Brand awareness and location crucial for expansion, local F&B operators say

Topics surrounding regional growth opportunities were discussed at a Talabat-led roundtable event recently held at the company’s headquarter in Dubai
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Brand awareness and location crucial for expansion, local F&B operators say.
Photo by Jai Arumugam
Brand awareness and location crucial for expansion, local F&B operators say.

Talabat, the region’s home-grown delivery company, recently led a roundtable with local F&B operators to discuss factors affecting regional growth opportunities. The discussion was held at the company’s headquarter in Duabi on April 30, 2018 and was moderated by Toon Gyssels, chief operating officer of Talabat.

The panellists at the roundtable included Just Burger general manager Ahmad Bin Khalid, Yawmi chief executive officer Joy Kanaan, Q-Gourmet – Pizzaro marketing manager Mustafa Omar and Zahrat Lebnan operations manager Mohsin Ali. KPMG director, Global Strategy Group Vikrant Rohatgi was also present as a guest panellist.

Khalid, who started the home-grown Emirati concept Just Fresh in 2014, scaled up quite fast and launched two other concepts: Just Burger, which was launched in 2015 and currently operates 15 branches and Doner Basha in 2017 with nine locations. Khalid says finding accurate locations has been crucial to his brand’s success.

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“Majority of our customers are locals. We are also mostly located where locals go to eat often. Choosing the correct location and also marketed to them [locals] directly was important and that is often the key challenge, too” Khalid explained.

Khalid also noted that his company invests more than 10% of the revenue towards marketing to keep his audience interested and “in the know”.
Omar from Q-Gourmet, which has 20 locations, says his company’s expansion business model is changing and it involves more delivery.

“We have two concepts: restaurants and express. Express is focusing more on delivery. When we analysed data from 2017 and 2018, more people are opting for delivery — and that’s the plan for the future as well for us. Our last restaurant expansion was back in 2017. After that we’ve just focused on expanding express locations,” Omar added.

In terms of expansion internationally within the GCC, Khalid asserted that it’s important for F&B operators to work on brand awareness and evaluate the success of the outlet locally before even considering expansion and franchising.

Ali, from Zahrat Lebnan agreed adding that Zahrat Lebnan’s expansion to Saudi Arabia was actually fuelled by positive brand awareness.


“With Zahrat Lebnan, visitors from Saudi Arabia came and they liked the food quite a bit. One of the customers called me up and asked if it’s possible to have a franchise in Saudi and we considered it and said ok. That’s how we first branched out,’ Ali recounted saying it was confidence in positive market feedback that also helped commit to expand in another country.

Rohtagi noted that while expansion is the way forward for most outlets, operators should take a cautious approach.

“What we’ve seen is for the last few years, particularly in 2011 and 2012, a lot of brands expanded aggressively but then rolled back in 2015 and 2016. Today, what you find in the market is very cautious in terms of its approach towards expansion. Brands are investing a lot to understand specific catchments and micro markets such as what sorts of consumer demographics they have, whether a particular brand in that catchment works more and what competition the brand has to compete with,” Rohtagi pointed out.

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