U.S. Franchise Trade Mission makes final stop in Qatar



By Scott Lehr, CFE, Senior Vice President, U.S. & International Development, International Franchise Association

We had arrived at our final destination of the U.S. Franchise Trade Mission to the Middle East – Doha, Qatar.  Ten days of planes, hotels, meetings, mall tours and hauling luggage but most importantly many, new relationships with prospective master franchisees, stronger connections with our Commercial Service friends and lasting memories with members and peers from the franchise delegation.

The group of Greenberry’s, Pollo Tropical, Tutor Doctor and Wing Zone pushed forward into Qatar. Hertz Rental joined for the morning sessions our first day in Doha but were heading out that afternoon.

The U.S. Commercial Service staff, Robert Dunn, Senior Commercial Officer, Mahmound Skhiri, Senior Commercial Specialist and Anissa Lahreche, Commercial Specialist met us at the airport and got us to the hotel to rest up for a packed day at the hotel filled with briefings and one-one meetings.  In the morning we were joined by Natalia Hernandez, Commercial Assistant and Golda Agnazata.

Michael Palmer from Patton Boggs led off the morning sessions with a legal update and “Doing Business in Qatar” briefing. Palmer confirmed that there is no specific franchise law in Qatar, only the need to register the Franchise trademark. He stressed that franchisors need to be in control of the trademarks, licenses and ownership of materials in the country. As in some other countries in the Middle East, he cautioned that the Franchise Agreement is sometimes registered as an exclusive agency which is not recommended and described the preferred practice which is a franchise licensing arrangement.

While discussing some of the challenges of the market, it was agreed that franchisors will have to deal with supply chain and approved supplier issues since many items especially for food franchisors will need to be imported.

The group then had the opportunity to hear from local franchisees that have been operating in the market for a number of years.  Mr. Vijay Arora, Operations Manager with Chili’s – Qatar, part of International Food Concepts Company has been operating in Qatar for 12 years and sees strong potential for growth as long as the population growth keeps up with the building in the area.  Mohamed Ekram, Brand Operations Manager of Popeyes which is also part of the International Food Concept Company is currently operating five Popeye’s in the area and has plans to develop up to 16 in the next few years.  He cautioned the franchisors to look for strong food experienced partners or face lots of problems in getting their concepts opened and operating.  He said that “kid friendly” and play area locations will drive sales and build loyal followings.

Finally Camille Aoun of the Al Jassim Group which operates Burger King Restaurants, Quiznos Sub Shops and other brands including hotels advised the franchise delegation to be cautious to find the right partner that is interested in operating profitable food businesses instead of locating a partner that invests in franchised businesses to have them in their portfolio as a badge of honor and prestige that may never open a significant number of locations.  He cautioned the group that they need to look for partners that can be in the market for the long term due to the growth of the retail real estate market that is outpacing the population growth creating more space than demand for product.

The final speaker before lunch was Garrett Grennan with Ernst & Young who talked with the group about tax implications for franchisors with operations in Qatar. He reported that franchise royalty is subject to withholding tax of 5 percent and that corporate income tax is 10 percent.  He also mentioned that although basic food products are not subject to customs tariff, processed foods are subject to a 5 percent tariff so franchisors need to work these figures into their calculations for the market.

The Commercial Service team had arranged for a press event that included more than a dozen media in Doha including The Peninsula, Qatar Tribune, Qatar News Agency, Doha News, Arabian Business and Qatar Today.  Members of the press fired questions at the delegation and everyone shared their stories on looking for partners for their brands in Qatar.

Lunch was hosted that afternoon by the American Chamber of Commerce of Qatar and represented by Robert Hager, Founding Chairman and Theresa Backus Dunn, Executive Director.

Once again, the group rolled into a full afternoon and evening of one-one meetings that had been previously set and prequalified by the Commercial Service staff in Doha making for a full and productive day.

Day two in Doha began with a retail tour of a number of malls in Doha and massive new community projects.  The delegation enjoyed a great breakfast at the new Tim Horton’s Coffee Shop in Ezdan Mall followed by a tour of the mall which included a number of American brands open or in the process of being built including KFC, Papa Johns, Fuddruckers, Pinkberry, Robecks, Subway and Johnny Rockets.

The group also toured two mixed use communities, Katara and The Pearl, a community 20 kilometers north of downtown Doha. The Pearl Qatar is a mixed-use development which includes beachfront villas, town homes, luxury apartments, penthouses, five-star hotels, marinas, and upscale retail and restaurants all situated on a man-made island encompassing 985 acres.  This project complete with all the top high end brands including Ferrari, Maserati and Rolls Royce dealers and retail brands to match will certainly be on the list of places to visit while in Qatar.

