A home-grown restaurant brand is expanding overseas as competition intensifies in the UAE.
FoodFund International, which owns the Eat Greek, Meat Co and Ribs and Rumps restaurant chains in Dubai, plans to expand to London, Bahrain and Greece with its existing and new brands.
The company also runs Tribes and Bentley brands in the UAE and has additional plans for Dubai.
The Dubai-based chain has earmarked US$20 million for the expansions alone this year. It has 25 restaurants across the UAE, Australia, the UK, South Africa, Bahrain and Kuwait.
Restaurant brands that cut their teeth in the UAE must meet challenges that prepare them for further growth. They have to contend with high rental costs, the requirement to find a local partner and stiff competition as the country has become a magnet for restaurant franchises.
The turnover for the overall UAE food service sector is expected to rise 7.7 per cent to US$9.85 billion this year compared with $9.14bn last year, according to the consultancy Euromonitor International.
“The UAE companies want to replicate success story in another market. Having been successful at home, they have both the know-how and the capital needed for international expansion,” said Nikola Kosutic, the research manager at Euromonitor International in Dubai. “They also hope to capitalise on the global trend of increasing demand for ethnic food such as Middle Eastern.”
FoodFund’s foreign plan has three aspects:
• Opening a steakhouse called Inyama, which means “meat” in Zulu, on the Greek island of Mykonos in June.
• Opening a casual, upmarket Greek restaurant called Limoni in Bahrain in the fourth quarter.
• And bringing Eat Greek and Meat Co outlets to London by year’s end.
Home-grown brands have mixed success abroad. The Dubai-based Just Falafel, now known as JF Street Food, had to scale back its rapid expansion plans through franchises in foreign locations after sales plummeted.
FoodFund also has ambitions for local growth.
It will have its second outlet of Eat Greek in the next quarter at The Dubai Mall. At 450 square metres, it will seek a piece of the tourist market at the mall.
“Rentals are more expensive in malls but for a prime location you expect that, I’ll have 40,000 people walking past in Dubai Mall,” said Johnny Tomazos, the chief executive of FoodFund International.
He expects to launch a new fast food brand called Woodchuck Chicken at Mall of the Emirates in the third quarter.
The share of food service at retail outlets is expected to grow for the next five years. Around 22 per cent of all consumer food service outlets are found in retail locations and the figure is expected to increase to 24.7 per cent by 2019 in the UAE, according to Euromonitor International.
“These locations will offer huge opportunities for food service outlets, targeting middle or high income consumer segments,” Mr Kosutic said.
Mr Tomazos expects to open a Tribes restaurant in Dubai in the third quarter.
FoodFund International will own all the outlets rather than franchising them.
“It helps to have control over food and quality, and it’s about longevity,” Mr Tomazos said. “We hope to see more home-grown brands; different brands reflect the people that live in it.”