GCC diners don't want healthy fast food - pizza boss

Pizza chain Papa John's expects to grow regional business 15 to 25 percent in next two years
GCC diners don't want healthy fast food - pizza boss
John Schnatter, CEO and founder, Papa Johns.
By Sara Anabtawi
Thu 12 Jul 2012 11:47 AM

Consumers in the Middle East are not interested in healthy fast food alternatives, the founder of US pizza chain Papa John’s told Arabian Business

The Kentucky-based firm, which operates 84 outlets in the GCC, expects to grow its regional business by 15-25 percent over the next two years, said John Schnatter, who is also CEO.

“People say they want [a health-conscious pizza], but then they do not eat it. They always go back to the original product,” he said.

Schnatter said that the chain has investigated healthier alternatives in terms of ingredients. “We have the ability to do a whole wheat crust. We have looked at the cheese and [other ingredients], so we are experimenting with it and we have tested it,” he added.

Papa John’s, which competes with Pizza Hut and Domino’s Pizza, said it expects revenues in the UAE to top AED100m (US$27.2m) by 2014.

“I think we are going to be around 15-25 percent growth this year, and in the next two years,” he said. “The UAE is a great market, we love this market. I wish I had more like it,” he added.

The Middle East has seen a surge in fast food chains entering the market and expanding in recent years as international brands look to bolster sales amid increased competition in their domestic markets.

High demand from locals and expats make the region a strong market for a wide range of concepts, especially in Gulf countries such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Fast food sales in Saudi Arabia are expected reach US$4.5bn in the next three years, driven by orders from the young and affluent, according to a recent report by Euromonitor.

Papa John’s, the world’s third largest pizza chain, said revenues reached US$1.2bn in 2011, an eight percent increase compared to the previous year.

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