À la cart: can The Halal Guys crack the UK market?

May 10, 2019

Many US fast-food chains have struggled to set up shop this side of the pond. But by entering a space with limited direct branded competition, can The Halal Guys, which started life as a food cart in New York, succeed where others have failed?

We’re going all in,” says ITICO F+B director Whitney Myrus, one of three managing partners overseeing the UK rollout of The Halal Guys. Four years after the Middle Eastern street food brand first began franchising across the US, Canada and the Far East, the chain has finally arrived on European shores with a prominent site moments from London’s Leicester Square.

The expansion over those four years has been rapid, with more than 450 sites established across six countries. And Myrus plans on maintaining that momentum over here.

“Our aim is to open at least 20 locations in the UK over the next five years,” he says. A second site in Earl’s Court is due to open in July, and Myrus expects to also launch a third in the capital by the end of the year.

“If I can get the real estate right, I would open as many as eight more in 2020. Three to four in London, with the balance split between Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and maybe Edinburgh.”

Related: Fast Food Franchises in the UK – 10 Things Every Would-Be Franchisee Must Know

From humble beginnings on a New York sidewalk, The Halal Guys has grown into a global brand. The eponymous ‘Guys’ are Egyptian immigrants Mohammed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abedelbaset Elsayed, who opened a hot dog cart in 1990 having held down a number of odd jobs.

After realising there was a huge demand from Muslim cab drivers for authentic halal cuisine, however, the trio decided to convert their stand into a halal food cart. News of the cart spread thanks to the cabbies, who flocked there for its ability to provide a cheap and reliable halal meal, and soon it became popularised by New York’s Muslim community.

The food is messy, no frills fare that is somewhere between a burrito bar and a typical British kebab house. There’s a choice of beef cut from the gyro cone and finished on the grill, marinated chicken or falafels, served either on a platter with rice and salad or in a pitta sandwich, and topped with the brand’s signature white and red sauces. Prices range from £6 to £8 for mains.

“We wanted to give customers something that wasn’t just burgers,” says Abouelenein. “Our aim was to create a concept that offered hot food that was fresh and reasonably priced. We worked all hours of the day and night week after week, and people just kept coming.”

Myrus first encountered the brand after setting up the European arm of Fransmart, the franchisee behind the growth of Five Guys. Fransmart founder Dan Rowe was enamoured with The Halal Guys brand, but Myrus was initially sceptical.

“Dan told me he wanted to put a Halal Guys on every intersection, and I thought he was crazy,” says Myrus. “But then I tried the food, and my entire perception changed in an instant. I told him we’re not putting one of these on every intersection, we’re putting one on every street corner of that intersection.”

Related: Food Franchises – Search Franchise Reviews Directory

Crossing the Atlantic

The Halal Guys isn’t the first US fast-food chain to try and replicate its Stateside success across the pond. Burrito-brand Chipotle, which has more than 1,000 US sites, launched in the UK back in 2010 with the company’s founder, Steve Ells, saying that he thought prospects were “very good for [the company] in London”. In January this year, Chipotle opened its first restaurant in the capital in nearly four years, bringing its UK tally to just eight.

Premium burger chain Smashburger entered the UK market in 2016 having grown steadily in the US. After debuting in Milton Keynes, it announced plans to rapidly expand to six other UK locations within the first 12 months with an eye to open 35 sites across Britain in the following few years. So far, however, it has failed to secure any further sites beyond those announced in its first year.

“I would say there are certainly a number of brands that have overextended themselves in the last five years or so,” says Myrus. “It’s not just global chains either. Jamie’s Italian and GBK are facing significant losses, Patisserie Valerie has gone into administration. These are brands that overbought and are now struggling as a result.”

Myrus dismisses suggestions that his plans to grow The Halal Guys brand in the UK is overly ambitious, saying the decision to concentrate on opening 20 sites over the next five years is realistic. “We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin. Expansion should not simply be predicated on previous success, and for me the driving factor will always be real estate. In the restaurant business it’s all about location, location, location.”

ITICO F+B, which holds the exclusive franchise rights to The Halal Guys in the UK, is using location intelligence platform Geoblink to examine footfall data, and it is the information gleaned from this analysis that helps Myrus decide where he chooses to open his next site.

