What do consumers demand from a food franchise? High-quality produce, value for money, visually attractive design with eye-catching branding are all vital components. This is certainly the view of new German Doner Kebab franchisee Hemanth Bollini, who has over 17 years of experience working within the food franchise sector.
German Doner Kebab (GDK) is a fast-food franchise, created in Germany in 1989, specialising in classic, authentic and healthy kebabs. When created, the vision was to produce a franchise with easy to manage systems, fresh tasty products and excellent returns. Its mission was to provide fresh, tasty and healthy kebabs combined with excellent customer service.
Hemanth, who opened his GDK franchise in Islington around 10 weeks ago, previously worked for Domino’s Pizza for 17 years. He initially joined Dominos as a part-time order taker to fund his IT course at college, but soon found he had a passion for the food industry and quickly gave up on IT to go full-time. He then progressed from an order taker to store manager within 11 months, and latterly was managing 21 stores for the franchise owner.
He explains: “When I started out in the franchise food sector I only saw it as a short term move to fund my IT course, but 17 years later and I am still in it. I quickly moved from an order taker to store manager within 11 months. Fast-forward 17 years and I was managing 21 stores for the franchise owner.
“The concept of German Doner Kebab instantly appealed to me, I have gained a lot of knowledge and experience in the food industry over the last 17 years and for me GDK ticks every box. The store concept is visually very attractive, and the food quality is extremely high. The fast food market is very competitive, and usually seen as unhealthy, however GDK brings in a new dimension to the kebab market by offering a quality fresh gourmet range which is also healthy.
“We chose Islington as my business partner knew the location well, and we both thought it was a great location for a GDK store as regards our target markets and footfall numbers. We have been open for around 10 weeks now and so far it is going well. Like any new business we have our challenges, like learning the business and finding the right staff, but we have already built up a good return customer base. One of the things that really attracted me to GDK was the knowledge that when a customer tries our food they are very likely to return. We are often getting told that they are the ‘best kebabs they have ever eaten’ and that they ‘love our set up with the banquet seats.’
“The training and ongoing support from head office is excellent, and they are always working on bringing in new products aimed at targeting different demographics. Kebabs don’t need any introduction to people in the UK, but healthy high quality kebabs are something completely new.
The advice I would give anyone considering a GDK franchise would be to go for it, as long as they have ambition and are ready to put in the hard work to help the GDK brand to grow. It’s also essential to put the needs of the customers first and value teamwork above all else”.
The German Doner Kebab franchise was introduced to the UK and Ireland by United Brands who acquired the master franchise. The Sarwar family operate one of Scotland’s most successful business groups. The £230m empire encompasses a wholesale cash and carry business, 532 franchised convenience stores, a chain of pubs, Asian restaurants and a pharmacy group as well as a soft play centre and bowling alley.
So why get into the doner kebab business? Athif Sarwar of United Brands explains: “Four years ago I was on a business trip to Dubai and came across German Doner Kebab. I was blown away by how tasty and fresh the meal was so I decided to investigate the company. I visited the HQ in Dubai and discovered they had over 40 stores globally. I loved the concept of using only 100% lean succulent meat which is of the highest quality and they also had baked their breads. In recent years the doner kebab has had a tarnished reputation as a greasy snack you have after one too many pints…GDK turns this on its head!”
In contrast to most kebab outlets the GDK concept is primarily a sit-in restaurant as well as providing take-away with a 60/40 split predicted. All the meat and bread is provided from the factory in Germany and the signature sauces come from Dubai. “Quality and consistency is paramount and the only way we can do this is by providing our own ingredients,” stressed Athif. “GDK has been doing this for 25 years so they have it down to a fine art. The kebab is very popular in Germany and is considered the number one street food. Our kebabs offer a healthy alternative to burgers as they are lower in calories. The meat is 100% pure and is grilled not fried. It is a very simple franchise to operate as it does not require a qualified chef to prepare the meals, it’s more a case of assembling the ingredients…. the German Engineered Kebab. One million fans on the international Facebook page can’t be wrong!”
The total investment required is between £140,000 to £200,000 depending on the size of the restaurant which can range from 800 to 2000 sq. feet. There is also a kiosk option (350-600 sq. ft.). GDK has franchises in10 countries in Europe and the Middle East with plans to open in the US in the near future.
United Brands have already signed up over 80 franchisee locations, with experienced franchise operators.