Go­ing solo: the lat­est culi­nary trend?

Hospitality News Middle East - - IN THIS ISSUE - hodema.net

With al­most all types of world cuisines hav­ing now been dis­sected, when it comes to find­ing a win­ning restau­rant con­cept, less is some­times prov­ing to be more. Toufic Akl, part­ner at Hodema con­sult­ing ser­vices, high­lights the wis­dom of nar­row­ing things down and in­tro­duces us to the mono-prod­uct

Many F&B con­cepts are em­brac­ing this trend, which sees the ‘mono-prod­uct chefs’ share their ob­ses­sion for cre­at­ing an im­pec­ca­ble dish with a star in­gre­di­ent as a way of stand­ing out from the crowd. As the name im­plies, mono-prod­uct F&B con­cepts fo­cus on one food prod­uct or item, whether chicken, eggs, meat, burg­ers, shawarma or lob­ster. How­ever, adopt­ing this prin­ci­ple does not mean that the menus in mono-prod­uct out­lets are nec­es­sar­ily sim­ple or short, as is of­ten the case with burger brands; in fact, many are highly de­vel­oped and of­fer a wide va­ri­ety of dishes, while re­tain­ing a key prod­uct at their core.

How it all started

Hav­ing ex­isted for cen­turies, the mono­prod­uct trend has re­cently caught on in many ma­jor cities as an al­ter­na­tive to main­stream, some­times hack­neyed, con­cepts. Mono-prod­uct dishes were a pop­u­lar of­fer­ing in mod­est street-food shacks back in the late 19th cen­tury. Orig­i­nally, each re­gion around the globe had its own lo­cal spe­cialty. How­ever, fast for­ward to to­day and these con­cepts have fol­lowed in the steps of world food, ex­tend­ing their reach out­side of their place of ori­gin, and can now be found world­wide. Some, viewed as per­haps too tra­di­tional or old fash­ioned, have been re­vamped to give them a trendier im­age, us­ing a more pro­fes­sional ap­proach, es­pe­cially where they’ve been adopted by fran­chis­ing busi­nesses.

Star prod­ucts, from break­fast to din­ner

Let’s start with break­fast! The In­ter­na­tional House of Pan­cakes (IHOP) leads the way in this cat­e­gory, hav­ing ex­panded out­side of the US and around the globe, ex­tend­ing its reach to the Mid­dle East (Bahrain, Kuwait, Le­banon, Qatar, Saudi Ara­bia and the UAE), Asia (Thai­land and In­dia) and North Amer­ica (Canada, Gu­atemala, Mex­ico and Panama).

Work­ing on the phi­los­o­phy that eggs have long been a fa­vorite morn­ing in­gre­di­ent, the Cana­dian brand Eg­gspec­ta­tion launched its con­cept back in 1993. Serv­ing over 30 dishes re­volv­ing around eggs, in­clud­ing hits such as ‘Huevos Rancheros’ and Lob­ster Benny, the brand cur­rently has over 25 res­tau­rants in Canada, the US, In­dia, Qatar and UAE.

Other brands putting the hum­ble egg at the heart of their menu in­clude Eggs & Co, tucked away in a small street of Paris’ Saint Ger­main neigh­bor­hood. Barcelona’s L’EGGS, an egg-cen­tric restau­rant, mean­while, has man­aged to el­e­vate the egg to the sta­tus of culi­nary del­i­cacy, thanks to the cre­ativ­ity of its chef Paco Pérez, who serves up dishes such as ‘Quail eggs on grilled mar­row bone with slice chili and ten­der onions’.

If you’re con­sid­er­ing open­ing a restau­rant that serves only ce­re­als, you’re in good com­pany! Ce­re­als cer­tainly have their devo­tees, with brands like Ce­real Killer Café, which is present in the UK, Jor­dan, UAE and Kuwait, the Beirut­born con­cept, Crunchy Flakes, Ce­re­al­ity in Texas and Ce­real Lovers Bar in Madrid, all gar­ner­ing loyal cus­tomer bases.

Burg­ers, hot-dog shacks and the fa­mous ice-cream trucks were born in the US and, un­sur­pris­ingly, re­main the most fa­mous mono-prod­ucts in that part of the world.

The un­chal­lenged win­ner of the mono­prod­uct trend is pre­dictably the burger, boast­ing over 200 in­ter­na­tional fran­chised brands, cham­pi­oned by Mcdon­alds and Burger King. Mcdon­alds serves over 70 mil­lion cus­tomers daily in over 100 coun­tries across ap­prox­i­mately 37,000 out­lets. Mid­dle Eastern brands are also rid­ing the burger trend, in­clud­ing the Le­banese-born Clas­sic Burger Joint, which is al­ready present in Kuwait, the UAE and Iraq, and Saudi Ara­bia’s Ham­burgini brand, which has 27 units in the coun­try.