The last official function of the U.S. Franchise Trade Mission to the Middle East ended with a lunch at the St. Regis looking out at the Pearl-Qatar.  The lunch was hosted by the U.S. Ambassador of Qatar, Susan Ziadeh and the Qatari Businessmen Association and represented by Hussain Ebrhim Alfardan, Deputy Chairman of the Board who is also Chairman of the Alfardan Group, which has businesses in jewelry, real estate and the automotive areas.  Also in attendance was Hamad Bin Faisal Bin Thani Al Thani, Chairman of Al Khaliji one of Qatar’s leading banks.

As the trade mission participants said their goodbye’s after 11 days together, everyone was optimistic that they would be back soon hopefully to sign deals in a number of the countries they had visited over the past week and a half.

VetFran Committee Chair Joe Lindenmayer Joins SBA Administrator Mills to Announce Veteran Lending Initiative

Ft. Bragg

The Small Business Administration (SBA) announced Tuesday the Veteran Pledge Initiative.   The initiative is a commitment by top SBA national, regional and community lenders to collectively increase their lending activity to veterans by five percent per year for the next five years.  VetFran Committee Chair Joe Lindenmayer of TSS Photography and VetFran Committee member Rich Bradshaw of TD Bank joined the SBA’s Administrator Karen Mills and representatives of the SBA lending community, the U.S. Army, and transitioning service members interested  in small business ownership at Ft. Bragg. VetFran was invited to speak on behalf of existing and prospective veteran franchise owners as well as franchisors eager to add veterans to their systems.

In his remarks during the announcement, Joe Lindenmayer expressed “Today, VetFran boasts a record 579 franchise companies offering financial incentives, training and mentoring to veterans interested in franchise ownership and there are no shortage of veterans interested in franchising, with the VetFran Directory receiving over 44,000 hits a month.  Where the equation all too often breaks down is access to credit.  The goal of this initiative is to close the lending gap, a problem which is preventing many otherwise worthy veterans from becoming franchisees and leaders in the civilian economy.”

With the support of SBA’s top 20 national lending partners, and approximately 100 additional regional and community lending partners across the United States, SBA expects to assist an additional 2,000 veterans obtain loans to start or expand small businesses by increasing lending by $475 million over the next five years. This equals a five percent increase above historic veteran lending activity by the SBA.

“Our service men and women have made incalculable contributions and sacrifices for our country, and supporting them as they pursue their dreams to start or grow their own business is one of SBA’s highest priorities”said SBA Administrator Karen Mills, a consistent VetFran supporter.  “Through this partnership with national lending partners and regional and community lenders across the U.S., we stand ready to serve veteran entrepreneurs with loan-guarantees, entrepreneurial training, and resources that are critical tools to help them start businesses, drive the local economy and create jobs for themselves and their communities.”

JoeL Ft.. Bragg


Joe Lindenmayer with past Chairman of the National Association of Development Companies (NADCO) Chairman Scott Davis, President & CEO of Mountain West Small Business Finance and Charlie Cleary of Self-Help Ventures, a leading Certified Development Company (CDC) based in Durham, NC.   The nation’s CDCs delivered 10% of their $6 billion in loans to veterans in 2012 and pledged to increase that volume 5% per year for the next five years.

The initiative complements IFA’s access to credit campaign including Small Business Lending Summits in 2011 and 2012.  Rich Bradshaw, the head of SBA lending at TD Bank, said franchises are an especially popular choice for veterans and that most of the franchise loans TD expects to make as part of the initiative will be under $150,000.  Veterans have a proven track record in franchising, with one in seven U.S. franchise businesses being veteran-owned. Lindenmayer said “As a franchisor, Chair of the VetFran Committee and most of all as a proud Marine veteran, I commend the SBA, and its lending partners for stepping in to fill this void and provide essential financing”.


Six Franchise Execs Return for “Uncover Boss” Finale as Epic Bosses

Three years, 60 CEOs and several Emmy awards later, CBS’ “Undercover Boss” highlighted 10 CEOs on May 17 whose lives were most affected by their appearance on the popular reality series, including six IFA franchise member executives. Despite challenges and unforeseen twists during their undercover episodes, these franchise executives used the experience to implement business-building programs and some personal life changes.  Here are some highlights from the show by order of appearance.

brooks_franblogFormer Hooter’s of America CEO Coby Brooks, who is now a Twin Peaks operator, called the experience positive.  Despite a controversial bean-eating contest overseen by a Hooter’s manager, Brooks said of the show, “morale was actually heightened and everyone felt more of a sense of family.” Brooks said he’d do it again and would recommend appearing on the show “with or without the cameras.”

katcole_franblogAnother Hooter’s alumna and youngest boss to be featured on the program was Kat Cole, president of Cinnabon International Inc. Cole’s episode featured a go-getter employee named Mayra Vargas, who since the program aired, was invited to corporate headquarters for training to see what is possible for her, which could include becoming a CEO.

The show also captured how CEOs reached out to help their employees.  Since “Undercover Boss” first aired, more than $5 million has been distributed to reward employees.