“People have said to me that in London there’s a Five Guys on every corner, but that’s because there are five sites within a square mile space. And that’s the reality with The Halal Guys. I could open 200 restaurants in the UK tomorrow, but if I didn’t get the location right then it would still seem like there weren’t any here.”

What Myrus ultimately believes sets The Halal Guys apart from other fast-casual chains looking to expand, however, is that it has no direct competitors.

“We are an interesting and unique brand. Most fast food establishments have vast menus that don’t necessarily contain a high nutritional value, while we offer a simple, more focused choice. We’re serving grilled meats, be it marinated chicken or gyro beef, and pairing it with salad and rice. For those who do not eat meat, we offer falafel. And that’s it.”

Related: The Halal Guys Franchise

“We have something special,” adds Abouelenein. “We’re a fast-casual operation, but everything we sell is fresh. Walk into your average fast-food restaurant and your meal will consist of processed ingredients, but here all the processing happens in front the of customer in our open kitchen. It’s honest and simple food.”

Challenging preconceptions

Despite his confidence, Myrus still had concerns about bringing the brand to market over here. Gyro cones bear more than a passing resemblance to doner, and are synonymous in the UK with a culture of late-night kebabs being devoured shambolically on a street corner by someone hoping in vein that it will stave off a hangover. It’s hardly considered to be the sort of food the family can sit down to in the early evening.

“We’re not ignorant of how some may perceive us,” says Myrus. “We want people to see us as a brand that is able to adapt to British culture, but can also offer consumers something new. And to do this we’ve focused a lot of attention on making sure we get the voice right when we interact with the community.”

Myrus remembers when The Halal Guys first announced that it was going to be opening in the UK, one of the first responses was from someone saying that chlorinated US chickens would not be welcome over here. “It’s not like we could do that even if we wanted to,” he says with bemusement, before confirming that all chickens sold by The Halal Guys here will be sourced from within the UK.

Then there’s the question of halal. The Islamic ritual slaughter is an essential part of the Muslim faith, but many animal rights activists consider it to be a cruel practise that causes the animal to suffer unnecessarily.

Halal is a hot topic of debate on these shores, and Myrus accepts that it will always carry some negative connotations. However, he also believes that through the expansion of The Halal Guys, there may be space to develop a more thoughtful conversation around the issue.

“There are activist groups out there that hold a certain view, and I would think that view is born somewhat out of ignorance,” he says. “The practise of halal is one that has been refined over thousands of years. Our meat is HMC (Halal Monitoring Committee) certified, which means that I know all the animals we serve have been treated humanely from the day they are born to the day they are slaughtered. The only way more people are going to understand this is if you help educate them. Do I think our brand has that capability, sure? But what I can’t tell you right now is how to tap into that and get the message right.”

So far, according to Myrus, the reaction from those who have visited the Leicester Square site has been uniformly positive. Launch day saw two and a half hour queues backing up down Irving Street and into the Square, and more than a thousand meals were served. In the days since it opened, the restaurant is reported to have consistently hit its daily target.

In Abouelenein’s eyes, it’s no accident. “The success of Halal Guys doesn’t come from nothing,” he says. “There’s an incredible kinship between London and New York. Both are melting pots with strong multicultural histories, happy to accept people of all races and faiths. And if London continues to embrace us like it has, then god willing, there will always be an opportunity for us to expand.”

By James McAllister

Source: Big Hospitality

The Halal Guys to open second London site in Earl’s Court

April 24, 2019

The Halal Guys will open its second UK site in Earl’s Court in July.

The 48-cover site follows the group’s first London opening in Irving Street, off  Leicester Square, in March.

Franchisee ITICO F+B has the development rights across the UK with plans to open 20 locations in the next five years.

The Halal Guys started life in 1990 in New York City when Egyptian immigrants Mohammed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abedelbaset Elsayed opened a hot dog cart there.

After recognising the huge demand from Muslim cab drivers looking for a good, fast halal meal they swapped the hot dogs for halal food.

Related: Fast Food Franchises in the UK – 10 Things Every Would-Be Franchisee Must Know

The business opened its first franchise site in Chicago in 2015 and now has more than 80 restaurants in the US and more than 100 sites worldwide.

Its restaurants offer either a sandwich or platter in four different versions – chicken, beef, chicken and beef, or falafel. They are served with a selection of toppings and sauces.

US chain the Halal Guys plans three UK restaurants in 2019>


Source: The Caterer

Famous New York street food company heading to London

March 30, 2019

Halal Guys UK – Food enthusiasts with a particular love for hot, steaming platters of chicken, beef, falafel over rice are in for a treat.

Those who have visited New York will recognise the bright yellow design of the franchise, and will perhaps remember seeing winding queues for travellers all waiting for a taste of Halal Guys.

Founded in 1990 by three Egyptian immigrants, Mohammed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abedelbaset Elsayed – Halal Guys has grown in popularity and recognition.

After taking over the streets of New York, the brand is bringing is mouth watering cuisine to a shop front in Leicester Square, London.

With it’s grand opening set for 11am on Saturday, March 30, the group will be giving a free main and drink to the first 125 people in line who ‘pay’ with a follow or like on social media and a post about The Halal Guys with the hashtag #platterthatmatters.


This opening marks the brands first location to open in Europe, with two more set to open in London in the year.

The idea which started as a hot dog cart on the streets of the Big Apple transformed to 450 sites across six countries serving fast, authentic halal food.

The menu boasts a delicious offering of sandwiches and platters over flowing with chicken, beef gyro and vegan-friendly falafel, with platters also available with salad, pita and rice.

Related: Fast Food Franchises in the UK – 10 Things Every Would-Be Franchisee Must Know

As well as the dishes, the group are known for their famous sauces! According to the New York Times “It’s the white sauce, always the white sauce, that
draws everybody in, from uniformed cops to dainty girls whose palates otherwise incline to macarons.”

But those with a liking of spice and heat may be brave enough to try the hot sauce with a Scoville rating of 130,000!


Located in Irving Street, London WC2H 7AU – you won’t miss the bright yellow shop front – which is also currently offering a free trip to New York for one lucky winner.

To find out more about the competition and the opening visit their Facebook Page.

By Khadija Taboada

Source: In Your Area

The Halal Guys London: Menu, opening date and everything you need to know about the Leicester Square restaurant

March 10, 2019

London’s street food scene has never been better, but New York is looking to show us a thing or two in 2019. This month, the capital is set to welcome one of the biggest names in Stateside street food into its culinary fold: The Halal Guys is opening its first UK location in just a couple of weeks.

So who are the New York little guys taking over the world, what are they cooking and, most importantly, what is in that “white sauce”?

From hot dog carts to Cardi B, here’s what you need to know.

What is The Halal Guys?

The Halal Guys

The Halal Guys began life as a single street food cart in New York, but has since become an international fast food phenomenon. In 1990, Egyptian immigrants Mohammed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abedelbaset Elsayed noticed a niche in the Big Apple’s street food scene – Muslim taxi drivers were struggling to find quick, good quality halal food in the City.

Related: Fast Food Franchises in the UK – 10 Things Every Would-Be Franchisee Must Know

Switching from selling hot dogs to cooking up meat pitas and platters, The Halal Guys soon attracted a following that transcended the Muslim community – Cardi B even gave them a probable namecheck last year in her hit I Like It (“eating halal, driving the lam’”). The franchise now has five carts and two restaurants in New York with more than 200 locations either open or in development across the US and internationally – and London is next.

When and where is The Halal Guys opening in London?

The Halal Guys

The Halal Guys has conquered the US and has its sights set worldwide. Following on from openings in South Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia, the franchise is set to open its first European location in London this month.

Upgrading from the hot dog cart, the franchise will open a bricks and mortar restaurant in Irving Street, Leicester Square on March 30.

The London takeover won’t, however, stop there – the restaurant is due to open a second spot in Earl’s Court shortly after, followed by a third in the capital at a currently undisclosed location.

What’s on the menu?

The Halal Guys

As you can probably guess: quite a lot of meat. The Halal Guys has made its name grilling halal meat (that which adheres to Islamic dietary rules) which is served chopped up into tiny, shredded pieces.

