The Shawarmer restaurant group celebrated its 20th anniversary this week with the opening of its 100th location, marking a three-year aggressive expansion strategy that saw the company more than double the size of its operation.
Shawarmer, owned by Innovative Foods Holding, is one of the largest and fastest growing Saudi owned and operated restaurant groups. The company has opened 20 new locations in just over a year and 50 restaurants since 2016 while expanding its presence to more than 20 cities across the Kingdom. As a result of that expansion, the Innovative Foods and Shawarmer workforce has grown to more than 1,500 employees, with 23% representing Saudi nationals.
“We credit our growth and success to the thousands of loyal Shawarmer fans who appreciate and value how we have transformed the Saudi shawarma into a new and ever-changing experience,” said Co-CEO Abdulmohsin Al-Rabiah, one of the founders of Innovative Foods and Shawarmer.
The Shawarmer formula for success is based on an absolute commitment to the shawarma as the hero of the menu, but always with a new twist. The company is known for exploring innovative and creative new interpretations of the shawarma through unique and distinctive variations in sauces, flavours and sandwich styles inspired by local heritage and new food trends, such as blending garlic sauce with cheese in Althayiba Shawarma.
Equally important to the Shawarmer brand model is the concept of modernizing the image and identity of the traditional shawarma sandwich market historically dominated by street vendors. Innovative Foods and Shawarmer achieved this through investment in central processing, strict supply chain management to ensure the use of the highest quality fresh and natural ingredients, the latest food service industry advanced technologies and adherence to international best practices in food handling and service.
Ahmad Al-Rasheed, Co-CEO and one of the company founders, said: “We took a beloved Arabic street food and created a unique brand built on core principles of constant innovation, commitment to quality and service excellence. It’s a formula we believe continues to present great opportunity for growth across Saudi and will also be embraced by shawarma lovers far outside of the Kingdom.”
Shawarmer credits the success of Saudi Vision 2030 for fostering a strong economic and social environment that has contributed to the company’s recent rapid growth as well as an overall vibrant QSR industry. The opening of new entertainment options and the national push to encourage more women to enter the workforce are examples of trends leading to more Saudis dining out as well as valuing the convenience of high-quality take-out and delivery Arabic food options.
“The Vision 2030 transformation initiative opened the door to a unique growth opportunity for a brand like Shawarmer that resonates to strongly with young adults and families across the Kingdom who grew up loving shawarma but also want to explore new food trends,” said Al-Rasheed. “We are seeing that across the Saudi market brands that help improve overall convenience and quality of life are the ones finding the greatest success today. We see this through the growing popularity of our own Shawarmer app as well as the increase in volume we see through our on-demand delivery partners.”
Shawarmer’s 100th restaurant is located in Riyadh’s popular An-Nakheel district. At 390 square metres, it is the largest footprint of any of the Shawarmer restaurants and integrates a number of new customer-centric elements designed to improve the overall customer experience.
The new restaurant design features a fully open kitchen concept that will be included in all new Shawarmer restaurants. The open kitchen enables guests to see every facet of the food preparation process and reinforces Shawarmer’s commitment to a fully transparent approach to its quality and food handling systems.
The latest restaurant will also be used to test new menu items and service concepts. A special counter-style seating area will allow guests waiting for food to try new Shawarmer items the company is testing for potential future inclusion in the menu and provide immediate feedback. The family-style main dining area will also offer games and other recreational items for families and young people to create a more relaxed overall experience.
The restaurant also features new self-ordering kiosks designed to increase convenience, speed of service and cost savings through exclusive offers. Customers using the kiosks can access special discounts on a wide range of menu options that aren’t available through traditional cashier ordering. The new kiosks will be included in all new Shawarmer locations as well as rolled out at existing restaurants over time.
In addition to the new restaurant design, Innovative Foods is investing in a state-of-the-art central processing facility located just south of Riyadh. Slated to open later this year, the high-tech facility will serve Shawarmer restaurants across Saudi with fresh cones, handmade sauces and produce through a specially engineered production and distribution system designed to maintain food quality and freshness in Saudi’s harsh climate conditions.
“Our continued investment in the future of Shawarmer is seen in multiple ways. We are growing our footprint with our restaurant expansion initiative. At the same time, we are investing heavily in our people, new food service and handling technologies, greater infrastructure to support our growth and systems and processes that advance our commitment to food quality and safety,” said Al-Rabiah. “We believe this approach will serve Shawarmer well as we continue our domestic expansion as well as look to the future and our ability to spread the joy of shawarma to key regional and international markets.”