A Fast Casual Eatery with a Cult Following Launches Franchise Program Today

September 21, 2010 // Franchising.com // (WASHINGTON, DC) - A restaurant in Washington DC with word-of-mouth so strong it brings people from as far away as New York and Richmond to eat their food, officially announced today that it is franchising.

The Amsterdam Falafelshop is a fast casual restaurant that serves falafel sandwiches with the customers' choice of 21 different sauces and toppings, Dutch-style fries referred to as "frieten" and rich brownies. The shop with its edgy, international vibe was inspired by the falafel "street food" that is so popular throughout Amsterdam and other European cities.

By issuing the federally required disclosure document on September 14, the Amsterdam Falafelshop became only the eighth franchise system to be headquartered in Washington, D.C., according to FRANdata, an Arlington, Va.-based franchise research company that tracks and analyzes franchises and their performance. The newly-minted franchise plans to carefully expand by concentrating on selling to the nearby states along the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions.

A falafel is made from mashed chickpeas spiced with coriander, cumin, and other spices, formed into a ball and deep fried-much like a hush-puppy. While most people do not know from tasting it, falafel is actually a vegan food. The Amsterdam Falafelshop includes dairy choices amongst the self-toppings to include vegetarian options. They also use only unprocessed ingredients containing no preservatives, food dyes or trans-fats.

The restaurant was first opened six years ago by husband and wife team Scott and Arianne Bennett and has seen steady growth even during the down economy. "People are still eating out in this economy; they're just being more selective and cost conscious of where they go, and that works in our favor," explained the restaurant President and CEO Arianne Bennett, where an Amsterdam Falafelshop customer can get a full meal for under $10. While the menu prices may be modest, Zagat's found the food quality to be anything but, giving the little shop a food rating of 26, which is higher than Morton's Steakhouse and The Palm.

The launch of the restaurant and franchise expansion coincides with increasing demand for Mediterranean and Middle Eastern dining choices. If anyone doubts there is a growing demand, one need only look at hummus. Sales for the Middle Eastern condiment made of pureed chickpeas mixed with lemon juice and sesame paste tahini have skyrocketed from $5 million in sales to $143 million in sales over a recent ten-year period.

The increasing demand for Middle Eastern food is attributable to everything from consumers being more global and adventurous in their dining choices, Cable bringing the Food Channel and previously exotic ingredients into more than ninety million viewers' living rooms-and kitchens, recent immigration patterns into the U.S., and increased consumer attention to nutritious eating with 73 percent of adults reporting they try to eat healthier now at restaurants than they did two years ago according to the National Restaurant Association.

Chairman of the Board Scott Bennett noted another factor that has increased sales in his store that he had not anticipated-war veterans returning home. "We see them come into the restaurant all the time in their uniforms and we always ask where they've been and they tell us everywhere from Bagdad to Kabul, and Islamabad to Stuttgart, where falafel has become an institution. Apparently they tasted the falafel while over there, really liked it, and want to eat it back here at home. It wasn't something that we had anticipated but it makes sense when you think about it."

Right at the forefront of this national, economic wave is this hip, trendy eatery that eschews employee uniforms and embraces green cost-saving practices in the heart of Adams Morgan, the Amsterdam Falafelshop.

Editor's Note:

  • Hi-res images of the food and restaurant are available upon request
  • More information about the Amsterdam Falafelshop and its franchising program is available on its website
  • The Amsterdam Falafelshop recipe makes their falafel gluten-free, a particularly timely point with the rise in gluten allergies
  • Rave reviews for tailoring the story to your region include consecutive year rankings as the #1 Best Buy and #1 Middle Eastern by Zagat's; consistently been among The Best Cheap Eats by Washingtonian Magazine, Best of DC in The Washington City Paper, and Editor's Pick in The Washington Post; During the 2009 Inauguration, the store was listed fourth by the LA Times for "Where to Go in DC" (ahead of the Kennedy Center, the National Gallery of Art and the Botanical Gardens); and it was recognized this year as a destination in the coveted Michelin Guide's Must Sees in DC.

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