In order to be the most successful franchiser you need the best suppliers and supply network. After all, customers and clients will come to expect each and every franchisee to deliver the same quality and standard of food and service no matter where in the world they visit.
For More-Café, proudly delivering the best European inspired hospitality and food services for more than 15 years across the Middle East, that key supplier relationship comes in the form of Intelligent Foods.
Intelligent Foods, founded in 2000, has been a key strategic supplier to the most successful 5 and 4-star hotels, airlines, restaurants and cafes in the UAE and across the GCC.
“Intelligent Foods is our food manufacturing business that has successfully supplied all More-Café franchises with over a hundred different food products throughout the years to support the International menu,” says James Le Gassick, CEO, More-Café/Intelligent Foods (MIF).
“Of course, we are very active in supplying the market for More-Café but we do supply a number of other clients across the UAE and GCC in the HORECA market.”
Intelligent Foods can manufacture to any specification with the categories Ice cream, fresh pasta, bakery, pastry, jams, dressings as well as roast and blend coffee.
“It’s a very diverse business – we can use that experience of different foods and markets and support the More-Café franchisee with our knowledge, our experience and provide consistency in quality and price.”
Le Gassick has been with MIF for two and a half years but has been operating in the food and beverage market in the GCC for 10 years. Over this time, Le Gassick has worked in a number of roles for a number of organisations and this has provided him with a keen understanding of how the sector works, from franchisee to franchisor and from client to supplier.
“I think based on the experience I've got in the region, and the different food concepts, I pretty much know how things work,” he says. “What do our guests expect, what are the expectations of our clients, and also how much time things can take in terms of logistics and getting to market, because in this region, things can take a little bit more time than perhaps you'd experience in other regions.”
MIF launched its first franchise brand back in 2008 through More Café, in Dubai. Since Le Gassick joined the company, MIF has added two more franchise concepts to its portfolio – Pause by More Kitchen and Glow by More Kitchen.
Pause is a food-led coffee shop, which Le Gassick feels represents an innovative way of approaching the standard coffee shop that one would expect to see in the high street with a real focus on raising the bar on the quality of food and how it is displayed “ I was always taught in my food retail days that people buy with their eyes which is something I have never forgotten,” says Le Gassick Glow, on the other hand, is an ice cream retail outlet that sells artisan quality scooping ice creams manufactured by Intelligent Foods that has over 1,200 proven high quality recipes and the flavors on sale are regularly changed to meet the demographic of guest in that location.
Both franchise brands represent the modern-day expectation of the customer and the current state of the food and beverage sector, not just in the UAE and GCC but across the world.
“The change, using Dubai as an example, over the last 10 years is incomprehensible,” says Le Gassick. “Thousands of restaurants have opened in that time and hundreds of new franchisee brands that have entered this very competitive market of which are taking advantage of the high uptake of people spending their disposable income on eating out as well as ordering delivery for the home.”
The impact of this has seen far more international companies set up shop across the UAE and this has forced companies like MIF to be more inventive and to strive for innovation in order to deliver new products, fresh ideas and retain and attract new guests and clients.
This is a challenge that Le Gassick actively invites, describing the region as a fantastic space for innovation, competitiveness and opportunity.
One particular consequence of this increased competitiveness is of course that changing guest or customer mind-set and expectation. The modern-day consumer is much more aware of what they are eating and how it is sourced.
As an example of responding to this, Le Gassick points to calorie counts that are featured on the packaging of every product sold at MIF’s Pause brand. Rewind the clocks ten years ago, and Le Gassick feels this wasn’t the case at all within the region.
“The customers and guests have always been very demanding, but even more so now,” he says. “With more competition, guests know that if a meal does not meet their expectations then they can simply choose to eat elsewhere.”
“Their expectations are higher than ever before and I feel that this is probably the biggest challenge that the food and beverage industry faces, trying to guess and anticipate those expectations.”
Communication and touch points with the customer prove key in understanding those expectations, and MIF strives to create very open and constructive conversation with both its customers on the franchise side, and its clients in the manufacturing process.
Le Gassick himself personally speaks with customers and regularly meet clients, inviting feedback and even criticism as the company looks to continuously improve its service to customers.
This level of communication is present both internally and with Intelligent Foods as Le Gassick promotes an open door open communication mind-set. The benefit of this, naturally, is speed and agility.
“What we do is very open and very fast acting,” he says. “We are constantly in the market and in our outlets, speaking to both customer and clients and we take on board this information and we act fast.”
“You have no choice but to act fast in this competitive market, as customers’ expectations are changing quicker and quicker.”
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Franchising is a journey that not one company can achieve alone and MIF, through Intelligent Foods, can call upon the services of critical strategic partners and suppliers that help the company as it continues to grow across the region.
Already operating in Dubai, MIF has recently opened a Pause franchise in Kuwait, has a distribution network in Oman as well as Kuwait and will soon be opening More in Bahrain and More & Glow to open in Kuwait shortly after the summer. The company is also targeting later this year to open a More outlet at Jeddah’s newly developed Corniche in Saudi Arabia which will be used to support future franchisee operations within the Country.
Needless to say, MIF will require those partners more than ever before.
“We don’t have that many suppliers; obviously Intelligent Foods is the biggest supplier to More, Pause & Glow,” says Le Gassick.
“But we do have our local suppliers and every supplier is key in our books. We develop long-term partnerships that are built around serviceability, reactiveness and reliability. At the end of the day, if our business is successful, our supplier and our partner’s business will be successful too.”
As a franchisor, one that has already begun to achieve undoubtable success, eyes will no doubt begin to look to the future and future locations. Le Gassick, and MIF, do have long term ambitions of expanding across the wider GCC with an additional one or two brands to complement the existing More Café, Pause and Glow.
“We need to be in and operate in all GCC Countries which we are not at the moment,” he says. “Saudi Arabia is a huge market potential for us and so we will look to finalise a good partner there to really develop the business in that market.
“Optimistically of course, we’d love to move into Europe in the future and maybe even into Asia and the US.”
But importantly for Le Gassick, he understands the importance of remaining pragmatic and will do so with the support of the biggest supplier partner MIF has.
“We could probably go and open in the US right now, but I think it’s important not to run before we can walk,” he says “that said we have worked out in some detail how we could open and support a franchise partnership in the UK”.
“We are currently focusing on establishing a bigger base here in the GCC which will support the future growth of the brands and with the strength of our relationship with Intelligent Foods, MIF will continue to develop some of the best franchises across the region.”