10 homegrown franchises to watch

10 homegrown franchises to watch

Jennifer Pettinger Haines, co-founder of the Global Restaurant Investment Forum, shines a spotlight on some of the many fast-growing restaurant brands that are already making waves in the Middle East and look destined for an even bigger, brighter future.

It’s been fascinating to watch the F&B scene in the Middle East flourish, not just the sheer growth in numbers, but more importantly, in the countless impressive homegrown concepts that have been created by regional entrepreneurs. Many of these are on their way to becoming regional, even if not yet international, players.

No less fascinating is the talented, tight-knit and incredibly supportive F&B community here, made up of passionate professionals that have truly put the GCC on the global map for dining and entertainment.

Well-deserved recognition

With the rise in regional F&B entrepreneurship and investment in what is such a dynamic and ever-evolving sector, having a dedicated industry event for the restaurant community undoubtedly made sense. It was for this reason that we launched the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF) in 2015, which has now become an integral part of the Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) annual event series, featuring bespoke forums in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Having led GRIF since its inception, I can honestly say this has been such an exciting journey. I’m also delighted to see that the world is now paying attention to what is happening here in the GCC and recognizing the regional F&B industry’s innovation and dynamism.

On that note, the start of a new year feels like the perfect time to shine a spotlight on 10 of the many successful home-grown, fast-growing restaurant brands from the Middle East that I believe have big things in store:


Allo Beirut is a UAE homegrown brand, inspired by the Golden Age of Beirut’s culinary cosmopolitanism. The menu features classic Lebanese street food, from Bliss Street to Bekaa and Byblos. Several outlets are set to open in the UAE in 2024, joining the seven already up and running in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The brand has also signed contracts in five GCC countries, with two outlets currently under construction in Saudi Arabia, set to open in early 2024. Further expansion is planned across Australia, India, Europe and North Africa.


Offering premium fried chicken, free from antibiotics, preservatives and hormones, Bonbird is a vibrant ode to East London chicken shops. A sister concept to Pickl, Bonbird The Chicken Shop launched in the UAE in 2023, with three venues open across Dubai and three more, alongside a first drive-through, in the pipeline. Bonbird’s first-year success has already prompted franchise expansion and the team is in the final stages of negotiations to secure a franchisee in Pakistan, while initial conversations to take Bonbird to India are underway.


This UAE born and based concept built from both culinary and design passion with a love for the rich cultural roots of the Asian continent serves up a lavish and sophisticated multi-sensory dining experience. The menu pays homage to the traditional flavors of the ancient Spice Route, fused with innovative cooking methods, while its interiors are rich in history and intricate in design. The brand currently has four locations in the UAE, with outlets under development in Armenia, Bahrain, Qatar, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.


Central has become synonymous with burgers, monster shakes, beats, bowling and state-of-the-art arcades, inspired by the streets of the Big Apple. Outlets have also carved a niche as a go-to destination for children’s birthday parties. Having originated in the UAE, with its first outlet in Yas Bay in Abu Dhabi, Central is looking at future locations in the GCC, Europe and Asia, targeting hotels and large developments. The brand has two outlets in the pipeline in Bahrain and Thailand.


Lock, Stock & Barrel is the home of live music and an ideal hangout for those looking for live entertainment, sporting action, bites and beverages. Featuring an American industrial-meets-urban food truck fit-out, it offers classic pub grub, hearty mains and shareable plates. Each location is host to award-winning ladies’ nights, Sunday roasts and weekly brunches. Having grown the brand to four outlets in the UAE, the group is now looking to expand internationally, with outlets set to open in Bahrain, Qatar, Thailand and the US in 2024.


With its award-winning cheeseburgers, chicken sandos, plant-based burgers and famous shakes, Pickl has built up a loyal fan base in the region. Known for offering food that is free from antibiotics, hormones and antibiotics, Pickl has expanded rapidly and now has 15 outlets in the UAE and two in Bahrain through its franchise partner Zayani Foods. Owners Yolk Brands have also secured agreements to launch in Qatar and Egypt in early 2024, and are closing in on deals in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.


Having originated in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia, Shawarma Hlayel’s specialty is meat and chicken shawarma, and freshly baked bread that’s made in-house. With 23 locations in Saudi Arabia, the brand has seen strong growth and expansion through its franchise and cloud brand model, as well as its menu verticals. The first international branch opened in Egypt and will be followed by openings in Bahrain and India in 2024.


Originating in Dubai in 2018, Mohalla is an award-winning Indian street food restaurant. The menu is a carefully crafted tapestry of flavors and features traditional recipes with a contemporary twist, served in a vibrant, cozy setting. Part of the Atelier House Hospitality group, led by Panchali Mahendra, the brand has expanded into Saudi Arabia within the last five years and now includes two restaurants in Riyadh, with additional branches set to open in the Kingdom. The owners are also planning to enter New York in 2024.


The brainchild of visionary chef Reif Othman, REIF restaurants are known for their delectable kushiyaki, ramen and sandos, enhanced by sleek décor and a buzzing energy. Having begun as a neighborhood gem, the REIF brand now has five outlets across Dubai and Egypt, with two additional restaurants in the pipeline in Egypt, signaling its ambitious plans for further growth. A homegrown concept from the UAE, REIF has been featured in the Michelin Bib Gourmand 2022 and 2023, in MENA’s 50 Best 2023 and Gault & Millau UAE 2023.


This award-winning, Dubai-born, female-led restaurant concept has taken Dubai by storm as the only smart-casual Vietnamese chain in the GCC. The first restaurant opened in Jumeirah Lakes Towers in 2018, with six additional locations following over the last five years. In November 2023, Vietnamese Foodies announced its regional and international expansion plans, with owner and executive chef, Lily Hoa Nguyen, inviting investors to bring the restaurant chain to new territories through global franchise opportunities. The restaurant’s Dubai-based locations are founder-led and the expansion plans utilize a hands-on approach.

Jennifer Pettinger Haines, co-founder of the Global Restaurant Investment Forum

Jennifer Pettinger Haines,
co-founder of the Global Restaurant Investment Forum

For more articles, click here

Add to Favorites

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *