Dubai’s Saif Belhasa Group of Companies is planning to expand its restaurant division with new outlets signed for the Alison Nelson Chocolate Bar brand, the conglomerate’s chairman told Arabian Business in an interview.
The Al Jadaf-based group of companies holds the Gulf franchise rights to the Alison Nelson Chocolate Bar, a café concept built around chocolate products and originally from New York.
It currently operates two outlets in The Dubai Mall, and one each in Mercato Mall, Mirdif City Centre, The Pearl Qatar and Pakistan.
The firm has already signed deals to open the franchise in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and is also hoping to launch in Kuwait in the near future.
UNITED STATES DEVELOPMENT
Alison Nelson's Chocolate Bar in association with it's partners, have created more than a dozen luxury retail destinations in international locations such as Dubai, Qatar and Pakistan. Her investors have committed millions of dollars to expand the brand and procure additional franchises around the globe. Now, owner Alison Nelson knows that is is only a matter of time before a domestic partnership develops and procures the U.S.A territory to create flagships in major cities like New York City, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago amongst others. Her vision is to create a state-of-the-art chocolate factory and baking facility in a high-traffic touristic area of New York City which will house a premium cocoa lounge, groundbreaking beverage bar and one that will service the international needs of the brand by way of experimentation through new recipes and designs significantly increasing the profit margins of internet, wholesale, retail and future franchise sales.
In line with the rising numbers of tourists to Dubai, Belhasa’s family of restaurant franchises — which include the Chocolate Bar, Canadian bakery concept MBCo and Mexican eatery Cantina Mariachi — have all seen brisk expansion.
“We can see the change compared with last year and this year,” he continued. “We can see the number of Saudi tourists who are coming, especially during the Eid period. They are making our restaurants busy and you can see how crowded the malls are.
Most retailers and restaurateurs have been complaining about high rents in the city’s landmark malls, but Belhasa was sanguine about those rates.
“Of course the prices are high, but we don’t have any choice,” he said. “As the shopping centres say ‘we are bringing that many customers to you — you have to respect the place where you are, and you have to pay more for that.
“It’s usual practice. And if you are planning to set up in a new mall, they will ask you to pay 25 percent of a year’s rent in advance. It doesn’t matter if the mall won’t be finished for another three years – you still have to pay 25 percent of the first year’s rent upfront — and we do that.”
Alison Nelson’s Chocolate Bar is New York’s candy store for grown-ups. Since its inception in 2002, Chocolate Bar has started a mini-revolution among chocolate lovers. It has made waves with gourmands and loyalists alike such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts, Scarlett Johanson, Jake Gyllenhal, Leonardo DiCaprio and Uma Thurman and in the process received numerous awards including Timeout New York's "Best Chocolate Store" and Wallpaper Magazine's "Favorite Stores Around the World" to name a few. With locations in New York City, Manasquan, NJ, three UAE stores including Chocolate Bar Dubai in Dubai Mall and Chocolate Bar Mercato, Chocolate Bar Qatar located on the island of The Pearl, and Chocolate Bar Pakistan. Since 2007, 22 additional Middle East stores have been licensed. Visit www.chocolatebarnyc.com
A native New Yorker, Chocolate Bar founding owner, Alison Nelson, sipped her first cup of coffee with her father at the age of 8 and put herself through college on the tips of customers while waiting on tables at top-notch New York coffee shops. She launched Chocolate Bar six years ago with an initial investment of USD 75,000 and since that time she has risen to the heights of the business world. in 2004 she was named one of Gourmet News Magazine’s influential “20 under 40”, in 2006, she was named one of Crain’s Business “40 Under 40” and in 2007 received the Inc Magazine’s award for one of the “Fastest Growing Private Company’s in America”. Her book Chocolate Bar: Recipes and Entertaining Ideas for Living the Sweet Life won the 2005 Gourmand World Cookbook award.