US restaurant chain plans Saudi expansion

The Melting Pot signs franchise deal with Albabteen to open five outlets in kingdom
The Melting Pot fondue restaurant
By Andy Sambidge
Sat 03 Mar 2012 11:35 AM

A US-based fondue restaurant chain has announced plans to expand into Saudi Arabia in a deal with franchise holder Albabteen United Foods Company.

The Melting Pot Restaurants Inc, which currently runs 36 outlets outside of the United States, has signed a five-unit franchise development agreement.

Dr Mazen Almugbel, of Albabteen United Foods Company, said: "With its long history of success and unique fondue dining experience, The Melting Pot will elevate the standards of American casual dining in Saudi Arabia.

"I'm proud to partner with The Melting Pot to bring five locations to Saudi Arabia."

As part of the five-unit deal, the first Melting Pot location in the Middle East is slated to open in Riyadh in late 2012.

Additional locations are slated for development in Jeddah and the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

Dan Stone, vice president of franchise development for Front Burner Brands, the management company for The Melting Pot Restaurants, added: "The Melting Pot experience transcends cultural differences and is especially attractive to cultures that place great value on spending time with family and friends around a table of food."

The Melting Pot began researching international expansion opportunities a few years ago when the credit crisis hit the US.

The first international location (with seven units committed in Canada) opened in Edmonton, Alberta, in 2010 followed by the first Mexico location in Mexico City as part of a seven-unit deal in Mexico.

With 36 international locations open, signed or committed for development in Canada, Mexico, the Middle East and Asia, the company is also looking to Australia, China, India, Brazil and other provinces in Canada for further expansion opportunities.

Analysts say in the next decade US restaurant chains plan to open more than 250 locations in the Middle East, where growing populations and increasing wealth offer one of the best chances to expand outside of the saturated US market.

“There’s been almost an explosion of interest in the region,” said Shonil Chande, a London-based food and drink analyst at Business Monitor International.

American chains are coming to the Middle East because of the growing wealth of the middle class, which has “developed so quickly from energy over the last 10 years,” he said in comments published in November.

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