Dubai has become an oasis in the desert for American restaurant brands clamoring for an international audience. These brands include IHOP, Johnny Rockets, P.F. Chang’s, Shake Shack, Starbucks and The Cheesecake Factory, among others.
Many of the restaurant brands that have established themselves in Dubai sell a certain kind of Americana to customers, whether it’s nostalgia driven by theme and décor, like Johnny Rockets; classic combinations of burgers, fries and shakes, like Shake Shack; or diner-style breakfasts of pancakes and eggs, like IHOP.
Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, based in Wichita, Kansas, also offers a classic Americana-style menu and experience, and it will soon join the fray in Dubai when it opens its first international location there by the end of the year. Co-founder and COO Scott Redler cited the abundance of Western culture in Dubai as one reason why the 300-unit chain decided to make its overseas debut there.
“People understand it, understand American brands very well,” Redler said. “We thought that would be a great place to spearhead our growth into international.”
Room for Everyone
Despite the proliferation of American restaurant concepts in Dubai, Redler is confident that Freddy’s will stand out.
“The same components that help us differentiate in the U.S. will be the components that make us different in the UAE,” he said. “We’re always proud of our food choices and preparation and freshness, our facilities. But more importantly, our hospitality and taking our hospitality component to Dubai will be a great experience for us.”
He also observed that despite the concentration of American chains in Dubai, there’s still room to grow.
“We thought there was plenty of room for more American brands and other brands in general,” he said. “Today’s consumer, our guest worldwide, really enjoys a lot of different variety with regards to the style and choices of foods.”
While Freddy’s won’t make significant changes to its menu or service for the Dubai location, Redler said the opening prompted the chain to study its menu, resulting in some alterations.
“In Dubai we’re going to expand our chicken offerings, because chicken is very popular in Dubai, but we still think our steakburgers will knock it out of the park like they do in the U.S.” he said. “We know that there’s some critical items, our French fries and our frozen custard, we think will be a huge hit in Dubai.”
The style of dairy is somewhat different in the UAE, Redler said, and that’s a critical ingredient in Freddy’s namesake frozen custard, so the chain decided to import it from Chicago.
“We think it’s that much of a point of difference and we think our guest in Dubai will enjoy that,” he said.
In terms of location, indoor malls are very popular in Dubai, Redler said, and Freddy’s restaurant will probably be located inside a mall. To accommodate such a space, Freddy’s shifted the kitchen layout to work in a food-court environment.
Freddy’s has been around for about 15 years in the U.S., and it was spurred to look abroad by the demand from consumers around the world for American-style food. It began the road to the Dubai restaurant about 18 months ago. Key to the process was finding a franchisee that jived with Freddy’s culture. The company ultimately chose Younata Investment Limited.
“We really felt that the culture with Younata matched our culture, and if it didn’t, it would have been a different decision,” he said. “They’re wonderful people, they have great family values and understand the business side of what we’re going to be doing.”
Freddy’s additionally plans to develop restaurants with Younata in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. While it’s focused on getting the initial restaurant in Dubai open, it has its eye on further international growth.
“What we believe will happen, similar to the way it happened in the States, is that people who are visiting Dubai will get to experience our brand and enjoy it and say, wait a minute, I want to bring this to—fill in the blank.”
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