Originated in 1987 in Port Elizabeth, Dulce Café is set out to become an international brand. In an interview, Mike Phullen, MD, Dulce Cafe Group shares brand’s expansion plans in the Middle East.
Namita Bhagat (NB): Tell us about the origin and concept of ‘Dulce Cafe’.
Mike Phullen (MP): Dulce Café started in 1987 as an ice cream retail outlet in Port Elizabeth in Republic of South Africa (RSA), and due to the seasonality of the product, coffee and sandwiches were introduced to the menu. The concept has evolved and grown over time into the current Dulce Café brand that is expanding now throughout the world.
NB: The company has taken franchise route for its expansion. How did you decide on franchising for expansion of the company?
MP: The company opened and ran its own stores at inception, and decided that due to our experience in this sector, we could grow the brand faster via franchising and that it would be beneficial for budding entrepreneurs to buy into the brand and grow the business whilst using our expertise.
NB: How many owned / franchised locations do you have at present?
MP: We currently have approximately 60 outlets throughout RSA and surrounding territories, with more being planned into Africa, the Middle East and Mauritius.
NB: You have recently forayed into the Kingdom Saudi Arabia. Could you elaborate on the nature of the agreement for the Kingdom?
MP: We have signed a master license agreement for MENA, and are looking for territory developers throughout all countries in MENA region besides KSA. The master licensee will do all future MENA training and support from Riyadh, which will ensure faster and more effective support for the region.
NB: What are your expansion plans and what are the aimed locations for granting further franchisees in the Middle East?
MP: We aim to expand at a steady sustainable rate throughout all countries within MENA, with the stores and training centre in Riyadh providing the back up and support for the region.
NB: What are the eligibility criteria in terms of capital and space requirements from the franchisee’s end to partner with you?
MP: Dulce Café prefers to expand via the master licensee route for various territories, as this ensures that the necessary brand protection and expansion takes place with interested partners on the ground. The master licensee should have access to the necessary funds to grow the brand quite quickly, have the necessary clout and business contacts to secure the necessary sites, be prepared to commit themselves or a suitably qualified brand manager to be involved in the business, and have the same outlook to business and passion for the brand that we, the license holders, have for the Dulce Cafe concept.
NB: What kind of support and training will be given to the franchisees for starting and operating the franchise business?
MP: The franchisees will receive theoretical and practical training at our training store in Riyadh or RSA (depending on territory franchised), territory specific menu development, operational manuals, store design and project management, on site assistance with initial store opening, and ongoing support.
NB: How will you tackle the issue of competition from other local and global brands in the Middle East Café space?
MP: Whilst we do take cognizance of competitors, we focus on our own brand, being the best at what we do within our market sector. Our store design and menu ensures that we remain at the forefront within our market niche.
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