ANAHEIM — The parent company of the Carl's Jr. fast-food restaurant chain said Wednesday that it will open its first Middle Eastern outlets in four countries.
Carl Karcher Enterprises Inc. said Dariah Management Services Co. has been licensed to open Carl's Jr. restaurants in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Egypt. Dariah, based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is one of the largest privately owned catering firms in the Middle East.
The first Carl's Jr. in the Middle East is scheduled to open in Dubai next year, and plans call for at least nine more restaurants within five years, said Steve Kishi, Karcher's vice president for international development.
The agreement is only the latest in a series of recent international expansions for Karcher. Through licensees, Carl's Jr. now operates four restaurants in Japan and one in Monterrey, Mexico. A Carl's Jr. is to open in Malaysia next month.
Dariah presently operates 10 Pizza Inn restaurants and single Taco Time and Popeye's Famous Fried Chicken restaurants. The company also operates a hamburger restaurant at a food court in Dubai but wanted to affiliate with a well-known chain, Kishi said.
Carl's Jr. was a top choice because of its hip California image. "You have a lot of affluence (in the Middle East), and they are not looking for the same thing," Kishi said. Carl's Jr. is known in the industry for its varied menu, although its prices are generally higher than some competitors like Taco Bell.
The Middle East is a ready market for hamburger chains, Kishi said. Hardee's has outlets in the Middle East, and Burger King and Wendy's are preparing to enter the market. McDonald's has stayed out so far, he added.
The new Carl's Jr. restaurants in the Middle East will have to adhere to local customs, Kishi said, such as closing at Muslim prayer times and not serving pork products.
The deal was two years in the making. Kishi said the two companies were close to an agreement when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August, 1990. Negotiations were postponed until after the war.