An Arkansas restaurant chain said Tuesday (Dec. 6) it will open a restaurant in Kuwait next March, followed by a “rapid brand rollout” across the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.
Fayetteville-based Slim Chickens has signed a deal with Alghanim Industries as its franchisee for the region. The privately owned company is based in Kuwait City and operates more than 30 businesses in 40 countries across the MENA, Turkey, India and Southeast Asia. It began building its food and beverage portfolio in 2013 with Costa Coffee, and in 2015 acquired the rights to develop Ohio-based Wendy’s restaurants in the MENA region.
Slim Chickens CEO and co-founder Tom Gordon said the partnership came about more than a year ago through a mutual contact in the restaurant industry.
“They [Alghanim] were here touring the U.S. looking for brands to take back with them and develop in MENA and they heard about us,” Gordon said. “They wanted the very best up-and-coming chicken brand over there and we are pleased and proud we were the ones they selected.”
Gordon said Alghanim executives visited Fayetteville in spring 2015. He and Slim Chickens COO Sam Rothschild visited Kuwait last May to see their operations. The contract between the two companies was signed in Alghanim’s New York City office just before Thanksgiving.
“There is plenty of white space in the U.S. to operate, and we want to be focused here, but in this deal, their capacity as an operator was a size that we just couldn’t ignore,” Gordon said. “We’ve had multiple inquiries about international business and two very legitimate opportunities to go to the Middle East and we turned them both down. Alghanim is a multibillion-dollar conglomerate, privately held and near-infinite capacity. If we partnered with anyone in that region, it would be them.”
Gordon said Alghanim plans to open two additional stores in 2017.
“After that, they have expressed a desire to be on a pace of opening 4 to 5 additional stores each year for the foreseeable future,” he said.
Founded in 2003 on North College Avenue in Fayetteville, Slim Chickens has almost doubled its footprint in the last year. The company will open its 46th location on Monday (Dec. 12) in Columbia, Mo. Of those stores, 21 are corporate owned and 25 are franchised stores. Gordon said Slim Chickens plans to open 40 additional stores in the U.S. next year, with the majority of them additional stores for existing franchisees. There are Slim Chickens stores in Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas. Gordon said the company will enter the Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia markets in 2017.
“Slim Chickens is one of the fastest growing brands in the United States and we have no doubt that it will enjoy the same success in the Middle East,” Alghanim CEO Omar Alghanim said in a press release. “We couldn’t be more excited to help develop the Slim Chickens brand internationally, and open the first store outside of the US market in our region.”