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Worldwide Wrap-Up

Middle East Trade Mission accepting applications; Tunisia visited


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Applications are being accepted for the latest trade mission sponsored by the U.S.

Commercial Service, Franchise Times and the International Franchise Association. The May 12-22, 2013, mission will visit Egypt, Jordan and Qatar,  with an opportunity in Egypt to exhibit in the Middle East and North Africa International Franchising and Licensing Exhibition (MIFE), which had about 5,800 visitors  in 2012.

Trade missions include one-on-one meetings with prescreened candidates, in addition to receptions and briefings from in-country experts in the marketing, real estate and legal fields. Past trade missions have also featured receptions at the country’s ambassador’s home and luncheons with key business leaders.

The cost for the trade mission is $6,200 for small companies and $9,600 for large companies. The size of the company is determined  by U.S. Commercial Service’s data.

For more information, contact K.L. Fredericks, who is heading the trade mission for the U.S. Commercial Service, at KL.Fredericks@trade.gov. Also check out Franchise Times’ blog for updates.

Mission to build up Tunisia

Attorney Philip Zeidman of DLA Piper describes Tunisia as a small but interesting country at the  “intersection of Europe, Africa and the Middle East”—a mixture of ancient ruins from before Christ to modern buildings and hotels that overlook the Mediterranean Sea. Zeidman had a chance to witness that intersection firsthand last December when he and former vice president of IFA, Beth Solomon, met with Tunisian business leaders at the request of the U.S. government. 

After the Arab Spring uprising two years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a partnership with Tunisia in order to help improve the business climate there. Franchising was one of four areas the Tunisian officials identified as financial sectors that could help their economy. 

The plan was for an independent credit facility to be established similar to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which helps businesses in the Middle East, to guarantee loans to Tunisian businesspeople who invest in American franchises. Both the local franchisees and suppliers would be eligible for these loans, according to the plan. But first, someone needed to explain franchising to the local business community, which is where Zeidman and Solomon came in.

“We had 17 meetings in four days,” Zeidman said. Zeidman, who will be going back for further discussions at the end of February, said he didn’t hesitate to drop names. “(Secretary) Clinton was ill and canceled, but we used her name promiscuously.”

Why franchising? In part, franchising is seen worldwide as making a company “modern,” he said. While neighboring countries are “loaded” with franchises, they’re strangely lacking in Tunisia. “When you drive in (from the airport) you see 50 Coca-Cola signs in the first five minutes,” Zeidman says, exaggerating for emphasis, “but that’s all there is.”

DLA Piper is working with the International Franchise Association to introduce U.S. franchisors to Tunisian businesspeople.

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Rita’s Italian Ice, based in Trevose, Pennsylvania, has awarded the entire Canadian market to Canada Water Ice Co. Ltd of Calgary, Alberta, headed by franchise veteran, Steve McDonough. The agreement calls for 80 outlets to be built over the next five years. Existing multi-unit franchisees and people with quick-service restaurant experience will be the targeted candidate pool, and satellite and mobile units will be the real estate of choice. Rita’s has 625 outlets worldwide for its Italian ice drinks made with fresh fruit, and custard.

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A former Costa Rican ambassador to the U.S. and his partners have opened the first Cosi fast-casual restaurant in Costa Rica, at the Multiplaza Mall in Escazu. Fast Casual SA’s contract calls for four more units to be built in the island country.

Former Ambassador Luis Diego Escalante is joined in Fast Casual SA by Gonzalo Soffia, long-time owner and operator of a number of fine-dining restaurants in Costa Rica; and Steve Aronson, founder of Britt Coffee, an iconic brand in Latin America.

 Deerfield, Illinois-based Cosi now has 77 company-owned units and 52 franchises in 16 states, D.C., the United Arab Emirates and now Costa Rica. 

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A co-branded Auntie Anne’s Pretzel and Cinnabon store in the Port of Spain, Trinidad, is Focus Brands’ 1,000th international location. The store, located at the Fall of Westmall, is operated by Cinnaworld Ltd, owned by a husband-and-wife team, Naveed Mohammed and Renee  Peterson. The couple has expanded the territory rights to include Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Lucia and Grenada. The contract calls for an additional 15 units over the next seven years.

Last year alone, Focus Brands opened 205 locations in international markets. The company is projecting 260 will open this year. The Atlanta-based company franchises nearly 3,500 units through its six brands.

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Turkey is the latest country to welcome the Wyndham Hotel Group’s upscale Wyndham Hotels and Resort brand. The 210-room hotel, Wyndham Istanbul Kalamis Marina, located on the Asian coast of Istanbul, is owned by Reisler Deri Sanayi Ve Ticaret Limited Sirketi. The group also owns 12 hotels operating under the Ramada flag. A second Wyndham, currently under  construction, is expected to open in the summer of 2013 in Istanbul Petek.

The five-star Wyndham Istanbul has five floors with family suites, 14 meeting rooms, a ballroom that can accommodate 750 and the Blue Harmony Spa, which will offer therapeutic treatments, plus a sauna and hammam (the Middle Eastern version of a steam bath). 

The Istanbul location plays a key role in the company’s expansion of its luxury brand into Europe, the Middle East and Africa, according to the Parsippany, New Jersey-based hotelier.

 

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