My Background Story
Ever since I was a child and someone would ask me, ‘what would you like to be when you grow up?’ I would always reply, ‘I want to be an entrepreneur!’
I am an immigrant to the USA. I came to the US when I was 15 years old. After being in the US for 8 years I went to Dubai, UAE, and worked in the real estate industry. There I learned the basics of business from hiring and training to sales, marketing, and operations.
In 2010, I had the opportunity to come back to the US and join a firm in an executive role to manage Marriott hotels. I took up the opportunity to grow my career in the US.
Since the beginning of my career, I have had the opportunity to work very closely with entrepreneurs who have built tens of millions and in some cases hundreds of millions of dollars worth of businesses. I have learned first-hand how entrepreneurship isn’t easy, but to me, it is still the most exciting journey one can take in their professional career. With that mindset, when I moved back to the US, I wanted to start my own restaurant.
My First Experience Eating at The Halal Guys Carts in New York City
One day in 2010 a friend of mine from Delaware who I had gone to visit said, ‘hey I want to take you to this place in New York City, I am telling you, you have never had something like before in your life.’ He didn’t give me any more details, but the next thing I knew we were on our way to New York City.
When we got to NYC, we pulled up to this cart that I could barely even see because the line was so long that it was blocking the view of the cart. We parked and joined in the line. As we got closer, I saw the sign that read ‘THE HALAL GUYS – we are different’. I thought to myself yes you are different because this is something I have never seen in my life before. I was very impressed and quite surprised how quickly our turn came to order considering how long the line was ahead of us. I ordered my very first combo platter and sat on the side of the street. I remember to this day the feeling I had when I took the first bite. The food was absolutely delicious. It was hot, it was fresh, and it was a taste that I had never tasted before. It was just AMAZING!
On my way back to Delaware that night, I asked my friend if The Halal Guys franchised. He laughed, and we both laughed and agreed that a small cart on a side of the street couldn’t start franchising.
When I got back to Virginia I couldn’t wait to take my family and friends to the carts. Over the next year, we became frequent visitors to The Halal Guys.
I was still looking for a good, up-and-coming restaurant concept that wasn’t too big for me to get into but also something I believed had the potential of being big in the future. I came across a lot of burger and pizza concepts but nothing seemed to really hit the cord with me. Deep down I had always hoped that The Halal Guys would one day franchise, but it became more of an afterthought when I was convinced that that would probably never happen. How can a cart become a brick-and-mortar store?
How I Became a Halal Guys Franchisee
In early 2014 I was getting close to signing a deal with another concept and during the due diligence process, one night around 2 am, I received a text message from the same friend, and the message read, ‘hey I think The Halal Guys are franchising now…’
Literally within one second of reading that message, I hopped on Google and found the franchise application and filled it out.
It took me 18 months to open my first store. If I’m being honest, I didn’t realize how much time and work would go in before I would be prepared to open my very first store. I was being very impatient towards the end of that 18 month period, however today I look back and appreciate that we didn’t speed up the process or cut any corners.
Today we are at 4 stores within 4 years in business.
Lessons Learned Along the Way
The advice I would give to anyone looking to get into a franchise is to understand that you do not need to reinvent the wheel. The process has been tested and proven to be a success. If you hire the right people, which is key, you can run other businesses or even have a job on the side as long as you have the right people running this business.
- One very important thing, FOLLOW THE SYSTEM! Don’t be that person that makes things difficult not only for yourself but for others. We consider all franchisees in The Halal Guys system as family, and none of us want to be the weakest link in that family. As a matter of fact, the weakest ones are usually not following the system. We appreciate and only want franchisees who have passion and integrity to run the business the way it was meant to be.
- Finding the correct real estate is probably the single most important piece of the puzzle. Conversions are the best, so if we are able to find a second-generation restaurant and convert it to our concept we can save a big chunk of construction cost. For example, we saved approximately 50% in construction cost when we did a conversion in one of our stores. This number can vary for others, but the point is that conversions work absolutely great if the real estate meets all the other criteria you are looking for.
- Your first couple of stores are the most important. You will invest heavily in them, but then they will finance your growth onward. Once you have one or two strong performing stores your growth will be exponential. The return down the line will be multiple (x) on your initial investment.
- Nothing is easy, especially when you are an entrepreneur – so you have to be ready to face the music at any given moment. It isn’t for everyone. You don’t have to be in the store and cook food, but you will need to be involved on a daily basis. No days will be off, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have off days, but that any day can bring any challenge and we have to be ready for it.
Nevertheless, the better we follow the system and hire the right people, take care of our guests and give them the best service with the best food, the more we do the small things right, the more success we’ll achieve and the more peace we’ll have in our daily lives.
The reward and satisfaction of owning your own business are invaluable.