Operation: Success

    The Middle East Food magazine conducted an interview with Manhal Naser, CEO of AWJ Investments (Parent-company of Operation Falafel). AWJ Investments is a fast-growing Food & Beverage Holding Group that explores popular Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and International flavors. Nasser will share in this interview his success story on cultivating the Dubai-based brand “Operation: Falafel” into a recognized name across the GCC and global markets. 

    Manhal Naser, CEO, AWJ Investments

    MEF: What can u tell us about Operation Falafel’s concept?
    Manhal Naser: Operation: Falafel is a homegrown casual dining Middle Eastern street food concept that merges authentic taste with twenty first century trends. Traditional recipes including delicious Middle Eastern dishes such as Shawerma, Falafel, Hummus, Foul and Manaeesh are some of the best-selling items at Operation: Falafel. The ambience of the restaurant reflects the style of an open market that showcases the food and its meticulous preparation at the various stations. 

    MEF: Is it appealing to all audiences throughout GCC? 
    Naser: Starting out in Dubai, a metropolitan city that boasts a diversity of people of all nationalities, Operation: Falafel has been able to cater to a wide variety of tastes from across the world. Due to our contemporary atmosphere, easy setting and delicious food offering value for money, we have successfully engaged with and captured audiences not just across the GCC but tourists and expatriates as well. This is because our menu offers something for everyone, whether they are looking for authentic eats, salads or vegetarian items, it’s all there.

    MEF: How has Operation Falafel adapted to the changing F&B market?
    Naser: Knowing our target audience is a major rule in this equation. Ensuring we’re up to date with various technological advances and updating our systems to engage with our target customer, all while reaching out to more people is what we strive to do as a brand, without compromising or losing our value or our taste. Strengthening our delivery network for example is an ongoing process that we keep updating and improving. Enriching our customer service is another. Customer service is a very important factor in the F&B world and helps the brand communicate and understand the customers better. 

    MEF: What are the criteria of creating a successful platform for franchise?
    Naser: A successful franchise platform comes from creating a program that has one main focus – franchisee success. If the franchisee is successful, we are successful as a franchisor and as a brand. This starts with the selection of the right partner. We look for partners that share the same vision, passion and drive that we have for the business and the brand. It’s not just about financials. If our visions are aligned, we are on the path to success.  Additionally, the support is crucial to franchisee success. This is ongoing and should be the top priority for the corporate team. The key to success is constant communication between franchisee and franchisor. There should be a dedicated support team with specialties in their roles. Franchising is about building a brand and growing a network, all while maintaining brand standards and a system. That system is the same system that we have proven in our market to be successful. We are passing this experience and know-how to qualified partners who have the local market experience and knowledge to apply the systems and standards and reap the same success. The most important thing to remember for a successful franchise system is that the franchisee always comes first.

    MEF: What are the challenges of franchising in the MENA region?
    Naser: The MENA region is booming in franchising and F&B. There are a lot of great opportunities when it comes to franchising. The most important element for success, which can also be a challenge, is finding the right partner. Once you have the right partner, you have laid the foundation for your success. As you work with this partner and your work ethic and visions are aligned, you will see that you can accomplish great things together. Choosing the wrong partner or choosing a partner for the wrong reasons can be risky in the end. 

    MEF: Can you tell us about Operation Falafel’s latest franchising plans in GCC?
    Naser: We have been quite busy in the region over the past year, signing agreements for Saudi Arabia and the UAE for a current total of 55 units. We are in the process of rounding out the rest of the GCC countries and Saudi’s Western Region by the end of the year. We have teamed up with some incredible franchise partners with whom we are developing the region. Franchised locations opening in 2017 include Dammam, Riyadh, Ajman and Sharjah.

    MEF: Are you planning to expand Operation Falafel on a global scale? 
    Naser: Absolutely! We knew from day one that Operation: Falafel would be a global brand. It has always been our plan. We are growing responsibly and are focused on expansion, while we maintain a strong core.