Jumeirah takes restaurants abroad

Luxury hotel group Jumeirah plans to franchise its restaurant brands to outside investors for the first time as part of an international expansion, Arabian Business can reveal.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  February 19, 2006

Luxury hotel group Jumeirah plans to franchise its restaurant brands to outside investors for the first time as part of an international expansion, Arabian Business can reveal. The state-owned firm, which now has over 100 food and drink outlets in Dubai, Europe and the US, plans to use the move to develop at least three of its eateries into regional chains. “The restaurant business has good returns,” said Gerald Lawless, chief executive officer of the Jumeirah Group. “As long as it is well run, well managed and controlled, it has a lot of potential, particularly through franchising.” Jumeirah operates 110 restaurants in its hotels and other properties, which include Emirates Towers, the Madinat Jumeirah shopping mall and the Burj Al Arab. Plans are expected to focus on pizza and pasta outlet Toscana, which currently has one outlet, and wine bar The Agency. Its Noodle House chain also has two outlets but will have five restaurants under its name by the end of 2006. “We’re in active discussions with other potential locations and we would like to take Noodle House regional, and perhaps franchise it,” said Lawless. “But we want to set our own standards first and make sure we would be able to control future standards.” The move comes as Jumeirah is bidding to become a major international player in the management of luxury hotels, rivalling groups such as Fairmont and Four Seasons. The group now operates 11 hotels but aims to expand to 40 by the end of 2009. Having recently re-branded and announced its international expansion plans, the firm is also considering a series of three or four star hotels. Lawless said that Jumeirah planned to create a second brand focusing on mid-to-high end hotels. “Within four years, we will have 40 hotels and if we want to continue to deliver the quality, that’s enough. But that doesn’t mean we can’t evolve and develop a new brand, which of course we would look to do as well.” He added: “We could look at a level a little below Jumeirah. We’re concentrating on the Jumeirah brand now, but I’m sure that the opportunity and the pressure will come about to look at others.” Last month, Jumeirah took over the management of New York’s 515-room Essex House hotel — its first move into the US. The company is thought to be days away from announcing another management agreement in a new market, and Lawless said the group could have 10 more deals in place by the end of the year.

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