Nicole Veloce, COO, Teriyaki Experience
Expanding its global franchise network in offering healthy alternative to traditional fast food is the brand called Teriyaki Experience. In an interview, Nicole Veloce, COO, Teriyaki Experience shares the growth plans of the company in the Middle East.
Namita Bhagat (NB): Brief us about the concept and development of ‘Teriyaki Experience’ (TE). How has been the journey so far?
Nicole Veloce (NV): Back in 1986, our company founder, Mr Lou Donato had the foresight that consumers would appreciate fast, fresh and healthy fast food. Our unique concept was built around our teppanyaki grill which allows us to prepare the meals fast and fresh for our customers in three minutes or less. In 2006, we were Ranked No. One in Asian Quick Service in the Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise 500. Today, we are recognised as the healthy alternative to traditional fast food.
NB: Could you provide us an insight to TE’s worldwide expansion plans especially in the Middle East?
NV: Our international expansion plan calls for individuals or companies with extensive food and beverage hospitality background to be our master franchisees. The master franchisees are expected to grow the brand by opening a specified number of locations in their trade zone. The master franchisee is responsible for monitoring operational standards and assisting the individual franchisees on building and growing their business.
In the Middle East, our long time Master Franchisee is Yum Yum Tree Food Courts. Currently, they are operating in Bahrain, Kuwait, Dubai and Abu Dhabi with our brand.
NB: Currently, how many franchise/owned locations do you have in UAE for your brand and how many are expected in the coming years?
NV: At present, there are ten locations operating in the region, with an additional one being opened in Abu Dhabi shortly, with yet another location identified already as a new location. Some of these locations are owned while some are in partnership with Yum Yum Tree. All units are operated by them as well.
NB: What are the factors that inspired you for taking up franchise route for brands’ expansion in the region?
NV: With our corporate office in Canada, we work on building our concept around two QSR trends: Asian and Healthy. With experienced operators like Yum Yum Tree, we are sure that procedures and standards are followed. Our Master Franchisee for the region knows the market well and has proven to be very successful, while delivering high quality food to the customers.
NB: What is the start up cost of franchise outlets of your company in Mid East in terms of space and money? What are the selection criteria for your franchisees?
NV: We have three site formats that the potential franchisees can consider. The first is a food court unit (typically located in shopping mall food courts or office tower shopping concourses) with a minimum area of 33 sq. mtr. The second option is a street front unit, with a minimum area of 93 sq. mtr, with the location situated ideally in business and light industrial with office, retail and residential component. The third is a cafeteria/kiosk set up with a minimum area of 16 square meters. These units can be situated within airports, universities, hospitals, theme parks, department stores and supermarkets.
The investment varies based on the type of location selected.
NB: How do you support your franchisees and what kind of training is given to them for doing business?
NV: Franchisees in the region receive the support from the master franchisee, that has a solid and experienced team to support the functions that are needed to run a successful operation. They have expertise in operation; marketing, IT, accounting, and can provide all the necessary support. There is a training centre in Bahrain and franchisees receive classroom training from time to time to help them build their businesses.
Periodically, we have visits to the region as well from various levels of the corporate office. We help to reinforce our concept and values, and help with training whenever it is needed.
NB: Your company operates in a very competitive ‘F&B’ space and many global food and restaurant brands are making forays into the Middle East? What is your take on the issue of competition?
NV: We think the quick-serve industry is going to continue to offer healthier menu items as customers continue to look for better quality fast food. Ultimately this direction is good for consumers and for business.
NB: What advice would you like to give to the businesses and investors from Food Industry seeking expansion in the Middle East?
NV: Find a good partner.
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