Meeting New York's Halal Guys
I’m working on a few future stories with an international focus, underscoring how important immigrants are to the franchise world. On the restaurant side, immigrants are a source of new ideas to broaden the American palate. One example that I’m anxious to try was The Halal Guys, on display at the International Franchise Expo in New York City last month.
What began as a humble Manhattan hot dog cart run by Egyptian immigrants in the early 1990s has morphed into a wildly popular chicken, gyros and falafel stand. The business took off, while catching the attention of FranSmart, which saw future potential in the ethnic mobile carts and has worked with the team to develop a plan to franchise the brand.
Customers frequently asked the Halal Guys to expand their business, and come to cities all over the globe. Hesham Hegazy said they were waiting for the right time to expand into brick-and-mortar locations.
That time is now. With nearly 200 units in development in a variety of countries, The Halal Guys may soon add some diversity to the lunchtime routines everywhere from Houston to Kuala Lumpur.
“This gives you an indication,” Hegazy said, alluding to the scope of their ambition. “In one year we have sold more franchises than Five Guys sold in two years.”
Beyond economic considerations — namely, getting past the hangover of the Great Recession — he added that they’ve been waiting for Halal-style food to become better known outside of Manhattan and certain ethnic enclaves.
Visibly pleased with their success, the guys were all smiles posing for pictures, conducting on-the-spot interviews and telling all comers why 2015 is the perfect time for them to pull the trigger on their slow-cooked franchising plans.
“Look at the diversity,” Hesham said. “Ninety-five percent of our customers are non-Muslim, and that’s an indication that we could go anywhere and our name would be well known.”
While my time in New York didn’t allow for a stop at one of their locations, I look forward to a future here in Minneapolis where my lunchtime options include a high-quality, New York-style gyro over rice. Diversity and franchising are a tasty combo.