x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Just Falafel chief executive Fadi Malas calls it a wrap

Fadi Malas has overseen the growth of the company from four outlets in the UAE to more than 50 restaurants across world.

Fadi Malas' exit would not have an effect on Just Falafel's plans for a listing. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Fadi Malas' exit would not have an effect on Just Falafel's plans for a listing. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

The chief executive of the UAE-based street food chain Just Falafel has stepped down after a four-year aggressive international expansion that has taken the brand to Europe, the United States and Asia, including into India later this year.

Fadi Malas has overseen the growth of the company from four outlets in the UAE to more than 50 restaurants across world.

In a statement yesterday, Just Falafel said Mr Malas, who remains a shareholder and board member, had stepped down “to pursue new business incubation opportunities in the SME sector”.

The group’s founder and managing director, Mohammed Bitar, has taken on the day-to-day running of the company, which employs 700 people and has plans to open another 35 franchises before the end of the year. Mr Malas said last month that Just Falafel wanted to own and operate more outlets, altering its current franchise-led model. It owns only two of its operating stores.

Last year Mr Bitar said that the company was targeting the sale of 1,500 franchises in 2013.

The group had also been weighing an IPO.

In 2012, Mr Malas said that “our objective … is to give our brand the highest possible visibility. The only way to achieve that is by taking the company public. For us it’s a huge marketing play to go public”.

Yesterday, Sarah Cocker, the head of investor relations and corporate communications at Just Falafel, said Mr Malas’s exit would not have an effect on its plans for a listing.

“An IPO is still very much a possibility for us. It’s not something in the short term. It is not on our immediate agenda as we are running so fast with the expansion,” she said.

Other food brands in the region have sought to emulate Just Falafel’s growth, including Man’oushe Street, which yesterday said it had opened its first international outlet in Marassi Village, Egypt.

The manakeesh retailer, with eight outlets in the UAE and a further two under construction, has a target of 1,000 franchised outlets by 2020.

“1,000 outlets is not an ambitious target, many street food franchises have far, far, more than that,” said Jihad El Eit, the founder and chief executive of Man’oushe Street. “We have the technology in place and the menu. We have secured a supply chain and we have a strong partnership with Wadi Degla Holding, our master franchiser. The first restaurant will soon be followed by six more restaurants in Egypt, three in Qatar, two each in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and one in Europe – all before the end of the year. We will focus on the GCC in the next few years. I expect 200 to 250 in Saudi Arabia alone.”

ascott@thenational.ae

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