In Focus
EXECUTIVE INSIGHTS | Staff Reporter, Australia

Find out the opportunity Retail Food Group sees in the Middle East and North Africa

QSR Media caught up with Mike Gilbert, chief franchise officer of the Group, to explore the brand’s intentions to expand its burgeoning franchise network in the region.

QSR Media: Tell us more about the Middle East and North Africa expansion.

Within the Middle East, there is an increasing demand for quality in terms of products and service. Through this joint venture opportunity, Retail Food Group’s brands, product offerings, systems, and expertise can fill the growing niche in the region and capitalise on this demand, whilst also building upon our budding Gloria Jean’s Coffees footprint which already exists within the region. Both the Company and our Master Franchise Partners (MFP) are very excited about the opportunity to introduce our Brand Systems into the Middle East and confident they will appeal to consumers.

There is also a bourgeoning and sophisticated coffee culture in the Middle East, which is driving increased coffee consumption and growth in the number of cafes in the region, ultimately creating a sound platform for future growth. This trend, coupled with a need for quality and freshness, shows us that more coffee drinkers are turning to brands that roast their coffee locally. We know the localised approached we are introducing will enable us to capitalise on these shifting consumer behaviours in the region regarding coffee consumption.

QSR Media: What company brands are set to launch in the regions?

RFG plans to introduce Crust Gourmet Pizza Bar, Pizza Capers, Michel’s Patisserie, Brumby’s Bakery, Donut King, It’s A Grind, The Coffee Guy and Cafe2U into the Middle East. From a coffee capability perspective, the roasting facility will operate under the Di Bella Coffee brand, with product development options available for the specific region.

QSR Media: How will the joint ventures benefit the franchisees, and the business as a whole?

Strategies that stimulate and deliver on growth require a commitment to the region; the Middle East Hub establishment represents that commitment.

Each major region of the world will benefit from a localised approach to product and customer offer. By identifying key development resources in the region, we can keep close to the pulse of the consumer and leverage RFG’s product innovation skillset and our MFP’s local expertise to deliver on tailored solutions relevant to the region.

Through services such as brand development, operations, compliance, training, marketing, product sourcing and manufacturing, along with centralised local supply, we intend to create an even more responsive support model for all franchise partners and outlets, whilst unlocking value from mirroring the vertically integrated model RFG has successfully implemented in Australia.

QSR Media: What can you say about the present global coffee industry and its consumers?

The migration to the espresso based speciality coffee culture continues apace in many regions around the world, and furthermore, the Middle East is proving to be home to some of the highest per capita consumers.

Those exact consumers are looking for a more premium espresso experience whilst also retaining a preference for regional specialities, such as Arabic and Turkish coffees. Our joint venture manufacturing facility will be ideally placed to service this growth in demand, and the Di Bella Coffee product range brings a strong heritage to the region, opening up a number of new channels for expansion.

QSR Media: How do you plan to raise consumer awareness on your products within the regions?

A bespoke marketing strategy is being formulated to present both of our franchise Brand Systems and our commercial coffee operations to both Middle East investors, and consumers alike. Leveraging the invaluable on-the-ground experience and connections provided through our joint venture partners, is critical to the pace at which these opportunities can be exploited within the region. The credibility of Australian food and beverage in the Middle East is highly regarded, and our Brand Systems are ideally placed to take full advantage of this expansion opportunity.

As well, careful consideration is being undertaken to ensure each brand has ultimate relevance to the Middle East consumer, with local customisation high on the agenda.

QSR Media: Any other big plans for the year?

RFG’s intentions to expand its burgeoning franchise network and Brand Systems internationally has been a key focus for the Company. The brands are proving to be popular in a number of locations spread widely across the globe, as evidenced by our recent announcements. As we move into each major region of the world, this presents many new expansion enquiries and opportunities which we look forward to pursuing over the coming year.

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