When it comes to trends in the restaurant industry, few cuisines have grown faster than halal. What was once exclusively known as the method of slaughter that made it acceptable for Muslims to eat meat, halal is now something that Americans actively seek out for lunch and dinner. In fact, halal sales were expected to reach $20 billion in 2016 according to the Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America. That’s a one third increase since 2010.
One of the brands paving the way in the country’s booming halal industry is The Halal Guys. But the brand wasn’t an overnight success—when founders Mohamed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abdelbaset Elsayed first decided to launch their own business in New York City in 1990, they opened up a hot dog cart. However, they soon realized that the last thing that New York needed was another place to buy hot dogs. Instead, there was a rapidly growing demand for true halal food, especially among Muslim cab drivers in the city.
It was those cab drivers that helped The Halal Guys get off the ground—word of its delicious and affordable food quickly spread among drivers and their passengers. Soon after that, The Halal Guys’ food truck was being named one of New York’s must visit destinations.
“Our menu is kind of a mix of different Middle Eastern ethnicities. But the way we season it and serve it is what makes it different from any other halal food—especially our famous white sauce,” said The Halal Guys’ Midtown food truck general manager Hesham Hegazy in an interview with Entrepreneur.
As more and more customers lined up to get a taste of The Halal Guys’ food, they kept asking when another food truck would pop up in their neighborhood or hometown. That’s when The Halal Guys’ executive team—including CEO Ahmed Abouelenein—realized the strong potential for expansion. Ultimately, the brand decided the best way to grow was through franchising.
More than a decade after they started serving Halal food, The Halal Guys inked a deal with Fransmart. The restaurant franchise consulting firm has a proven track record of turning start up brands into global household names, including Five Guys Burgers and Fries and Qdoba. And it’s clear that they have high expectations for The Halal Guys as well. “It’s going to be the Chipotle of Middle Eastern food,” said Dan Rowe, Fransmart’s chief executive in an interview with The New York Times.
Now that The Halal Guys’ franchise opportunity is available in communities across the globe, its goal is to cross the 100-unit mark within the next few years. The brand is already off to a strong start as the new year gets underway—The Halal Guys’ brick and mortar locations are already seeing the same level of success as its first food truck.
Going forward, the brand’s CEO says it plans to successfully expand its franchise system by maintaining the same commitment to quality and taste that it’s had since the very beginning.
In a press release, Abouelenein said, “For over 25 years we have built and sustained a reputation in the most demanding city in the world as the dominant American Halal foodservice concept. As we expand The Halal Guys around the world, we are aiming for 100 percent operational excellence in every restaurant.”