Behind every franchise brand is a story, and the story of The Halal Boys the success of international franchises embodies the American Dream in many ways. Last month, the fast casual halal food franchise announced the next chapter in its success story by announcing plans to open another 12 locations in the US by the end of this year, bringing its growth ambitions closer to reality.
Famous for its platters of chicken 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 three Egyptian founders of the brand Mohamed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abdelbaset Elsayed traveled to the US in search of new opportunities and a better life, and started their entrepreneurial journey by selling hot dogs from a cart. They quickly identified a demand in the area for quick and cheap on-the-go halal meals for Muslim taxi drivers, and The Halal Guys was born. The news spread and the cart began to attract new followers and a loyal fan base, becoming almost as legendary for the long lines of customers around the block and around the clock as it was for the newly spinning halal menu.
The first chapter of the expansion for The Halal Guys was the launch of three additional carts in the city. It wasn’t until 2014 that the brand took its first steps into the world of franchising, after being persuaded to partner with a franchise development agency frenchmart by CEO Dan Rowe, who had noted how much attention the concept attracted. Fransmart has a strong reputation for turning 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 some work to convince the founders that franchising was a concept that could work well for the company. “It took me a good year to persuade them to work with us because they weren’t really fond of the idea of having hundreds of stores. They were concerned about ruining what they had built.”
It would always be a challenge to maintain the essence, personality and vibe of a street food cart when expanding into physical locations via franchising. To achieve this, the menu remains relatively small and true to its roots and the sites are compact in size, with stainless steel counters to mimic the street cart feel. When the company launched its first franchise locations, the exciting launches and limited-time menu items helped generate the lines of customers the original streetcar was famous for.
But while the halal fast service brand experienced rapid growth in those early chapters of its franchise story, focusing on multi-unit operators to scale it up, the journey was not without its challenges. In 2017, The Halal Guys stopped recruiting franchises when the initial buzz started to wear off and the lines 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. Like the rest of the restaurant and hospitality industry, the brand had to adapt quickly to the very challenging trading conditions and took the opportunity to work on a new POS system and store designs, introducing new family meals for those confined to their homes and launched a new website, blog and app to keep in touch with customers.
Scroll through the pages to early 2022 and early this year, The Halal Guys reached a major milestone of 100 stores worldwide, with locations in the United States, Canada, Indonesia, South Korea and the United Kingdom. The current fourth quarter plan to open an additional 12 locations in the US before the end of the year is to be achieved through both the onboarding of new franchisees and existing franchisees who choose to open additional locations, marking the brand as considered a huge success. “It’s always rewarding when our existing franchisees have such success that they decide to expand their locations,” said Ahmed Abouelenein, son of one of the original founders and CEO of The Halal Guys. “We are also excited to welcome our new franchisees and the opportunity to bring Halal Guys’ unique twist on Halal food to new parts of America.”
The very first The Halal Guys street cart continues to serve busy lines of customers every day. Their story is a fascinating one to follow in the world of franchising and as the company moves closer to its goal of 400 locations worldwide and faces increasing competition in the fast service market, it will be interesting to see how the next chapters unfold. unfold.