Bringing Middle East delights to London fast food with Just Falafel

Just Falafel CEO Fadi Malas made it in the Far East and now the Falafel fief has come to London

London’s fast food scene is such a fast ever-changing beast, but now it has been hit with the arrival of the first Just Falafel shop at 1 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden.

What makes it stand out amid the heaving shops and throngs of peoples steaming through central London? For one thing, Just Falafel isn’t some two-bit operation, but actually comes from the United Arab Emirates, decked in business awards and success.

With a fleet of shops in Abu Dhabi and across the UAE, Just Falafel was named the “Business Innovator of the Year” in the Gulf Capital SMEInfo Awards. The SME Advisor also dubbed it “Business Star of the Year” and anointed its CEO Fedi Malas as “Arab Entrepreneur” for 2012.

Malas, as the triumphant falafel chief, said: “With our central kitchen now fully operational in Covent Garden and two additional London locations under construction, and a more than 10 stores in the pipeline, Just Falafel plans to satisfy the UK’s growing appetite for fresh, healthy dining choices in 2013.”

With big plans for London and the UK’s fast food scene, Malas reveals ambitious plans for expansion across London and the UK when I talk to him about his Dubai dining phenomenon.

How did you come up with the idea of setting up Just Falafel?

The idea behind Just Falafel was that despite the fact that most of all other food categories have been adapted to a 21st century lifestyle and commercialized globally, falafel remained a neglected food, although it is a globally recognized food category. Just Falafel adapted falafel to international kitchens by offering it in a burger, Indian, Mexican, Italian and Japanese under one roof.

How has business been going in UAE?

From one store in 2007 in Abu Dhabi, today Just Falafel operates 19 locations across the UAE. We have grown sandwich sales across the UAE by 12 fold since our first year of operation. We have now sold a total of 650 franchises across 14 countries, which will be rolled out over the next five years. 

Why did you choose to come to the UK?

The UK market is the most sophisticated market in the world in retail. There are more international brands operating in the UK than anywhere else in the world. I believe that it is London where trends are set, and I think that being in London will give our brand the best possible global exposure. 

Was it hard moving and setting up business here in the UK?

The ecosystem in the UK is second to none, and that allows us to kick start our business in an efficient way, and focus on the more important things like securing good retail locations, production, and supply chain, that has been our focal point.

What are your targets in your move to the UK? Are you feeling confident about achieving them?

We are looking at all prime locations on high streets and malls within the M25 at the moment. We will consider areas outside of the M25 on an exceptional basis. We have a strategy of growth from within London, that’s the best brand positioning in our belief. 

Obviously we have done our mapping and have a clear strategy, however one of our strengths is remaining nimble and responding to our clients and their needs. We see London and Greater London as a 150-200 location market; keep in mind we have a small foot print at just 500 square feet!

London is a difficult market, the barriers to entry are high, but we have built a strong team with dedicated suppliers and experienced staff. We have made a a lot of progress over 2012 having secured some very prime sites in a market that continues to have strong demand. We see 2013 as a big year for the brand both in terms of new locations and in terms of operating stores.

We have set high targets for ourselves and will work as hard as we can to achieve them. 

Thanks for your time Fadi and good luck!

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