Rice And Spice In Arabian Style
Restaurateur Fayez cooked up a storm serving traditional Arabian food in a QSR style and now operating 20 restaurants across six countries in four different formats. While travelling to India on and off Fayez Sallam Al Nusari, Founder & CEO, Mandilicious made his maiden business trip to India, as he aims to enter the country soon via a franchise route. Founded at the beginning of 2013 in Dubai in a quick service, food court setting The Middle East chain serving the ‘Cuisine of Arabia’ will soon open its doors as far as Canada
Available in four formats: QSR, Casual Dining, Express outlets & Food Truck.
Before turning an entrepreneur what were you into?
Before this, my first job was with one of the UAE’s biggest developers. I was heading their Leisure & Entertainment’s sales and marketing team. Before that, I used to work in events and conferences. Prior to that I was with tourism. I started my professional life as a tourist guide many years ago.
How long was the professional career span?
It all started in 1990 in my home country, Yemen! Through the environment I was born and brought up in,
I knew many languages. It helped me in getting a tour-guide job. I decided to tour the country and that’s how I moved to UAE.
What typically got your interest and why did you make the move into the business world?
It was a Eureka moment for me when I was working with one of the biggest mall companies in UAE. We wanted to go for lunch and despite the mall having over 50 different restaurants, our favorite food –being Mandi- was very far away. I realized that this food did not exist in the mall because it was very complicated to prepare as it takes a long time and much space to make. That’s when I started thinking of opening up my own concept. There is a solution to everything and I had found the solution to introducing this popular cuisine into the food courts. I have learned a lot and traveled quite a bit while trying tried various different recipes.
What kind of challenges did you face?
The very first challenge in the beginning was how to modernize & standardize the traditional cuisine & the experience to prepare it to go global. A few things had to tweaked to enable this cuisine to go into any food court in the world. To create those standards, the idea was to bring chefs from all over Arabia and adapt them to the modern kitchen system! And it worked.
The idea has always been to go global and India has always been on top of our list.
How were the investors convinced about the idea?
Uniqueness was the key. It was the first of its kind in the world. We serve very popular food prepared on festive occasions into popular locations using International standards & a successful business model. This popular food has always been there. Always available in restaurants, but not in food courts & NOT LIKE THIS! Food courts had all types of food except this food. So, I just brought these two together. It was the first time it was available in quick service restaurant format.
So, is it only available in food court format?
No, it’s not! But, that was our starting point. That was the way we stood out from everyone else. We started with quick service format -QSR -and now we are creating a space in people’s minds and in dining sector with a fabulous dining experience through our casual dining restaurants. It’s that easy.
Initially, when you started to serve in QSR format, did you aim to franchise it?
Yes, because it is a faster, easy and profitable way to expand worldwide in QSR formats rather than casual dining. Now, when we come to India, we have both solutions and expertise. It has different units.
How many outlets do you have running?
We have 20 different operating outlets. We have another 15-20 outlets opening before the end of this year in those six 6 countries.
Have you made any plans of expansion for the Indian market? Master franchising or any other stream ?
No, not master franchising because we believe India is a very big country. Almost a sub-continent in itself...I believe most of the franchisees in India operate in the same way. They have multiple franchisees for the country.
Once you enter the Indian market, will you be open to customisation?
We will most certainly apply local customization due to the uniqueness of the Indian culture & palette. This is an important aspect of franchising. Not just in India, but for any market in the world.
Did you plan to undertake franchising all over the world in the same 4 formats?
In the beginning, we will only go with casual dining and QSR. The Express format will follow gradually. Food vans will only follow a little later. Besides all this will be decided by our franchising format and whether the subject market is ready for it or not.
Which is your favorite dish?
There is a dish called Haneedh! The most interesting thing about Haneedh is that it comes from the western part of Arabian Peninsula, the Red Sea. The spices used in this dish are of largely African descent. Haneedh is generally traditionally cooked wherein the meat is wrapped in banana leaves. Spices might be of African origin, but the cooking method is Indian-influenced due to banana leaves. The best part about Haneedh is that it goes with any type of rice. It is very tender and is certainly my favorite.
Do you keep giving advice to change the menu?
Yes, I love cooking & am a little bit of a chef, so, I do keep giving advice often and updating the menu.