Dubai's Saif Belhasa Group to expand restaurant unit

New Alison Nelson Chocolate Bar outlets, plus Egyptian grilled food brand and Japanese food concept in pipeline
Dubai's Saif Belhasa Group to expand restaurant unit
Chairman Saif Ahmed Belhasa.
By Staff writer
Fri 18 Oct 2013 10:15 AM

Dubai’s Saif Belhasa Group of Companies is planning to expand its restaurant division with new outlets signed for the Alison Nelson Chocolate Bar brand, the introduction of a new Egyptian grilled food restaurant and a Japanese food concept, the conglomerate’s chairman told Arabian Business in an interview.

The Al Jadaf-based group of companies holds the Gulf franchise rights to the Alison Nelson Chocolate Bar, a café concept built around chocolate products and originally from New York.

It currently operates two outlets in The Dubai Mall, and one each in Mercato Mall, Mirdif City Centre, The Pearl Qatar and Pakistan.

The firm has already signed deals to open the franchise in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and is also hoping to launch in Kuwait in the near future.

In line with the rising numbers of tourists to Dubai, Belhasa’s family of restaurant franchises — which include the Chocolate Bar, Canadian bakery concept MBCo and Mexican eatery Cantina Mariachi — have all seen brisk expansion.

The firm is now planning to add to that list with the launch of Studio Masr, an Egypt-based grilled food restaurant, in Abu Dhabi this month.

“We are also in the process, inshallah, of signing off a new concept,” the group’s chairman Saif Ahmed Belhasa revealed.

“It should be within one month, we’re just trying to finalise the location. It will be a Japanese food concept. We are always trying to come with something new — we never stop.”

“We can see the change compared with last year and this year,” he continued. “We can see the number of Saudi tourists who are coming, especially during the Eid period. They are making our restaurants busy and you can see how crowded the malls are.

Most retailers and restaurateurs have been complaining about high rents in the city’s landmark malls, but Belhasa was sanguine about those rates.

“Of course the prices are high, but we don’t have any choice,” he said. “As the shopping centres say ‘we are bringing that many customers to you — you have to respect the place where you are, and you have to pay more for that.

“It’s usual practice. And if you are planning to set up in a new mall, they will ask you to pay 25 percent of a year’s rent in advance. It doesn’t matter if the mall won’t be finished for another three years – you still have to pay 25 percent of the first year’s rent upfront — and we do that.”

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