuzin return to his fine dining roots with a dizzying eight new concepts including Gaia DIFC, Scalini, China Tang and Et-Onia. Bulldozer Group is also set to make waves in Saudi Arabia when they take Novikov to Riyadh next year. The next few months will see the group launch Crab Market in DIFC through a partnership with chef Vladimir Mukhin whose restaurant, White Rabbit, currently sits at number 23 on The World's 50 Best Restaurants list.


Number of years working in the Middle East: 11

Number of years working in the F&B industry: 07

Staff: 700

Coming soon: Gaia DIFC (Greek restaurant & lounge), Scalini (Four seasons - Jumeirah) Chinatang, Et-Onia (steak house), Novikov Riyadh, 1OAK (nightclub), 7 sisters, Antika, Estia Beach club

02. Sami Daud


Executive chairman, Gourmet Gulf Co. LLC

Daud Investments is part of the Oman-based Daud group of companies, a private holding company with operations in the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, India and beyond. Sami Daud is the managing director of Daud Group of Companies and the executive chairman of Gourmet Gulf Company, an F&B company within the group.

While Gourmet Gulf has been operating in partnership with global brands such as House of Fraser, Hamleys, YoSushi and McDonald’s Daud has an eye for dynamic and unexpected dining experiences, adding franchises to the group from all over the world including YoSushi, California Pizza Kitchen, Hummingbird Bakery, Panda Express, Texas De Brazil, Azkadenya and Dalloyau.

The company is in the process of expanding its current portfolio with 20 new openings next year aiming to optimise its restaurant footprint and improve guest experience. Taking the tough economic conditions of the past year into account, under Daud’s leadership Gourmet Gulf aims to bring dining brands and experiences to its customers, both locally and internationally, while offering value for money.


Number of years working in the F&B industry: 14

Staff: 1200

Operational outlets: 40

Coming soon: 20 stores in 2018

03. Walid Hajj

Saudi Arabian

Executive chairman, Cravia

Founded in 2001, Cravia is one of the leading organisations in its field in the region, with a presence in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.  Responsible for providing strategic direction for the company’s portfolio that includes more than 90 restaurants and a team of 3,000 people, Hajj’s role encompasses business planning, organisational excellence and the long-term development objectives for six brands under the Cravia umbrella — Cinnabon, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Zaatar w Zeit, The Steak Bar, Carvel Ice Cream and the company’s most recent franchise acquisition, Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

The launch of Five Guys Burgers and Fries in several markets during the last 12 months has contributed to the company’s aggressive growth with global record-breaking stores like the Five Guys in Mateen Plaza in Riyadh and Five Guys in Khobar which, at the time of each of its opening, broke the daily sales record of any Five Guys globally.

The company is also making waves on an international scale leading Harvard University to write a business case study about Cravia and its history which is now taught in the University’s Entrepreneurship classes.

The company focus in 2018 is to manage its continued growth in a way that is flat, nimble and has the ability change quickly if needed.


Number of years working in the F&B industry: 22

Operational outlets: 93

Staff: 2900

Coming soon: Six outlets in the pipeline in 2017 and more than 15 in 2018 across all brands and all markets

04. Elias Madbak


Director of operations, RMAL Hospitality

As the director of operations for RMAL Hospitality, Elias Madbak is responsible for over 275 employees, 20 managers and AED 95million ($US 26million) of revenue relating to the group’s restaurants (Wagamama, Trader Vic's,  Frankie's,  Ten Street and MPW Steak House). Prior to joining the team Madbak orchestrated the global launch of the Habit Burger Grill, one of the fastest growing fast casual dining concepts in the world and was part of the team that brought The Cheesecake Factory to the GCC.

Having joined the group at the beginning of the eight months ago, and immediately recognised the under development of Wagamama Madbak secured a flagship location at The Dubai Mall with a fountain view, which is projected to break sales records for Wagamama and deliver 100% growth for RMAL in less than one year. Madbak also secured the entry into two new markets — Abu Dhabi and Sharjah for Wagamama, doubling the number of units, in less than a year.  In just six months, Madbak implemented a training programme, inventory controls, ERPs, KDS systems and a call centre for deliveries, turning negative sales growth into positive LFL sales.  In 2018, the company will launch two Marco Pierre White brands and prepare them for worldwide franchising.


Number of years working in the F&B industry: 19

Operational outlets: 10

Staff: 275

Coming soon: Wagamama- Flag Ship- Dubai Mall Fountain View- Jan 28, 2018  Wagamama Sharjah (new market) University   City- March 26, 2018  Wagamama- Abu Dhabi Mall-TBD  New York Italian by Marco Pierre White(MPW)- TBD  Mr White's Burgers by Marco Pierre White(MPW)-TBD

05. Mert Askin


President of F&B, Azadea Group

Prior to joining Azadea in 2014, Mert Askin gained extensive operational experience leading the casual all-day dining chain of the d.ream group, one of the world’s fastest growing restaurant groups with more than 170 outlets, including Kitchenette, Gunaydin, Nusr-et and Zuma.

Azadea’s F&B brands have more than 12 million visits annually and the company has 120 outlets across eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Under Askin, Azadea owns and operates eight F&B brands, including Paul Bakery and Restaurant, Eataly, The Butcher Shop & Grill and Kösebasi.

Azadea Group is among the largest operators of Eataly, with four stores currently in operation and a further two in the pipeline.  Two stores in the UAE — Dubai Mall and Dubai Festival City, one in Riyadh, KSA with two further stores in another Middle East location. The group also owns and operates Paul Bakery and Restaurant which is currently among the largest all day casual dining operators in the Middle East region.


