It's not often that one gets to see the words "healthy" and "fast food" legitimately associated with each other, but co-founders Mark Carroll and Andreas Borgman have managed to do just that (and achieve success as well) with their Dubai-headquartered food and lifestyle company, Kcal Healthy Fast Food. While Kcal's restaurants have become known as a wholesome, nourishing, and yes, tasty alternative to the regular fast food outlets seen in this part of the world, its Kcal Extra division helps people lead better lifestyles by delivering bespoke healthy meals directly to their homes.
Since its launch in the UAE in 2010 with a workforce of just 12 people, Kcal is today a 350-member enterprise with seven restaurants in the country, and it is now all set to expand its operations in the Middle East with the launch of its first non-UAE franchise in Egypt. Given the political situation of the country, the choice of Egypt to launch Kcal's Middle East expansion may seem like a curious one, but Carroll and Borgman say the research they did about the nation convinced them it was the right place to grow their business in the region.
"When we started looking at Egypt, it wasn't a great time," Borgman remembers. "At first, we weren't sure if it was the right market to start our global roll-out in, but our minds were changed after we visited the country. We saw an energetic country with huge potential, and of course, people always need to eat. We conducted a thorough market study, which involved analyzing demographics, consumer behavior trends and competitors, and realized Egypt was perfect for Kcal. We have also partnered up with a franchise partner who is aligned with our beliefs."
But Kcal's launch in Egypt marks just the start of the company's growth plan. "We have an aggressive expansion plan for 2015," Carroll says. "We want to roll out more Kcal Healthy Fast Food restaurants in Dubai, and we are planning to launch Kcal Healthy Fast Food and Kcal Extra in the other Emirates [of the UAE] and throughout MENA. 2015 will see us opening franchises in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Jordan. These are areas we have identified, and [we] are in the closing stages with franchise partners." And the Kcal team is leaving no stone unturned in their attempt to ensure a streamlined, strategic rollout of their various franchises in the region. "We have partnered with the reputed franchising consultant, Francorp Middle East," Carroll says. "Working alongside them, we are working toward implementing a sustainable franchising model. Within our franchises, we have area coordinators and a franchise team, which will ensure proper quality standards are being adhered to."
"In order to ensure the same standards and quality [across all our branches], we pride ourselves on having a detailed franchising manual describing operational procedures, marketing strategies, hiring policies and everything else that needs to be kept in mind about the Kcal brand," Borgman explains. "I'd also say that having a good solid working relationship with our franchise partners is key, allowing for communication lines to be open. Having the right team makes it so much easier." But that's not to take away from the important roles Carroll and Borgman are playing in building and growing the Kcal brand- the two of them are strong proponents for a holistic approach toward healthy living and active lifestyles.
"As obesity numbers reach alarming heights globally, urbanization and the sedentary modern lifestyle are not helping the world cope with its obesity problems," Borgman says. "We have identified that there is real need for real food and healthy alternatives in the fast food category, particularly in the MENA countries. Kcal Healthy Fast Food fulfills that need."
"Today, Kcal is more than just a foodie company," Carroll says. "Kcal embodies a life- style that caters for all those who want to eat well and feel good about themselves. Fast food needn't be boring or restrictive. Quite the opposite, because with Kcal, you don't need to sacrifice the food you love to be healthy. We're passionate about conveying this message, which lies at our very core. We want to capture hearts and minds, not just locally or regionally, but globally. We want to make the world a better place. And we believe Kcal is just what the world has been waiting for. Eat well. Be well. That's all it boils down to, really."