The UAE has one of the most advanced and developed F&B markets in the world. After London and Paris, Dubai ranks third on the list of restaurants per capita, followed by New York and Singapore. The fact that Dubai in particular is the global food hub, makes any brand want to make it a launch pad for international expansion.
Lavoya Group was co-founded by Walid Hajj and Fahad Alhokair in 2021. Established with the purpose of significantly transforming dining experiences, Lavoya introduces new and experiential casual dining concepts to reshape the F&B industry in the region. The group currently has franchised three brands in its portfolio.
Beirut’s much-loved Lebanese street food, Barbar was launched in Dubai last year. Walid stated, “It was established over 45 years ago in Beirut and has never closed even during the 15-year civil war. Barbar’s expansion outside Lebanon started with our store on Hessa Street which over the last 12 months of operation has served more than 700,000 customers and sold approximately 500,000 shawarmas. It has been and continues to be an amazing success. We opened the second store in Business Bay a few months ago, and just opened in Riyadh on September 28 and both are experiencing amazing starts as well. We are about to open two stores in Qatar so we should end the year with 5 Barbar restaurants.
Joe & The Juice
Dominating the global juice market with more than 300 stores across 16 countries, health-conscious brand ‘Joe & The Juice’ has opened three flagship stores and cafes in Dubai. Considered to be one of the fastest-growing F&B brands in the world including stores in the UK, USA, and Sweden among others, the Copenhagen-born cafe chain is now located at Dubai Design District, Mall of the Emirates and Galleria Mall.
“Our second brand, Joe & the Juice is the leading juice, health, and hip café in the world. With over 300 stores globally, Joe & the Juice is our latest edition to the portfolio with great success. Our two stores in Dubai Design District and Mall of the Emirates are the two best stores in terms of revenue in the whole system, and we achieved that in the short time of 5 weeks since the opening. We have a major growth plan for the brand with 5 new stores in the pipeline for the next couple of months and then a major rollout next year,” added Walid.
Dave’s Hot Chicken
Recently, Lavoya added a new brand to their portfolio – popular Los Angeles based Dave’s Hot Chicken (DHC). DHC was just named the fastest growing QSR brand in America with over 80 stores open and double that to be opened in the next six months. DHC boasts that Drake, the lead pop singer, is an investor and an ambassador of the brand.“We opened the JBR location just about two months back and in its first weekend, that store ranked number one worldwide in terms of sales. Additional stores are going to be open in the next 2-3 weeks in Motor city, Doha Vendome Mall, and Riyadh,” confirmed Walid.
Advantages of franchising in the restaurant industry
Walid reiterated, “What is not very much known about the industry is that 8 out of 10 new restaurants fail in the first 5 years of operation (based off US statistics). What franchising allows you to do is have a set of tried and tested, proven ways of conducting a business (menu, recipe, operations) that improves the chances of success. In addition, the world has become closer with social media providing instant and wide exposure to brands. This has allowed brand recognition on a global level representing a double-edge sword, because while guests recognise the brand, they also know what to expect. I am a strong believer that excellence in execution to ensure replicating the brand’s overall experience is essential in the success of any franchise brand.”
The Group has always been on the lookout for international franchises, forging new partnerships, entering new markets, and opening a food retail chain. Walid had a visionary approach to scaling his business to date, thought he faced many challenges in this transition. He said,“My approach to ensuring successful scaling is the ‘all-in’ approach. Once we partner with a new brand and are fully convinced of its success in our markets, we execute a full plan that involves a massive and quick roll-out. The idea of ‘let’s try and see’ does not work, wastes time, and can mislead. Take Joe & the Juice as an example. We launched three locations of the brand from the get-go. This will ensure that our investment in infrastructure and management of the business is spread efficiently across a bigger scale from Day 1.”
“Also, and while we are very big on analysis and feasibility study, I ensure that analysis does not become paralysis and that the process of making decisions is not killed by a stack of useless and irrelevant data. My team is encouraged to use their judgement and go with their gut feeling, which is a result of valuable experiences. This, in my opinion, allows for quick actions and decisions ahead of the competition,” stated Walid.
Dubai, and the GCC at large, is a business-friendly and easy place to conduct business across all segments. This makes it easier for international F&B chains to do business in Dubai. Walid agreed, “You can establish a new company, for example, in Dubai or Riyadh in no time and get started with lots of ease, especially compared to doing the same in a market like London, New York or LA for example. So, the logistical and legal aspects of bringing an F&B brand to the region are quite straightforward. What is more difficult and where success lies, is the execution of these brands and staying aware that even the most structured and strict franchise can fail if not executed well,”concluded Walid.