Hot on the burger’s heels is the pizza, per­son­i­fied around the globe by Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza. Re­gional fa­vorites in­clude Saudi Ara­bia’s Mae­stro Pizza, which has opened over 120 branches in just a few years. Stay­ing in the re­gion, it would be a crime to over­look the shawarma, which is to the Mid­dle East what the burger is to the US. Beirut’s Joseph restau­rant won ‘World's Tasti­est Sand­wich Award 2015’, com­pet­ing against 4,000 can­di­dates across 150 cities to clinch the cov­eted ti­tle. In Saudi Ara­bia, fans can choose from more than 20 spe­cial­ized brands, such as Shawarma House, Shawarma Fac­tory, Shawarma 360, Shawarma Plus, Shawarma Em­peror and Shaw­er­mer. Dubai-born Swich, mean­while, has taken the shawarma to a whole new level, of­fer­ing chicken and meat, but also duck and por­to­bello fill­ings that are served with dozens of top­ping and sauce op­tions, cus­tom­ized to suit your per­sonal taste. To­day, the shawarma is firmly es­tab­lished as a fa­vorite out­side of the Mid­dle East, even bag­ging a part in the 2012 movie The Avengers, when the stars cel­e­brated sav­ing our planet by en­joy­ing one of the iconic wrapped sand­wiches.

In direct com­pe­ti­tion with the shawarma stands the falafel, which orig­i­nates from Egypt, where it is known as the ta’amiya. Hav­ing risen to the sta­tus of global celebrity, the fried chick­pea ball can be found on menus of al­most ev­ery Mid­dle Eastern con­cept around the world, along­side those of ded­i­cated shops, from street ven­dors to higher-end out­lets. In Le­banon, Falafel Aboulziz and Karim Sahy­oun are the references, with mul­ti­ple branches across the coun­try. Falafel are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar in North Amer­ica and Western Europe, where veg­e­tar­ian di­ets are a ris­ing trend.

When we think of chicken, KFC is the name that usu­ally springs to mind. Orig­i­nally called San­ders Court & Café, KFC op­er­ates in 80 dif­fer­ent coun­tries and boasts over 20,000 out­lets. Newer brands are putting down roots on the in­ter­na­tional stage, how­ever, with Chick-fil-a gain­ing ground in the US, while re­gion­ally, Malak al Ta­wouk in Beirut and Chicken Republic in Jed­dah, Saudi Ara­bia, are both build­ing up fol­low­ings.

In parts of South Amer­ica, in­clud­ing Venezuela and Colom­bia, arepas have been an es­sen­tial part of the diet for over 2,000 years. This lo­cal sta­ple, which is a white corn­bread cake, can be eaten ei­ther plain or stuffed with cheese, beef, av­o­cado or beans. Although arepa shops have yet to spread much be­yond the bor­ders of their coun­tries of ori­gin, there are signs that this food trend is about to take off. One trail­blazer lead­ing the way is chef Fed­erico Tis­chler, who has just opened White En­ve­lope in Bal­ti­more, while Arepera in Mon­treal and Guamá Arepa in the French city of Lille, are also bring­ing this South Amer­i­can fa­vorite to a wider au­di­ence.

Found in small street shops all over China, Pek­ing duck is as pop­u­lar among lo­cals as the shawarma is in the Mid­dle East. How­ever, few in­ter­na­tional fran­chises have fol­lowed, save for Quan­jude which has ex­panded from China to Mel­bourne, Aus­tralia and Toronto, Canada, which could be food for thought for savvy in­vestors.

When it comes to sweet suc­cess, waf­fles have long been among the win­ners. The Bel­gian trade­mark snack, made from dough and in­stantly rec­og­niz­able thanks to its pat­terned tex­ture, can be found in food trucks, street kiosks and even ded­i­cated shops. Usu­ally served in sweet va­ri­eties, it can also be cre­ated in sa­vory op­tions. Pop­u­lar brands in­clude Go.fre in Bel­gium and Waf­fle­meis­ter in the UK. How­ever, dom­i­nat­ing neigh­bor­hoods on a global scale, the undis­puted king of desserts re­mains the ice cream. Some names, such as Baskin Robins, Pinkberry, Cold Stone and Amarino, have de­vel­oped into world con­querors by be­com­ing highly de­sir­able fran­chised brands. The lat­est trends in this long-es­tab­lished sweet treat are be­ing driven by the search for new va­ri­eties and fla­vors. In Dubai M’oishi is caus­ing a buzz as a brand ex­pert in Ja­pa­nese ice cream wrapped in rice dough, known as mochi, while an­other talk­ing point, Sub Zero, makes its ice cream on the spot us­ing liq­uid ni­tro­gen.

Un­for­tu­nately, some con­cepts have in­evitably not made it to the fin­ish­ing line - Just Falafel and Shawar­manji to name just two - while others have di­ver­si­fied their of­fer­ing away from the mono-prod­uct brand. Ex­am­ples in­clude the French lux­ury brand Ladurée, which was once a mac­aron flag­ship, but has now trans­formed into a fully-fledged restau­rant with branches world­wide.

A num­ber of brands, such as Nobu, the Cheese­cake Fac­tory and Dai Tin Fung, have opted to take a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion and switched to of­fer­ing ex­ten­sive menus, while still suc­cess­fully fran­chise around the world. The mono-prod­uct mar­ket re­mains wide open, with a di­verse bas­ket of goods to choose from. In­vestors eye­ing this ex­cit­ing field will need to con­sider a range of fac­tors when mak­ing their choice of prod­uct, from avail­able re­sources – both hu­man and fi­nan­cial – to busi­ness ob­jec­tives and ex­pan­sion goals. If you do de­cide to put all your eggs in one bas­ket, ded­i­cat­ing your­self to your prod­uct and mas­ter­ing it will play a key part in fu­ture suc­cess. Cus­tomers ex­pect perfection from a mono-prod­uct shop.

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