Chicken and beef are the meats in question (available separately or as a double whammy), which come either platter-style with rice and salad or wrapped up in pita bread. Vegetarians and vegans can also swap the meat for its much-lauded falafel, with sides including fries, hummus and baba ganoush.

Most importantly, diners can choose to drizzle their meal with  famous sauces, including a seriously fiery chilli sauce or “white sauce”, a tzatziki-like condiment which is made to a notoriously secret recipe.

By Ailis Brennan


The Halal Guys Announces Upcoming London Location

March 7, 2019

New York City staple The Halal Guys is opening its fast-food chain in London, bringing gyros, platters, falafel, baklava, baba ganoush and more to the UK capital. Having spread across the US and opened in three Asian locations with its Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours, The Halal Guys are set to offer London authentic dishes using premium quality Halal meats, a healthy serving of rice and the chain’s famous White Sauce.

Related: Fast Food Franchises in the UK – 10 Things Every Would-Be Franchisee Must Know

Coming a long way from opening as an NYC cart 27 years ago, The Halal Guys will be opening its flagship London franchise in Leicester Square. With the first location set to open on March 30, they are also planning a minimum of two more London locations across 2019.

14-15 Irving Street

By Eric Brain


US quick-service chain sets sights on rapid UK expansion

February 15, 2019

Halal Guys, an American chain with 200 restaurants under its belt, has opened its first site in the UK and plans to launch more in 2019.

The Halal Guys, a gyro and chicken concept from New York, has made the UK its latest international stop after earlier forays into Canada, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia.

The UK franchise rights for the brand are held by ITICO F+B, which worked with London law firm Joelson on the acquisition of the first UK restaurant in London.

Joelson’s Property team was led by Andrew Clissold, who assisted ITICO F+B with the legal aspects of the transaction.

Related: Fast Food Franchises in the UK – 10 Things Every Would-Be Franchisee Must Know

He said: “We are delighted to have helped The Halal Guys acquire its first UK site. This transatlantic expansion represents a significant first step in its entry into the UK market and is just the start of a major overseas push. We look forward to helping them grow and expand in the future.”

Jan van Delden, managing partner at ITICO F+B, said recently that at least two more London locations were on the way, with the long-term ambition to open 20 sites in the next five years.

Related: New York’s Halal Guys planning 20 UK restaurants in 2019

“Based on average sales per year per unit, the brand would be the second highest grossing ethnic restaurant group. We know this concept translates and this is an extremely important and exciting time for The Halal Guys,” he said.

The Halal Guys have gone from humble beginnings as a New York City hot dog cart to a global restaurant chain. The three founding partners initially opened their business after recognising huge demand from Muslim cab drivers looking for a halal food meal.

Source: Food Service Equipment Journal

New York’s Halal Guys planning 20 UK restaurants

December 7, 2018

New York’s Halal Guys restaurant group is to open three London sites in 2019, with plans to expand across the UK.

The company has signed a franchise deal with ITICO F+B with the aim of launching 20 locations across the country over the next five years.

Its first site will replace the L’ulivo Italian restaurant in Leicester Square next March, and will be followed by two further openings in the capital before the end of 2019.

Halal Guys was founded by Egyptian immigrants Mohammed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abedelbaset Elsayed, who opened a street food start cart in New York in 1990.

Its menu consists of hot sandwiches or platters made with chicken, beef or falafel served with toppings and its ‘secret recipe’ white and hot sauces. Initially popular with Muslim cab drivers in New York, its dishes have earned cult popularity in the city.

Related: Fast Food Franchises in the UK – 10 Things Every Would-Be Franchisee Must Know

The Halal Guys started franchising in 2015 and over the past three years has grown to 450 sites in six countries.

“Based on average sales per year per unit, the brand would be the second highest grossing ethnic restaurant group,” says Jan Van Delden, franchisee and partner.

“We know this concept translates and this is an extremely important and exciting time for The Halal Guys.”

CDG Leisure has been appointed to oversee Halal Guys’ property strategy in London, and will work with ITICO to source future sites in the capital.

Source: Big Hospitality