By Annie Baptiste

I may be a little bit deprived, considering that my usual foreign work trips include countries like, the DRC, Rwanda, Nigeria and Swaziland, but Dubai was an experience of a lifetime!

For a franchise consultant and retailer, Dubai is definitely the ultimate destination. What makes it unique compared to any other city in the world, is that every single international brand you can think of is represented in its latest and greatest format, all in close proximity to each other. The latest retail trends jump out at you from every corner and virtually everything is franchised in some form or another.

Franchising Plus was invited to Dubai by Franchise Middle-East. They are our equivalent in the Middle East, although they mainly specialise in introducing prospective investors (franchisees) to new brands which want to expand to Dubai.

The agreement was that Franchising Plus would conduct four days of training in franchising and franchisee performance management to delegates from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, to name but a few.

One thing which made me giggle during the training was when asking delegates to compile a list of issues and challenges experienced with their franchisees, their lists were quite long and I was challenged by them to provide solutions.

Providing solutions was actually quite easy, since the challenges listed were exactly the same as every other group’s experiences everywhere else in the world. In other words, the good and bad news is that franchisors experience the same challenges with the operation of their businesses. In most cases the solution is fairly simple: Make sure you have well documented processes and procedures that are monitored and enforced, and that when things get tough, go back to the basics that made the brand what it was when you started.

I came across quite a few South African brands, including Barcelos, Nando’s, Mugg & Bean and Debonairs and as the tradition in franchising is, if I had not known in which city I was at the time, it could have been anywhere in the world.

As one would expect, Nando’s had apparently also had a run-in or two with the Dubai Government regarding advertising. They have been fined on more than one occasion and have had to remove posters and banners numerous times. I suppose they wouldn’t be Nando’s if they didn’t step on some toes.

Considering the scope of brands and number of foreigners that live in Dubai, trends in the Dubai market would be a good indicator of international trends. These included; burgers, ice-cream, frozen yoghurt and pop-up restaurants.

There were so many burger joints specialising in one thing or another, that I lost count. The ones I can remember included Elevation Burger, Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonald’s, all of which are not even two blocks apart in the same street. There was even a burger outlet specialising in low calorie burgers.

Pinkberry, a US based frozen yoghurt concept similar to Wakaberry’s has entered Dubai. Dubai is also hosting the international Gelato (ice-cream) championships at the moment and one could see Gelato was top-of-mind.

The pop-up restaurants are an interesting phenomenon. After the 2008 economic slump, which hit Dubai and the local developers quite hard, there were quite a few prime properties on the main roads left undeveloped. Rather than wait for forty story buildings to be constructed and having ugly empty lots all over, the local government incentivised the property owners to do something. The result of this was beautiful wooden prefab structures, almost all of which are being used as restaurants. They are very funky and modern but completely temporary. It is a great way to utilise space and create up-scale temporary retail opportunities.

Dubai is not only a shopping Mecca, but a pleasure to visit. The public transport is quick, efficient and provide value for money, while accommodation options are numerous and luxurious. Opportunities there are immense and it would be my recommendation that any concept wishing to expand internationally should go and scope out Dubai.

Of course the fact that my visit coincided with the Dubai Shopping Festival could also have influenced my overall opinion!

Franchising Plus