KFC looking to expand in Middle East with up to 70 new stores

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Fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is looking to open up to 70 new outlets this year across the GCC and Levante.

The famous Colonel Sanders brand opened its first store in the area in Kuwait in 1974 and has gone on to become one of the market leaders, with 774 stores currently in operation in the MENA region – this includes 558 stores in the GCC, 220 in Saudi Arabia, 151 in the UAE, 66 in Kuwait, Oman (36), Bahrain (24) and Egypt (156).

Sabir Sami, KFC’s managing director for MENA, Pakistan, Turkey and Asia, toldArabian Business: “We know this year that we’re growing at 8 percent, like for like, which is same store sales growth. I think the industry average in the region right now is one to two percent.

“So we are growing quite well compared to the industry average and we are quite proud of that and that, to us, tells us that we are gaining market share.”

Growing market

According to Mena Research Partners estimates, the food and beverage market in the GCC will grow around 7.1 per cent annually, reaching $196 billion (AED719.3bn) in 2021.

Across follow GCC countries, Saudi Arabia will account for over half of this spending followed by the UAE at 31 percent.

Sami said KFC is looking to capitalise on that growth.

“We see the Gulf and the Middle East as a very exciting region. It has one of the highest population growth rates and it has a very young population which makes it a great growth opportunity for the brand,” he said.

“Together with our partners, Americana, the franchise partner for the region, we’re looking at great growth opportunities in markets like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, in Kuwait and Qatar as well and the UAE.

“We’re probably forecasting to grow between 40 to 70 stores a year across the GCC.”

Challenge

However, he admitted that the UAE has been one of the “challenge” markets this year.

“We’re seeing a general slowdown. I think if you look at the traffic in terms of visitors and tourists, if you look at the mall traffic, and you talk to mall operators as well, they will tell you that footfalls are softer this year.

“UAE is growing but not the growth we have experienced in the past few years. But at least we feel we have our head above water and we’re growing.”

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