Number of years in the F&B industry: 10

How many brands currently operating?: 08

Staff: 3000

Upcoming projects in 2018:  New Shanghai, in Dubai Mall in March 2018, two Eataly outlets in the pipeline

06. Richard Barclay


Chief operating officer, (Foodmark), Landmark Group

Richard has spent 35 years operating businesses and developing food service brands for multinational organisations in the hospitality, retail and airport industries.

Barclay has overseen portfolios spanning over 30 counties worldwide and has worked in the UK, US and the Middle East.

In his current role as part of Landmark Group, Barclay leads a portfolio of 50 restaurants across 10 food service brand across the GCC. Under his leadership, Foodmark is poised for ambitious growth in the region, most recently successfully entering KSA in 2016 with Nandos.

Barclay believes that the ultimate value differentiator in current turbulent markets is people saying: “What sets us apart from all other competitors in our operating regions is our people-who go above and beyond to transform every guest experience into extraordinary and a memorable experiences.”

Foodmark is the F&B division of the Landmark Group and operates a number of internationally-franchised restaurants in the GCC including Carluccio’s, Mango Tree, Chi’Zen, Max’s and Max Burge.


Number of years working in the F&B industry: 35

Staff: 1200

Operational Outlets: 50

Upcoming projects in 2018: Five restaurants in the casual dining category in KSA and one in UAE

07. Phil Broad


VP food and beverage, Alghanim Industries

Prior to his role at Alghanim Industries, Phil Broad was employed by Intercontinental Hotels Group in AMEA as VP of food and beverage, and overseeing the F&B in more than 236 hotels in 40 countries with more than 900 restaurants and bars.

Broad is currently responsible for Wendy’s Middle East, Costa Coffee Kuwait and the recently signed Slim Chickens Brand for MENA.

Under his leadership, Costa Coffee’s food in the Kuwait market is industry-leading due to a partnership with two renowned chefs — Annabelle Karmel and Dean Brettschneider.

Broad credits his team with the company’s success with Wendy’s Middle East recently recognised by Wendy’s International for the highest overall customer satisfaction across all markets, ‘Franchsisee Operator of The Year’ and the ‘Best Freestanding Opening’.

In 2018, Alghanim Industries has more than 50 outlets in the pipeline across Kuwait, KSA and UAE with Broad aiming to profitably expand the business across multiple markets whilst ensuring maintain and building company culture.


Number of years working in the F&B industry: 35

Operational outlets: 61

Staff: 500+

Coming soon: 50+ outlets over the coming 12 months across Kuwait, KSA and the UAE

08. Manhal Nasser


Group CEO and co-founder, AWJ Investments

Armed with years of experience and a track record of proven performance, Manhal Naser is responsible for providing the overall leadership and strategic management for AWJ Investments.

Operation: Falafel, Awani, Catch22, Chicks n Friends, Smoky Garden, Smoky, Yalseh, Surf Bite, Xenia Lounge, Awani and Catch22.

He is a recognised leader in the F&B industry with a well-rounded expertise ranging from concept design to multi-unit development, having led to the successful international expansion of multiple brands. Naser’s eye for talent and his passion as a leader have been the driving forces behind the rapid growth of the AWJ team to over 1,000 employees in four years.

Nasser revealed that the company plans to move into the European and US markets, exceeding 400 units in the next two years across the world.

Nasser said:“It is an aggressive plan and we will make every effort to make Operation Falafel a world-renowned brand. My dream is to see it everywhere I go.”


Number of years working in the Middle East: 20

Number of years working in the F&B industry: 10

Staff: 1000+

Upcoming projects in 2018: UAE 7 outlets, KSA 8 outlets, USA 2 outlets

09. Yunib Siddiqui


Group chief executive officer and owner of Jones the Grocer

Last year was a big year for Yunib Siddiqui who first engaged Jones the Grocer as a franchisee for the UAE in mid-2008 and opened the first location of the brand in Abu Dhabi in 2009.

In 2016, Yunib Siddiqui acquired the global brand rights to Jones the Grocer and has since opened five new UAE franchised locations and three new international franchised locations. Siddiqui purchased the global IP rights for the brand which today includes 25 operational stores in seven countries.

This year has seen the brand expand in the region with several additional locations in the pipeline. In 2018, the brand’s footprint in the UAE will increase by three outlets including locations in Ajman and Al Ain. Jones the Grocer will also make its Chinese debut with an opening in Shanghai.

Siddiqui has been a successful entrepreneur for half of his life, sourcing and distributing handmade products to retail giants like Liberty, Debenhams, Harrods and Galleries Lafayette.


Number of years working in the F&B industry: 09

Staff: 210

Operational outlets: 25

Coming soon: Three new Jones The Grocer locations in the UAE and a move into the Chinese market with an opening in Shanghai.

10. Nadim Majdalani

French / Lebanese

Chief development officer, eathos

Eathos currently operates four concepts — SushiArt, Kababji Grill, Tortilla and Rita's Ice across 21 outlets in the UAE and KSA.

Nadim Majdalani led the acquisition of SushiArt in 2016, the franchisee of global chain Sushi Shop, and has also driven the brand’s expansion into KSA and further in the UAE since then with a Bahrain expansion planned for 2018. The brand’s success in the UAE has positioned Eathos as a consolidator in the regional F&B industry, which resulted in significant acquisition deal flow.

In the last 12 months Majdalani has spearheaded the integration of SushiArt within Eathos and overseen the brand's successful expansion into Saudi Arabia, with an opening in Riyadh in H1 2017 and two more openings in Riyadh and Jeddah in H2 2017. Two more openings are planned in Dubai in Q1 2018, which will take the brand to nine outlets regionally, more than doubling the number of outlets less than two years post-acquisition.


Number of years working in the F&B industry: 10

Staff: 700+

Operational Outlets: 21

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