Dubai-based Nakheel Retail has signed a new partnership with leading US food retailer Balducci's to open the first stores in the region, comprising a mix of supermarkets and casual dining outlets.
Graham Dreverman, the group managing director for Nakheel Retail, revealed the company had earmarked the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait for openings.
"We see huge opportunities for gourmet food offers, which are just not here in the Middle East and we are also going to introduce quite a substantial dine-in section,." he said.
"Balducci's has opened a gourmet fast food outlet at JFK and that is doing unbelievably well and we see smaller outlets in high-traffic locations as being a real opportunity.
Dreverman said Balducci stores would open "across our own aggressive portfolio."
"We are building residential communities for three million people over the next 20 years in Dubai alone. The timing of the stores will be reliant on the rollout of prime locations in our own centres," he added.
The stores will open across Nakheel's developments and the firm will also work with third party developers at sites with the right demographics.
Staff training will be a chief focus and Balducci's will join forces with Nakheel "as part of our agreement" to ensure its employees are "as skilled as those in New York."
American expatriates in the Middle East are "very excited about Balducci's opening It's just an unbelievable concept."
"Nakheel has a policy to partner with the best brands in the world and Balducci's is no exception. Balducci's bring with them an outstanding reputation and we are extremely pleased to have entered into this partnership bringing such culinary and shopping excellence to the Middle East," he said.
The division has joined forces with Balducci's to open its augural store in Phase 1 of the Dubai Mall later this year. Two more stores are scheduled to open in key locations in Dubai, to be announced at the end of the year.
Nakheel plans to expand Balducci's, which has 10 stores across New York, Conneticut, Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC and a heritage that dates back to 1916, into further locations throughout the Middle East.
The retailer will focus on stocking the freshest produce, exotic products not easily found in Dubai and private labels, many of which will be adapted to suit this market.
Barbara Parasco, CEO of Balducci's told Retail News she was "thrilled to be collaborating with a world-class organisation such as Nakheel. The celebration of food has global appeal and we are delighted to offer the Balducci's experience, one that has long been associated with high speciality food in the US, to Dubai," she added.