Cole said one of the best things was the show “helped remind me how important it is to give back at every opportunity.” Cinnabon supported and facilitated a nationwide fundraiser on learning that Vargas’ mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Cinnabon will match the first $10,000 in charitable donations.

fertman_franblogSubway Chief Development Officer Don Fertman learned during his appearance that “this is a great opportunity to hear from our sandwich artists” after hearing suggestions from an employee named Jesse who thought she’d never get the ear of someone at headquarters.  Upon receiving a suggestion from their sandwich artists, Subway puts it through a market test through the research and development department.

But it was the personal journey that might have most affected Fertman, who during the initial show revealed that he was a 27-year recovered alcoholic. His earlier appearance on “Undercover Boss” led him to connect and encourage via email with a viewer named Harold who was struggling after two weeks of recovery. The two met during filming for the May 17 “Epic Bosses” segment where viewers learned Harold had been sober two years.  “We’ve got to give each other hope,” said Fertman.

View additional IFA members BELFOR CEO Sheldon Yellen, The Dwyer Group Chairwoman and CEO Dina Dwyer-Owens, CFE, and Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, Inc. President and CEO Rick Silva here.

U.S. Franchise Trade Mission lands in Amman



By Scott Lehr, CFE, Senior Vice President, U.S. & International Development, International Franchise Association

Arriving by plane to Amman, the first thing you notice is the immaculate new airport.  Modern, clean and efficient would best describe the scene as the U.S. Franchise delegation maneuvered through immigration and picked up their bags. The companies participating in Jordan included Hertz Equipment Rental, Johnny Rockets, Pollo Tropical, Tutor Doctor and Wing Zone.  The group gathered on Saturday evening with Sandy Owens, Commercial Counselor and Muna Farkouh, Senior Commercial Specialist for the U.S. Commercial Service in Amman receive their schedules and prepare for the following day. Almost 40 one-on-one appointments were booked for the participating franchise companies for the one and a half days that we would be here in Amman.

Sunday morning, the U.S. Commercial Service and the American Chamber of Commerce in Jordan hosted a breakfast for the delegation which included a visit by the U.S. Ambassador of Jordan, Stuart Jones.  Mohammed S. Bataineh, Chairman of The American Chamber was also in attendance.  The group met and discussed the opportunities for U.S. Brands in Jordan and connections to other markets in the region.


The delegation then heard from Nancy Dababneh of International Business Legal Associates on the current laws affecting franchising in Jordan.  She reported that there is no specific franchise law in Jordan and that Franchise Agreements are governed by civil law. She also stressed the importance of spelling out in the Franchise Agreement the specific relationship between the franchisor and franchisee.  She mentioned that there have been cases where the government considered the franchise relationship similar to a commercial agent/agency relationship and that the agreement should be viewed as an intellectual property license instead. The delegation then moved into their individual meetings which would be the focus for most of the day in Amman.


That evening, the group gathered at the Sufra Restaurant located in an old mansion on Rainbow Street in Amman for local Middle Eastern food and good conversation with new friends from the American Chamber in Jordan & colleagues from the mission.  It was fascinating to learn about the Jordanian market from some of Jordan’s most prominent business leaders.

Day 2 in Amman included breakfast at a local restaurant and retail tours of two malls in Amman including Taj Mall and CityMall which showcased some of the American Brands that are already in Jordan including McDonald’s KFC, Quiznos, Hardees, Burger King, Carvel and Cinnabon.

Next and last stop on the U.S. Franchise Trade Mission to the Middle East is Doha, Qatar!

IFA continues Franchise Trade Mission with meetings to advance U.S. franchise brands in Libya



By Scott Lehr, CFE, Senior Vice President, U.S. & International Development, International Franchise Association

Libya was not even on the list of countries that the U.S. Franchise Trade Mission to the Middle East was stopping at but Ann Bacher, Regional Counselor of Commercial Affairs for Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Jordon and Lebanon of the U.S. Commercial Service had connections. Ann’s connections and interest in advancing Libya led Behzed Daniel Ferdows of Mammut Technocrete to Cairo to meet with international franchise company executives participating in the trade mission.


Daniel’s businesses, based in Dubai, UAE are focused in the building and construction industries, primarily steel and concrete.  He had a particular interest in one company participating in the trade mission but had other interests that included food and perhaps education. Daniel’s connection with Libya stems from his wife who is from Tripoli. Libya is currently undergoing political reconstruction, after the civil war and NATO led military invasion in 2011 and the fall of the Gaddafi regime.

As Daniel said “We want to be involved in the rebuilding of the country and they need everything, food and restaurants, education, construction and equipment, you name it…there is opportunity for those that get in early”.  Daniel and his sister in law will be meeting with a number of the franchisors from the trade mission while in Cairo and may attend the International Franchise Expo in New York, NY in June to meet with other franchisors willing to step into the market.

For now, there are only a few U.S. Brands in Libya, which include Cinnabon which is reported to be doing very well.  Johnny Rockets is also there but the first location is not open yet. We will see what the future brings for U.S. Franchise Brands in Libya.

Page 30 of 90« First...1020...2829303132...405060...Last »