Behind every franchise brand there is a story, and the story of The Halal Guys’ rise to international franchise success embodies the American Dream in many ways. Last month, the halal fast-casual restaurant franchise announced the next chapter in its success story by announcing plans to open 12 more locations in the United States by the end of this year, bringing its ambitions closer to growth of reality.
Famous for its platters of chicken meat and gyro with rice, The Halal Guys story begins with humble beginnings in 1990 as a food cart on the corner of 53rd Street and Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. The brand’s three Egyptian founders Mohamed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abdelbaset Elsayed traveled to the United States in search of new opportunities and a better life, beginning their entrepreneurial journey selling hot dogs from a cart. They quickly identified a demand in the region for quick and inexpensive halal meals for Muslim taxi drivers, and thus The Halal Guys was born. Word spread and the cart began to attract new followers and a loyal fanbase, becoming almost as legendary for the long lines of customers around the block and 24 hours a day as it was for its newly pivoted halal menu. .
The first chapter of The Halal Guys expansion was the launch of three additional carts in the city. It wasn’t until 2014 that the brand took its first steps into the franchise world, after being persuaded to partner with franchise development agency Fransmart by CEO Dan Rowe who noticed the enormous attention that the concept attracted. Fransmart has a solid reputation for transforming emerging restaurant concepts into successful national and global brands, having worked with well-known franchises such as Five Guys Burgers & Fries and QDOBA Mexican Grill. At the time, Rowe admitted that it took work to persuade the founders that franchising was a concept that could work well for the company, saying, “It took me a good year to convince them to work with us because they weren’t really in love. with the idea of having hundreds of stores. They were afraid of spoiling what they had built.
It was always going to be a challenge to maintain the essence, personality and atmosphere of a street food cart when expanding into brick-and-mortar locations through franchising. In order to achieve this, the menu remains relatively small and true to its roots and the venues are compact in size, with stainless steel counters to replicate the street cart feel. As the company launched its first franchise locations, exciting launches and limited-time menu items helped generate the very lines of customers the original street cart was famous for.
But while the halal quick service brand grew rapidly in the early chapters of its franchise history, focusing on multi-unit operators to enable it to grow, the journey was not without its challenges. In 2017, The Halal Guys froze franchise recruitment when the initial buzz started to fade and queues got shorter. Some restaurants began to collapse, agreements with underperforming franchisees were terminated, and some stores were closed. And then, of course, a global pandemic hit. Like the rest of the restaurant and hospitality industry, the brand had to adapt quickly to very difficult business conditions and took the opportunity to work on a new point-of-sale system and store redesigns, introduced new family meals for those confined to their homes and launched a new website, blog and app to keep in touch with customers.
Flip through the pages through early 2022 and the start of this year has seen The Halal Guys reach a milestone of one hundred stores worldwide, with locations in the United States, Canada, Indonesia, South Korea and United Kingdom. The current plan for the fourth quarter to open 12 more locations in the United States before the end of the year is to be accomplished through the onboarding of new franchisees and existing franchisees choosing to open additional units, which the brand sees as a huge marker of success. “It’s always gratifying when our existing franchisees are so successful that they decide to expand their locations,” said Ahmed Abouelenein, son of one of the founders and CEO of The Halal Guys. “We are also thrilled to welcome our new franchisees and have the opportunity to bring The Halal Guys a unique spin on halal food in new parts of America.”
The first ever The Halal Guys street cart continues to serve busy lines of customers every day. Their story is fascinating to follow in the franchise world and as the company moves closer to its goal of 400 locations worldwide while facing increased competition in the quick service market, it will be interesting to see how the next chapters will unfold.