Ever increasing circles

When two friends found their local community lacking the café culture they craved, they did something about it and launched Circle Cafe. Now Rama Mamlouk and Mira al Naimi have also opened Sushi counter and are stepping out into the bold world of franchising

Rama Mamlouk.

Rama Mamlouk.

If you speak to entrepreneurs, many of them will say their business is their baby. Having breathed life into their ideas, and grown them from tiny operations to fully-fledged and profitable companies, these entrepreneurs find it hard to imagine that anybody else should have any control over their beloved brands.

But while aspects of these feelings may ring true for business partners Rama Mamlouk and Mira Al Naimi, they have a different point of view when it comes to franchising.

Founders and owners of Circle Café and Sushi Counter, the two friends have recently started to franchise out their brands in a calculated move to grow their business and help it reach places it may never have otherwise reached.

Rather than wanting to keep their ‘babies’ entirely under their wings, the duo want them to go out into the wide world and flourish.

The story of their company, Radius Group, is an interesting one, seeing tremendous growth in a short space of time, having initially spent years not looking to expand. From bagels to sushi, and on to franchising, the company has found a recipe for success which promises to continue for years to come.

Having met in Dubai in 1999, Mamlouk and Al Naimi – both from Lebanon – bonded over their love of good food, and four years later opened their first outlet, Circle Café, in Media City.

“We started in 2003. Mira had moved from England and me from he US,” says Mamlouk “The market was emerging – there were no cafes or anything. In the US I used to crave bagels, and we both discovered we had a love of food. I wanted bagels and Mira wanted a café culture.”

Al Naimi adds “We only had six-star hotels or fast food to choose from, but we wanted something more home-grown. So we started Circle.”

Investing their own money, and taking business advice and recipes from friends and families, the duo soon put together a strong team, and set up shop.

“The first year was very small,” says al Naimi “We had kids and didn’t think that much about growing the brand. That only came with time.”

But grow they did. From their first branch in Dubai Media City, they opened a second café in Jumeirah in 2009, and another in Dubai Healthcare City, before embarking on a new venture, Sushi Counter.

Opening their first two Sushi Counter branches in Media City and Sheikh Zayed Road last year, the businesswomen are confident about the reason the new brand has met with early success.

Mamlouk says: “Because there’s no cooking on the menu, we can be creative with our recipes, where we set up, what the interior is like, and so on. We’ve got a Middle Eastern twist to our sushi at the moment – things like tabbouleh roll and chicken tikka roll.

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Posted by: Summer Scheifer

I eat in Circle Cafe once a month but I haven't met the lovely Mira yet. I must say that it is one of the best cafes in Dubai if you really love bagels! I love their Terwi'a for breakfast and their lamb shank for lunch. If I am going to rate them they will get 10 out of 10 from me.

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