Homegrown success

Casper & Gambini has expanded rapidly since starting out ten years ago as a sandwich delivery service in Lebanon

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By  Laura Barnes Published  May 4, 2006

|~|Maalouf,-Carol-----CASPER-&.jpg|~|Casper & Gambini's is currently in negotiations with companies from Basel, Switzerland; Cape Town, South Africa; the US and Canada, according to Carol Maalouf, director of research and development, Casper & Gambini’s.|~|Casper & Gambini’s first began operations in Lebanon in 1996. Ten years later, the company is rapidly expanding across the region, with no sign of slowing down In 1996, four partners decided to set up a sandwich delivery service in Lebanon. Within two years the company’s first coffee house opened, and since then Casper & Gambini’s has grown from strength to strength. Celebrating ten years of operation in October this year, the company has an ambitious expansion plan, with the opening of more outlets across the Gulf, as well as increasing its Casper & Gambini’s derivatives, like C&G Express and Casper & Gambini’s Shop. “In 1996 the Lebanese market started to open up again. Because of this, people in Lebanon were eager to start up businesses. Casper & Gambini’s began as a delivery sandwich service, but since then it has just snowballed,” comments Carol Maalouf, director of research and development, Casper & Gambini’s. Creating the right business was important for the four owners, who decided to opt for the name Casper & Gambini’s due to its European connotations. However, once Lebanese people began to realise it was a home grown company, they were eager to embrace the brand even more, leading to the company opening its first outlet in 1998. Following the success of its first outlet, in 2000 the company opened a restaurant in downtown Beirut, claiming it was one of the first stores to open in fashionable Solidaire. Shortly afterwards, other stores followed suit, making downtown Beirut one of the more trendy places to be seen in Beirut. “We became a kind of landmark in downtown Beirut, so when we decided to open a store in ABC Mall in Ashrafieh in 2003, naturally other restaurants and cafes decided to follow suit,” says Maalouf. The company now boasts three restaurants in Lebanon as well as two extra kitchens for its delivery and catering service. By the end of the year, Casper & Gambini’s will also have two restaurants and three C&G Express outlets in Kuwait; outlets in Jeddah and Hobart, Saudi Arabia, as well as two C&G Express’ in the kingdom. It will also open two outlets in Cairo and one Casper & Gambini’s shop; and an outlet in Jordan and at Dubai’s Festival City. As well as expanding operations in the region, Casper & Gambini’s is also looking further afield, and is currently in negotiations with companies from Basel, Switzerland; Cape Town, South Africa; the US and Canada. “We are an organic company, and although we are keen to expand wherever we can, we want to make sure that every location suits the company. We are a young company and our restaurants take on the latest trends and styles,” comments Maalouf. The company has a very strict policy when it comes to opening an outlet. Not only is the location important, but Casper & Gambini’s creates a unique design for each outlet, depending on the location and the diners. However, although each restaurant has its own style, the company will not move into a property smaller than 250m², as it claims this would not be profitable. “The minimum number of seats we will have in any outlet is 150. For example, the outlet in ABC mall has 220 seats, and the largest outlet is in Saudi Arabia with around 350 seats. However, the advantage with our company is that we can customise our stores to suit the local market; we are flexible in that respect,” adds Maalouf.||**|||~|Food-Setup-D-----Casper-&-G.jpg|~|Casper & Gambini’s has increased its portfolio further to include a catering service, a kiosk-style C&G Express, and Casper & Gambini’s Shop, which will sell produce that it uses in its kitchens, like chocolate, as well as a cutlery line.|~|In addition to increasing its number of outlets, the company has also created a number of derivatives of Casper & Gambini’s. Beginning as a delivery service, the company still sees this as an important part of its operations, although, the restaurant business is now the major aspect of the company. Besides these two staples of the company, Casper & Gambini’s has increased its portfolio further to include a catering service, a kiosk-style C&G Express, and Casper & Gambini’s Shop, which will sell produce that it uses in its kitchens, like chocolate, as well as a cutlery line. As well as expanding the business, Casper & Gambini’s is also constantly updating and reviewing its menu, with Tommy Kargatzidis, director of culinary operations for Casper & Gambini’s, at the helm. ”The food is a great mix with specialty items and unique dishes like chicken under a brick to gourmet sandwiches, pastas of the day and salads,” says Kargatzidis. “We also found that with our desserts people prefer smaller dishes, so we introduced mini indulgences; single servings of desserts in shot glasses. It has proved to be really popular,” adds Kargatzidis. The delivery menu is also regularly updated, and offers customers a variety of dishes ranging from a breakfast menu, bagels, soups, baked potatoes and sandwiches. To appeal to its health conscious clientele, the menu also has a low-cal section, and a calorie and carb counter alongside some of its items. “We are not a fast food outlet as we offer food that is healthy, and everything is made to order. Our slogan, ‘the taste of tradition’, is about how we cook the food and the ingredients we use. However, we have modern recipes and we continuously strive to be at the cutting edge,” says Kargatzidis. Casper & Gambini’s also has a strong coffee brand, and was the first Golden Cup Award winner in the Middle East for the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). More recently, it was also named by SCAA as a winner of the TOPS award for excellence in specialty coffee retailing for a fifth year. Although it sees some competition from international coffee houses, Maalouf believes that the company as a whole has no direct competitor due to its vast range of services and offerings. “We compete with everybody on some level, but there isn’t one store that competes with us like for like. We have a strong and loyal customer base, which we can only expect to grow as we do,” she adds. ||**||

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