Vorsprung Durch Kebab

A family owned Scottish company has launched a fast casual food franchise brand in a bid to challenge industry giants such as McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut.

A family owned Scottish company has launched a fast casual food franchise brand in a bid to challenge industry giants such as McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut.

German Doner Kebab, which is now open at 82 Above Bar Street, Southampton, has established a network in North America and aims to open 800-1000 restaurants within the next ten years.

There are already around 70 GDK stores in the UK, Sweden, Pakistan, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman and Bahrain.

In the UK, the group is the country’s fastest growing restaurant chain with 30 outlets already trading and one branch opening every 14 days in 2019.

The eventual target is over 1000 UK restaurants.

At the helmis Athif Sarwar, eldest son of former Labour MP, and current Governor of the Punjab, Mohammed Sarwar.

The Sarwars operate one of the UK’s largest wholesalers, with a network of more than 550 symbol stores, amongst a wide-ranging business portfolio estimated to be worth more than £350m.

The Sarwars became involved with GDK purely by chance, as Global CEO Imran Sayeed explains.

“In 2015 Athif Sarwar was in Lahore in Pakistan on business and he visited a kebab restaurant called German Doner Kebab. He was bowled over by the taste of the doner kebab he’d eaten.

“Shortly after, in Dubai, he spotted the same restaurant. The taste, flavours and service were identical to those he’d experienced in Lahore.

“He loved it so much, he began considering bringing the franchise to Scotland.

“Athif was initially thinking of a few outlets in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but by the time he got home he could see much more potential.

“He opened negotiations with the brand’s owners in Dubai and midway through 2016 the Sarwar family became the master franchisees for the UK and Ireland.

“Athif understood that for the brand to attract the right calibre of experienced multi-unit franchisees to help grow GDK quickly, he would have to put together a strong leadership team.”

Sayeed was one of the first to join GDK UK. He came with a wealth of experience growing major fast food brands in new territories having worked in senior management with KFC and Pizza Hut worldwide.

Athif and Sayeed immediately began improving every area of the operation, to ensure the perfect platform on which to build a large franchise network.

It was essential for future growth that franchisees were committed to getting it right and maintaining incredibly high standards across the business.

Sayeed reveals: “Once we knew the franchisees were in the right mindset for the journey ahead, we focused heavily on fixing our operations, marketing and supply chain and from then on we haven’t looked back.

“Word of mouth about our success spread like wildfire and we have experienced 300-400 per cent growth in the business.”

Today there are 30 GDK outlets in the UK, and over 350 franchise agreements have already been sold to some of the country’s most highly experienced, multi-unit operating franchise partners.

The story doesn’t end there. In a bold move the Sarwar’s acquired the worldwide rights to the brand and the entire brand itself in early 2017.

The new GDK International team was strengthened accordingly, with experienced senior managers from many of the world’s biggest brands queuing up to join.

They are rapidly expanding GDK’s presence in the UK, have opened their fourth restaurant in Stockholm, signed a deal to open 100 stores in Saudi Arabia and are very close to launching in France, Spain, and Chennai, India while finalizing details for entering Sri Lanka.

Conquering North America however, is clearly the challenge Sayeed relishes most. He adds “The figure of 800-1000 restaurants might not seem that ambitious when compared to what we expect to achieve in the UK, but it is a different market and we are approaching it carefully and respectfully.

“North America is the world’s biggest and most experienced food franchise market with some of the best operators you’ll find anywhere.

“We are bringing something brand new to their market and we want to get it right.

“We have already created an infrastructure, with the appointment of a highly-experienced US Director of Business Development for North America.

In the USA, the company has teamed up with highly-successful Texas-based businessman Tanweer Ahmed.

Ahmed currently owns 153 KFC outlets, 58 Pizza Huts and 24 Taco Bells. He has signed up for 12 GDK branches in Houston, Dallas and Las Vegas over the next two years. He intends to expand across the states.

“Our first Canadian restaurant will open in Vancouver shortly. That will be quickly followed by Ottawa and Toronto,” revealed Sayeed.

“Our challenge is to ensure guests have the same dining experience wherever they visit. That means our Doner Kebab in New York will need to taste the same as our Doner Kebab in London, Dubai, Tokyo or Sydney!”

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