x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

French treats find sweet spot in Dubai

Residents show a healthy appetite for La Cure Gourmande, a family-owned French patisserie run under franchise in the UAE.

The La Cure Gourmande store at Dubai Mall. Satish Kumar / The National.
The La Cure Gourmande store at Dubai Mall. Satish Kumar / The National.

Nicolas Rubeiz was looking for something different to bring to Dubai when he remembered seeing a Paris shop stocked from floor to ceiling with sweets, chocolates and biscuits.

He got in touch with the owners of La Cure Gourmande, a family-owned French patisserie, biscuiterie and chocolate shop brand. But this was in the midst of the global financial crisis, so the venture did not immediately get off the ground.

Then a little over year ago, Mr Rubeiz re-established contact. And today there are two La Cure Gourmande branches in the Emirates, with more on the way in the country and wider region.

The brand, which makes all the goods it sells itself in the south of France, was established in 1989 and has 40 stores across France, Belgium and Spain.

It opened its first franchise outlet outside Europe in The Dubai Mall in late January, and it is already among the top five performing stores for the brand worldwide.

"When it first opened we had stock for about seven or eight weeks according to our budgets, and in a little over one week we found out that we were running almost out of stock.

"So we had to rush two shipments by air, which caught everybody by surprise," said Mr Rubeiz, the managing director of Spadamco, the brand franchisee in the UAE.

"It was a good surprise. But obviously coming by air it was more expensive and we had to take a substantial hit on our profit margin. But since it's a one-time thing, after that you regulate it."

It has since opened a branch in Abu Dhabi in the Al Wahda Mall extension. Business was slower to start there, but it shows promise, said Mr Rubeiz.

His company aims to open up to seven more stores in the UAE, two or three of which will be in Dubai with a couple more in Abu Dhabi. The company is also looking at other emirates. "There's no point in having one on every corner. You need to keep the uniqueness and specificity," said Mr Rubeiz.

The plan is to open 15 to 20 stores in the region, including in Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

"The objective is not to be a massive brand in the Middle East.

"It is to locate very precisely and get the best locations everywhere," said Edouard Hennebert, the co-founder of La Cure Gourmande.

"Dubai is the most well-known location to launch a brand in the GCC countries. You must be in Dubai first."

Although the Dubai store is in the top-five list, the best performing branch is in a small town in the south of France.

"It fits very well with the architecture and ambience of the town," said Mr Hennebert.

"In less than one year we will overtake it, I think," added Mr Rubeiz.