Fast Food, Franchising & Me

Tony Urwin reflects on the development of the Mahmoods franchise, which has built an exciting fast food opportunity on the back of an established company-owned network

Almost two years ago I started work on a new fast food franchise project. The company already had four thriving company owned outlets and the owners had a vision of creating a new national franchised chain. They were inspired by franchising's big success stories: the likes of McDonald's and KFC. Their point of difference is that the concept is entirely Halal, offering high quality fast food to everyone, including the UK's Muslim population.

In 2001 Tariq Mahmood and his business partner Mahboob Hussain opened the first Mahmoods restaurant in Bradford. The concept was a fully-branded restaurant offering a completely halal menu of Britain's fast food delights. They were thrilled when Bradford's student population, which itself contains many Islamic students, was as enthusiastic as the city's Islamic population itself.

A second Mahmoods opened in the city to keep up with demand, followed by another in Leeds and then Dewsbury. With enquiries and interest coming from all corners of the UK and overseas, Mahmood and Hussain knew that franchising was the best way to meet the anticipated demand for their unique offering while maintaining an unerring commitment to quality. They also realised that they would need advice from franchise industry specialists if they were going to compete with the established high street fast food franchises.

Since completing the Mahmoods franchise development project in spring 2008, Tariq and his team have been working hard to get their first franchised locations open to the public. With two franchised restaurants up and running and another three in the pipeline, Tariq's franchising ambitions are now beginning to be fulfilled. I was interested to find out how he is settling in to his new role as a franchisor.

"2009 has been an exciting year for Mahmoods," confirms Tariq. "We've opened our first two restaurants outside of Yorkshire - one in Bolton and one in Blackburn - and both are proving to be very popular with the local communities. Our new franchise owners have embraced the Mahmoods brand values, offering our full menu of mouth-watering burgers, pizzas and southern fried chicken, including our Mahmoods specialities, the Royal Arabia® and Big Dripper®.

"Actually realising the dream and becoming a franchisor has been a steep learning curve for the Mahmoods team. Despite all the planning and preparation beforehand, putting the plans into action has been challenging at times. Fortunately we've had support from you, Tony, and your team at FDS North. Having access to specialist advice from someone who has actually been in our situation has been invaluable."

In my opinion, Tariq Mahmood and his team should serve as inspiration to any would-be franchisors. The Mahmoods restaurant concept was fully branded and established before they began developing the franchise system. They had been through the process of opening new outlets in remote locations and had developed and tested both the marketing plan and supply chain.

There is no question that the fast food sector in the UK is crowded, both with established national chains and local independents. However, Tariq realised early on in his business development that the Mahmoods concept appeals to consumers on two levels. It has a unique appeal to the young Muslim population who have long craved a Halal version of the UK's popular high street fast food outlets. It also provides an alternative to McDonald's and similar outlets for the nation's fast food connoisseurs - people who appreciate the quality and variety offered by a Mahmoods restaurant.

Having embraced franchising with such commitment and enthusiasm I feel sure that Mahmoods will continue its success. Expect to see a Mahmoods restaurant on your high street soon.