The first international location of Buffalo’s Southwest Café opened its doors in Salmiya, Kuwait Dec. 12, nearly three years after a Kuwaiti businessman first approached the Marietta-based restaurant system in search of franchise rights.
“At the time (of the initial proposal), we were definitely looking to expand internationally because I think overseas markets hold the greatest potential for the U.S. restaurant industry today,” Ray Cabana, chief executive of Buffalo’s Franchise Concepts Inc., told GlobalFax in an interview last week. “But we certainly weren’t looking at Kuwait.”
Hussain Al-Saeed, the Kuwaiti entrepreneur, was not to be deterred however, and succeeded in convincing the company that American restaurant concepts were marketable to the restaurant-going public in his country, Mr. Cabana explained.
Mr. Al-Saeed, Kuwait-born and educated at the University of Southern California, now owns the franchise rights for Buffalo’s Café in the region and already has plans for expansion, said Mr. Cabana, who remains optimistic for the future of the Buffalo’s dining concept in the Middle East.
The restaurant will serve a variety of southwestern-inspired food, just as in the U.S., he explained, though it will not serve alcohol and has substituted fish courses for dishes with pork or bacon, in accordance with the country’s cultural and religious preferences.
“We found the people of Kuwait to have a very positive attitude toward Western culture and to be receptive to American concepts and American people,” Mr. Cabana said when asked to comment on possible anti-American sentiment in the region. “I’m not too concerned about it.”
Additional U.S.-franchisers with locations in Kuwait include Applebee’s, Chili’s and TGI Fridays, noted Mr Cabana.
Buffalo’s Franchise Concepts has also opened two restaurants in Puerto Rico – the first in December 1998 and the second in May 2001 – as a stepping stone to the Central and South American market, he said.
Founded in 1985, Buffalo’s has approximately 50 U.S. restaurants in Alabama (2), Florida (1), Georgia (37), North Carolina (3), Ohio (1), Pennsylvania (1) and South Carolina (3). Contact Buffalo’s Franchise Concept headquarters at (770) 420-1800 or visit www.buffaloscafe.com