UK exit for chain that eyed 200 stores

Just Falafel

Just Falafel, the UAE-based street food retailer, has closed all of its branches in the UK.

The home-grown fast-casual restaurant brand, which rebranded last month as JF Street Food, opened its first store outside the Middle East in London’s Covent Garden just over a year ago, with plans at that stage to open a further 200 outlets in the UK as part of a five-year expansion plan.

Billed as a healthy rival to fast-food giant McDonalds, Just Falafel recruited Mike Biggins, who spent 25 years at the burger group, to spearhead its UK expansion plan.

It also opened a central kitchen facility to serve its sites and allow it to provide fresh, healthy dining choices in 2013.

Despite its ambitious plans, the brand never quite took hold in the UK and according to a report in The Times, Just Falafel has closed down the last of its six British restaurants.

Speaking in the newspaper, Nicola Knight, from food service consultancy Horizons, said the competition from Middle Eastern food brands in the UK is quite fierce.

“While Middle Eastern foods are bang on trend, Just Falafel was operating in an extremely competitive market against other popular concepts and successful operators,” she said.

Responding to criticisms of the fast-food brand last year, Just Falafel founder and MD, Mohamad Bitar, admitted that the company “forgot about the food”, saying the company had focused too strongly on franchising, and not enough on its products.

The company has 42 restaurants, mostly in the Middle East, and has plans to open more outlets in the near future in the US, according to its website.

In the US, where it already has restaurants in New Jersey and California, there are plans to open further outlets in Louisville, San Jose, Garden City New York and two in New Jersey. Just Falafel also has international locations in Ontaria, Canada, as well as Sydney and Paramatta in Australia.

In May last year, the company announced a deal to open 57 European stores, which are to be operated by Wadi Degla Holding, an Egyptian conglomerate that already has 27 Just Falafel stores in Egypt.

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