One of the questions we like asking global bosses is whether they have any plans to jump on the latest resurgence in the Gulf property markets and leverage the growing appetite for big brash projects, thereby extending their brand in a whole new direction.
After all, did Armani ever expect to go from Italian suits to Dubai suites? Did Enzo Ferrari have Abu Dhabi and the world’s fastest rollercoaster in mind when he was designing the classic sports car? This summer, even the popular mobile phone gaming app Angry Birds announced plans for a series of theme parks across the Middle East, so anything seems possible.
“I have never been asked that question before,” laughs Nigel Travis, chairman and chief executive officer of US-based Dunkin' Brands Group, which operates the popular Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins outlets.
How about whizzing down a loop in a donut-shaped ride or a Baskin-Robbins ice-cream arcade shooting game? The possibilities are endless, surely?
“The answer is probably not,” he says honestly, dashing all our creative big ideas. “We do an awful lot of great PR; we are like a PR machine and we pick up a lot of publicity. I am not sure there is a need to go out of our way to do it but it is an interesting idea.
“It is highly unlikely. We are very focused on the digital world. In the US we are working on a new loyalty programme and we are working on a new app. We think we can reach out to our customers digitally instead of going for physical properties.”
While a rollercoaster rush is not on the cards, Travis may need a sugar rush in order to keep up with the pace the company has experienced in recent years and to meet the epic expansion plans Dunkin' Brands has in store for the Middle East.
The numbers certainly are sweet: at the end of 2012, Dunkin’ Brands Group had franchisee-reported sales of approximately $8.8bn. Its worldwide scoop is also truly massive: according to the company’s 2012 annual report, it had 10,400 Dunkin' Donuts outlets in 31 countries, while Baskin-Robbins has nearly 7,000 restaurants in 45 countries.
The Middle East represents about 15 percent of its global market, but Travis says the region is often referred to as one of its “crown jewels” in its international portfolio. “On a per store basis, [the Middle East] has higher average weekly sales than the US for Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin’ Donuts,” he brags, but then again we all know residents in the Middle East love their sugary goods, morning caffeine buzz and instant service.
For that reason alone, Travis has some impressive plans for both brands in the region. “We have been in the Middle East since 1979. It is one of our fastest-growing regions. We feel there is still significant growth opportunity… We have aggressive growth plans in the region for both Baskin-Robbins and its sister brand, Dunkin’ Donuts, and are aiming for 75 to 100 new stores annually between both brands for the next two to five years.”
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