Arby's will localize its menu somewhat in the Saudi market.

Saudi Arabia will soon “have the meats,” presumably without the pork.  

Inspire Brands, the fast-growing Atlanta-based franchising company, has ambitious plans for its Arby’s sandwich concept in the Middle Eastern country starting in late 2022. 

It’s safe to bet bacon will be off the menu in the conservative kingdom that makes much of its position as the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam, but despite what the company foresees as local adaptations to the menu, its fundamentals will remain the same: warm meat sandwiches with melted cheeses on heated buns featuring fresh-sliced meats including roast beef, smoked brisket and roasted chicken. 

Inspire did not disclose the number of planned restaurants in Saudi, but Michael Haley, president and managing director of international, said he was excited about the “runway” for growth in the Middle East, a “cornerstone” of the brand’s global strategy which “has the potential for hundreds of Arby’s locations.” 

Bolstering his confidence in the move and the market itself is Inspire’s existing relationship with the master licensee selected in the country: Shahia Foods Limited Co. Shahia is already the licensee for Dunkin’ in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, operating more than 500 locations across those two countries and Germany. 

Inspire acquired Massachusetts-based coffee and donut chain Dunkin’ and its sister brand Baskin-Robbins ice cream in late 2020 for $11.3 billion, solidifying the Atlanta holding company’s as a bona fide franchising giant while bolstering its international portfolio. Arby’s, unlike many American brands, has largely focused on North America until recent years. Its first major foreign foray was a 100-restaurant arrangement in South Korea launched in 2018. That was just after Inspire was formed by founders from Atlanta-based Roark Capital and Arby’s, in which Roark had acquired a majority stake in 2011. 

Mr. Haley told Global Atlanta in an email that it’s no coincidence that Arby’s is entering Saudi Arabia with one of Inspire’s Dunkin’ franchisees. 

“Inspire’s acquisition of Dunkin’ and Baskin-Robbins brought a scaled international platform and strong franchisee base, enabling us to fuel global growth across the portfolio. As part of Inspire, franchisees have the unique opportunity to diversify their businesses with our differentiated yet complementary concepts, all backed by the strength of the Inspire platform,” Mr. Haley said. 

Saud Abdullah Al Athel, chief executive officer of Shahia, said his company sees it the same way. 

“Arby’s differentiated market positioning and convenient guest experience are a perfect complement to our thriving Dunkin’ business,” he said in a news release. 

Arby’s still has a long way to go to balance out its global portfolio. Of the more than 3,500 restaurants it operates globally, just 150 or so are internationally based. They’re spread across Canada, Mexico, Turkey, South Korea, Japan and Egypt.

According to a map on its website, the company is also looking into Southeast Asia, Central Europe, Central America and even France. 

Inspire’s portfolio includes nearly 32,000 Arby’s, Baskin-Robbins, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dunkin’, Jimmy John’s, Rusty Taco and SONIC Drive-In locations across 60 countries and all 50 states. 

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...