It is 10 times harder to expand a restaurant concept overseas than in your own back yard, according to one casual-dining company CEO.
Jason Myers, who leads modern Thai eatery Busaba Eathai, which has 14 restaurants in the UK and one in Dubai, was speaking at the Global Restaurant Investment Forum 2016 on the subject of internationalising F&B concepts.
He said: “Mid-casual brands are launching badly all around the world.
“Don’t expect you can sign a deal with someone a seven-hour flight away and expect that they can launch your concept with a manual. It’s so much more than that.”
“The reason Dubai is working for us is that I moved 12 people here.”
Myers, who was formerly the GM of Jumeirah Restaurant Group, before being recruited to head the Alan Yau-inspired Busaba Eathai in 2014, said: “When I joined the company, we were trying to operate in too many other countries.
“But Dubai is the only one we followed through with. Do less, but do it well. And be realistic about the brand,” he advised. “It’s 10 times harder to launch somewhere else than in your own back yard.
“You have to invest,” added Myers. “Get your infrastructure in place.
“There are massive rents here – as big as anywhere in the world. And yet everyone talks about turnover. You’ve got to talk about profit.
“Be more honest about the investment and the ‘hockey-stick effect’ of [profit] growth for new restaurants. To start with you’ll lose money,” warned Myers. “Then you’ll lose more before you start to make anything.
“It’s a long-term commitment. In casual dining you need a committed partnership.”
Busaba Eathai partnered with Ikram Group, the foodservices arm of Al Mana Group, with an initial 10-site agreement, launching the first site in the UAE in March 2015 at The Beach, JBR – in a 5,000 sq ft two-storey site with an outdoor terrace.
Myers revealed that Busaba Eathai is planning to open 14 restaurants in the next 18 months. “The effort is full-on,” he said.