BOSTON, Jan. 29 // PRNewswire // -- Uno Chicago Grill(R) has opened its doors at the Mall of Dubai, which is the world's largest mall. This is one of several new openings in the area for Sofra LLC, the master licensee for Uno(R) in the Middle East, which signed a 20-unit development deal covering nine countries: Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, and Bahrain.
Sofra, headed by Major General Abdul Aziz Al Bannai, former head of security for Dubai, opened its first Uno franchise in Dubai, which set records for unit sales. Then, through a sub-licensee, Sofra opened units in Jeddah and Dammam, Saudi Arabia and most recently their first unit in Kuwait. Mr. Al Bannai is a successful businessman who is a prolific entrepreneur and restaurateur. He is the founder and developer of Axiom Telecommunications Company, Dubai, a distributor and retailer of wireless products in the Middle East.
Continuing its commitment to guest service and satisfaction, Uno's lead chef and concept team have made menu and restaurant design changes to reflect the cultural and taste preferences of diners in each area. For example, several of the new restaurants have separate entrances and dining areas for single men and families. Pork dishes, as well as alcohol, have been removed from the menu, and Halal-certified meats are featured.
"There is a clear acceptance of western brands in the region, as long as they are sensitive to local cultures," notes Frank Guidara, CEO, Uno Chicago Grill. "And, unlike the current economic climate here in the U.S., entrepreneurs in the Middle East have access to the financial resources needed to develop global concepts."
Guidara notes that Dubai and its neighboring markets are looking for and willing to pay for quality. For example, Uno was among the first chains to bring Certified Angus Beef(R) to Saudi Arabia, and it has been very well-received by guests.
Uno Chicago Grill has recently extended other international franchise development agreements in Korea and Honduras with existing franchise partners. Central and South America, the Caribbean and Mexico have numerous active candidates for franchises.
In the United States, franchises are also expanding, with current franchisees signing development agreements to open restaurants over the next five years. This growth comes as restaurant industry research firm Technomic recently tracked a nationwide slowdown in chain restaurant growth among some of the country's leading chains.
"We are pleased to partner with Sofra in representing Uno in the Middle East. They are true professionals who embrace and embody the high-quality standards that Uno strives to achieve," says Guidara. "At the end of the day, it's all about the guest, and we are thrilled with the positive reception we've received to Uno's world-class pizza and other food offerings in the Middle East."
Based in Boston, Uno Restaurant Holdings Corporation includes more than 200 company-owned and franchised full-service units located in 29 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Honduras, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The company also operates a fast casual concept called Uno Due Go(R), a quick-serve concept called Uno Express(R), and a consumer foods division which supplies airlines, movie theaters, hotel restaurants and supermarkets with both frozen and refrigerated private-label foods and branded Uno products.