The company will sign a contract with Al-Rashed, a gulf region distributor, which will become a franchisee in the region.
According to reports in Ireland, new outlets are planned for the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait. And more stores will open in Denmark and India as the company continues on a broad-ranging expansion.
O’Brien’s managing director, Brody Sweeney, said that professionals in the Middle East region are increasingly trying to buy non-American sourced products, particularly since the war with Iraq.
Similar shopping patterns have afflicted other American brands in the region such as Coca Cola and McDonald’s, both of which have found Muslims in the region are buying Arab-made alternatives.
“[They] prefer to take non-American brands if they can help it. We are picking up an anti-American sentiment under the surface after the Gulf War,” Sweeney told reporters.
O’Brien’s has developed a pork-free, halal meat-only menu for the Gulf region. A Malaysian O’Brien’s outlet has also adopted the same Muslim-friendly menu.
Sweeney added that O’Brien’s Middle Eastern outlets would also close during the five daily hours of prayer and then stay open late after the final prayer at 9 p.m. until midnight — traditionally a busy period. A separate area would be maintained for men folk to congregate.
Said Sweeney: “Saudi Arabia is booming and very wealthy, they are mad about anything Western. And we are catering for our usual clients — young white-collar professionals with disposal income.”
Sweeney’s South Asia program will see 30 outlets opening in India in the next 10 years.
This will make the sandwich company a truly global player, with more than 220 stores in U.S., Ireland, Britain, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and Denmark.
O’Brien’s gave the Denmark franchise to former McDonald’s Denmark CEO Jesper Gad Andresen, who has committed to opening three outlets in Copenhagen in the next 12 months. Once again, the O’Brien’s model will be adopted to approach Danish tastes.
The company will also supply athletes during the Special Olympics, including the 120-strong Indian contingent that is being hosted in Athlone. An estimated 200,000 sandwiches will be served to more than 7,000 athletes and coaches during the games, which are having their first meeting outside the U.S..
The Indian team will test O’Brien’s commitment to choice once again as 85 percent of them are vegetarian.
Athletes returning from their training session will be served an O’Brien’s vegetarian-style platter, made up of organic hummus, vegetarian cheddar cheese and salads, followed by apple tart and cream. To ensure the team feels really at home, O’Brien’s in Athlone has sourced caffeine-free lemonade, as the team doesn’t drink tea or coffee.
Athlone franchisee Nicola Harvey Neill said that feeding the Special Olympics athletes was a source of pride for O’Brien’s staff.
“O’Brien’s involvement in the Games has touched the hearts and minds of O’Brien’s employees around the globe,” she said.
“Here in Athlone we are really delighted to welcome these amazing athletes to our town, sharing with them a little taste of Ireland and learning about their country and their achievements,” she added.