UK restaurant company, Casual Dining Group (CDG) has signed a franchise deal to open multiple restaurants in Saudi Arabia, including 18 Bella Italia outlets over the next four years.
The agreement with Riyadh-based retail and leisure conglomerate Fawaz Alhokair Group comes as CDG, the franchisee behind Dubai’s Café Rouge, looks to accelerate its expansion in the Middle East and Asia.
Commenting on the partnership, Sultan Alhokair, group vice president, food and entertainment, Fawaz Alhokair, said: “We were impressed with Casual Dining Group’s portfolio of high-growth brands, operational support and their various offerings and are excited to begin a long-term relationship.”
Fawaz Alhokair, which is listed in the Saudi Arabian stock exchange, already licenses and operates international retail and leisure brands in the Middle East, such as M&S, Monsoon, GAP and Zara in the Middle East.
The company is opening one outlet per day in the region.
The agreement’s execution and initial operations will be led by Karim Hajjali, chief business development officer – under the leadership of Kamal Abusara, chief executive officer of Alhokar’s food and entertainment division.
The new deal, allied to other CDG activity in both the Middle East and Asia, is a statement of intent, with the company recently establishing a Dubai office led by Paul Smith.
Smith, who reports into Mark Nelson, MD of CDG’s international franchising and concessions arm, was responsible for structuring the franchise deals that took Costa Coffee to China and then Dubai.
CDG CEO, Steve Richards, said: “We are pleased to announce this strategically-important agreement with such a significant and respected partner.
“As a business we are building real momentum overseas. In addition, we are in meaningful discussions over similar partnerships across the Middle East and Asia regions, with further agreements in train.”
Founded in 1989 by three brothers, Fawaz Alhokair represents more than 80 international brands across six Middle East countries, North Africa, the USA, and Central Asia.
Last year CDG, which also operates Las Iguanas and Belgo, opened a Café Rouge in Dubai and earlier this year launched a Bella Italia in India, with both restaurants operated via franchise agreements.
CDG is one of the largest casual dining restaurant operators in the UK, with 300 sites located across the country.
It operates primarily under the Bella Italia, Café Rouge and Las Iguanas formats in the UK, and also owns restaurants who trade under the brands La Tasca, Belgo, La Salle, Huxley and Oriel.
Bella Italia is a 110-strong chain of all-day, Italian restaurants popular with families and regular diners.
In addition to classic pizzas and pasta, its menu includes a range of grilled main classics and healthy options such and salads and gluten-free dishes.
The brand is opening 20 to 25 restaurants a year.