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Restaurateur Fayez cooked up a storm serving traditional Yemini food in a QSR style and now operating 20 restaurants across six countries in four different formats. While travelling to India on and off Fayez Sallam Al Nusari, Founder & CEO, Mandilicious made his maiden business trip to India, as he aims to enter the country soon via a franchise route. Founded at the beginning of 2013 in Dubai ‘Cuisine of Arabia’ in a quick service, food court setting The Middle East chain will soon open its doors in Canada
Available in four formats: QSR, Casual Dining, Express & Food Truck.
Before turning an entrepreneur what were you into?
Before this, my first job was with one of the UAE’s biggest developers. I was heading their sales and marketing team. Before that, I used to work in events and conferences. Prior to that I was with tourism. I started my professional life as a tourist bguide many years ago.
How long was the professional career span?
It all started in 1995 in my home country, Yemen! Through the environment I was born and brought up in,
I knew many languages. It helped me in getting tourist guide job. I decided to tour the country and that’s how I moved to UAE.
What typically got your interest and why did you make the move into the business world?
It was a Eureka moment for me when I was working with one of the biggest mall companies in UAE. We wanted to go for lunch and despite the mall having 50 different restaurants, our favorite food was very far away. It was our home country food and it was our favorite. I realized that this food did not exist in the mall because it was very complicated to prepare as it takes very long time and space to make. That’s when I started thinking of opening up my own space. There is a solution to everything. I learned a
lot and traveled all over the world. I tried various recipes, even though I have cooked all my life. I love cooking.
What kind of challenges you faced?
The very first challenge in the beginning was how to present traditional Arabic food, which you sit on floor
and eat, in a modernized way in a food court! Then how to compete with KFC and other food chains? The idea was to bring chefs from all over and adapt them to the modern kitchen! We wanted to expand to various countries and India was on the top of our list.
How were the investors convinced about the idea?
Uniqueness was the key. It was the first of its kind in the world. I have presented very popular food...prepared on festive occasions. It was the very popular food, available in restaurants, but not, food
courts. Food courts had all types of food except this food. So, I just brought these two together. It was the first time it was available in quick service food court format.
So, is it only available in food court format?
No, it’s not! But, that was our starting point. That was the way we were unique from everybody else. We started with quick service format -QSR -and now we are creating a space in people’s minds and in dining sector. It’s that easy.
Initially, when you started to serve in QSR format, did you aim to franchise it?
Yes, because it is faster, easy and profitable to spread it worldwide in QSR formats rather than casual dining. Now, when we come to India, we have both solutions and expertise. It has different units. Franchising is a perfect model to see whether the business model has capability to perform better in smaller towns.
How many outlets do you have running?
We have 20 different operating outlets. We have another 15-20 outlets opening before the end of this year in those six 6 countries.
Have you made any plans of expansion for the Indian market? Master franchising or any other stream ?
No, not master franchising because we believe India is a very big country. Almost a sub continent in itself...I believe most of the franchisees in India operate in the same way. They have multiple franchisees for the country.
Once you enter the Indian market, will you be open to customisation?
We will have to do some local allocation and customization. It is one of the aspects not just in India, it would remain the same for any market all over the world.
Did you plan to undertake franchising all over the world in the same 4 formats?
In the beginning, we will only go with dining and QSR as we will definitely follow express formats This Yeminigradually. I am not sure about going in for food vans, besides all this will be decided by our franchising format and whether the market is ready for it or not.
Which is your favorite cuisine till now?
There is a dish called Haneed! The most interesting thing about Haneed is that it comes from the western part of Arabian Peninsula, the Red Sea. The spices used in this dish are of largely Africandescent. Haneed is generally traditionally cooked wherein the meat is wrapped in banana leaves. Spices might be of African origin, but the cooking method is Indian due to banana leaves. The best part about Haneed is that it goes with any type of rice. It is tender and happens to be my favorite.
Do you keep giving advice to change the menu?
Yes, I am a foodie and I have traveled a lot. I know cooking, flavor and taste. So, I keep giving advice often and updating the menu.
(Originally published in Entrepreneur India magazine's July 2016 edition)