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BurgerFuel rockets its way across Dubai
Gourmet burger chain expanding in the world's second most significant retail environment.
May 23, 2013 1:17 by Muhammad Aldalou
By the end of this year, BurgerFuel will have already exceeded its initial expansion plans when it launches its 12th official store (13 if you count its ‘moving kitchen’) in the United Arab Emirates and two more in Kuwait. In July 2010, when UAE-based Al Khayyat Investments added the New Zealand gourmet burger chain to their its massive retail portfolio, its plans were to have 15 operational branches over five years.
Three years later, the brand has managed to maintain a strong pace of launching a new branch every three to four months. Farah George, Food & Beverage general manager at AKI, tells Kipp that the plans is to have 20 branches by 2018.
“In fact, if it weren’t for landlord-related delays, we would have had 15 by the end of this year,” he says. “Our next opening in Dubai will be on Sheikh Zayed Road at the end of June and our first ‘drive-thru’ location on Beach Road, the first week of August.”
The retail market is extremely competitive in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and international brands are very aware of this –but it is really having the right retail space that remains the biggest challenge for brands, according to George. So far, BF is the largest gourmet burger chain in the country (by store count) but finding the right location, in the right area, and the right size that ‘fits,’ isn’t always easy. “If you get the positioning wrong by a number of metres, you could really lose a lot of business,” he says.
According to the 2013 edition of ‘How global is the business of retail’ by leading global property adviser CBRE, Dubai’s retail market is significantly ahead of other major cities around the world. The emirate has maintained its position as the second most important retail destination, closely behind London.
As far as AKI is concerned, launching and operating companies here is much easier than other countries. Financially speaking, Dubai makes perfect sense and most brands succeed here because the cost of operating is cheaper than other countries – particularly in the labour department. Rents might be slightly higher, but other overhead costs are generally lower. “If you’re operating successfully in Dubai, you can make a great return,” he says.
When Kipp pressed George on who BurgerFuel views as competition or a threat, he emphasises on a common misconception that since they’re a burger restaurant, their main competition would naturally be other burger places as well, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. After all, customers don’t normally eat burgers every day. They don’t eat Pizza or ‘Manakish’ every day either. They choose every day.
“Basically, you’re just as likely to end up competing with an Arabic restaurant and so I’d feel perfectly comfortable opening a BurgerFuel branch right next to another burger joint.” When all that’s said and done, customers look for quality, convenience and value for money, and many brands in the UAE offer exactly that.