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Cravia (UAE) Targets New Stores in the Middle East and North Africa

09 Mar 2018 - The company says it is also exploring its own restaurant concepts

Dubai-based restaurant franchisee Cravia will open a number of new outlets this year, and add a new franchise to its portfolio by 2019. Cravia operates the likes of Zaatar w Zeit, Cinnabon, and Seattle’s Best Coffee in the UAE, in addition to Five Guys in Saudi Arabia.

“Our motto is, if you don’t grow, you die. So we’re definitely expanding in the UAE this year, with probably eight or nine new stores, particularly Zaatar w Zeit,” Walid Hajj, Cravia’s chief executive, told Gulf News in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said that Cravia was looking to push all of its brands in to new, captive areas throughout the UAE, not just in Dubai. Outside the UAE, Hajj said that he had an eye on the rest of the region. Already present in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the UAE, the CEO said that he was exploring opportunities to expand in to the rest of the Gulf, whilst also “looking at the rest of the Middle East and North Africa.”

Hajj made specific mention of Egypt as a market of interest for expanding Zaatar w Zeit. “Zaatar, for example, we know what works; it becomes a matter of plug and play in other markets,” he said.

Cravia would have to apply for a new franchise licence for these markets, he added, as they didn’t have a set agreement with the owner of the brand for any additional territories. Across its five brands, which also include the ice cream chain Carvel, the company expects to operate 91 restaurants across the Gulf countries by the end of 2018.

Asked about adding new brands to Cravia’s existing portfolio, the top executive said that he was “always looking at new franchises”. “The market is very competitive, so we’re definitely not looking for something that we’re [already] in,” Hajj said, adding: “We prefer things that stand out, concepts that have a narrow menu, easily executed and attractive to consumers.”

Clarifying that Cravia would always remain in the casual dining sector, as opposed to fine dining, for example, he said that the company was looking at a wide variety of styles of food for its next brand.

“It might be a healthy concept, or chicken, or pizza, we’re looking at different sectors across the board,” Hajj said. “We probably won’t announce anything this year, but we’ll have a new franchise in 2019,” he added. Hajj said that Cravia was also exploring “avenues with our own concepts”, something that would represent a departure from its existing model of operating established international franchises.

He added that the company would also be “absolutely … open to partnering with a local restaurant concept”, not just from outside the region.

“We look for scalability. It is very important,” Hajj said, adding that however the group acquired a brand, be it a pre-existing international chain, or an internally grown concept, Cravia’s strength was in understanding how to get the most from that business. “From our perspective we add value in operating restaurants. That’s what we do best,” he said.


Gulf News Retail

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