Can Burritos, Buffalo Wings And Blizzards Make It Big In Africa?

Can Burritos, Buffalo Wings And Blizzards Make It Big In Africa?

Hoping to share in the success McDonalds and Burger King have seen in some African countries, representatives from Dairy Queen, Hardees, Wing Zone and Moe’s Southwest Grill are among 13 U.S. brands seeking their fortunes on a trade mission in Nigeria and South Africa this week.

They’re hoping to find wealthy African partners keen to open franchises, according to a report in MinnPost.

Their products are mostly unknown in sub-Saharan Africa, but they are convinced that their brands have big potential, the report said.

Scott Lehr, a senior vice-president with the U.S.-based International Franchise Association, is heading the trade mission.

The brands were drawn to Africa after seeing the successful expansion of McDonald’s, which has restaurants in South Africa and Mauritius, and Kentucky Fried Chicken, which has almost 1,000 outlets in Southern Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, MinnPost reports.

Burger King, meanwhile, opened a restaurant in Cape Town earlier this year to lines around the block.

“At the end of every trade mission we ask our members which markets they would wish to enter next,” Lehr said. “Given the impressive economic growth across Africa and the infrastructure in South Africa, they voted for Africa by a landslide.”

Franchise brands, highly visible in the public domain, are “really good commercial diplomacy for the U.S.,” said Brent Omdahl, deputy senior commercial officer at the U.S. Commercial Service.  “People look at McDonald’s here in South Africa and they know that’s a little slice of America.”

American brands must compete with well-established local franchises, in particular South African fast-food brands that have already spread into other African countries.

A few of the brands on the trade mission have already opened locations in Africa, but want more.

Johnny Rockets, the restaurant chain that celebrates Americana with classic burgers and shakes has an outlet in Lagos and is opening its second Nigeria location in the next few months.

Hardees, another burger chain, is planning to open a restaurant in Nigeria within a year.

But it’s not just fast food. The franchises on this trade mission include rental equipment brands, educational services and even Curves, the chain of weight-loss centers for women.

Amir Kremer, Dairy Queen’s vice president of international development, said South Africa is particularly attractive thanks to its young population, burgeoning urban middle class and lack of competition in the realm of ice-cream desserts.

“There’s nothing like Dairy Queen. There’s nothing like a Blizzard,” Kremer said.

While U.S. chains are targeting Africa’s wealthiest countries, their business models won’t work everywhere on the continent, the report said. Recent research indicates that middle class growth across Africa might not be as significant as gross domestic product rates would suggest. On the whole, the continent’s economic boom is failing to reduce poverty or improve the lives of ordinary people in many of the poorest nations, according to an Afrobarometer survey of 34 countries released this week.

In the countries where there are large untapped markets, there’s still the issue of preference. Scott Chorna, director of international new business development for Focus Brands, which includes Moe’s Southwest Grill, said that Tex-Mex cuisine is undeveloped and largely unknown outside the United States.

But he is convinced that it will be a success in Africa.

“We look at it as part challenge and part major opportunity,” Chorna said. “Pizza, burgers, chicken — these are developed food categories that have major players and massive competition, whereas the Tex-Mex segment is open, it’s ripe for the taking.”

Chorna said that part of the expansion in African countries, as elsewhere in the world, will involve adjusting food seasoninsg and spices to local preferences and educating consumers as to “what a burrito is, how a burrito’s made, how to eat a burrito.”

“Fifty years ago no one ate pizza, either. And now there’s hundreds of pizza restaurants,” he said.

“When it’s accepted, if you’re the brand doing it right at the right time, you could be the McDonalds of Tex-Mex, or the KFC of Tex-Mex,” he added. “So it’s a huge opportunity.”