Is Halal food the next big thing in Quick Service Restaurants?

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The first time I realized that I might be viewing a new food craze was during a stay at the midtown NYC Hilton several years ago and saw perhaps thirty people, mostly tourists, snaking around 53rd St and onto 6th Avenue. And it was getting close to midnight.

The attraction was the Halal Guys food truck serving up lamb and chicken over rice. As a Bloomberg.com article pointed out after querying the people in line, the halal aspect of the food was not the draw. Somehow this original Halal Guys food truck became a must eat spot through word of mouth.

I think the draw was predominately the lure of tasty food sold at a relatively cheap price.

Therefore, it wasn’t surprising to me that the Halal Guys decided that mid-town NY wasn’t the only place where this could happen. The ambitious decision was made to franchise the food concept not only in the U.S. but worldwide. And so the second Halal Guys opened in Chicago and the third in Costa Mesa, California.

The company lists the menu as chicken, gyro and falafel platters over rice and a famous white sauce. It’s the white sauce that is being heavily touted and an important part of the food concept’s success. Sounds a lot like the very, very secretive coating of world famous KFC’s chicken.

You might well be wondering about the origin and definition of the word “halal” about now and how it influences the QSR franchise concept.

Halal is an Arabic word meaning “permissible” and the contrary for Muslims is Haram meaning “forbidden.” What makes the food halal? For meat to be certified “halal” it cannot be a forbidden cut (such as meat from hindquarters) or animal (such as pork). Also, there are certain guidelines in how the animal is killed and specific rituals in the process.

Kosher food is the closest to halal food in that the Jewish equivalent also specifies certain animal treatment and rituals in the preparation of the meat. Some observant Muslims will eat kosher food, which is often more widely available than halal, but the two standards do have differences.

The numbers for the halal food market is impressive with a worldwide projection of around $1.6 trillion by 2018 but can be considerably higher if we take into account buyers who are not driven by religious adherence. Just like some preferences for kosher food which is fueled by a perception of a healthier product because of the stricter controls employed, halal food can also gain more fans.

MT TIP: If I had to give an opinion on whether or not the halal food concept will succeed my initial observation is the most probable one. Halal food will be popular in the QSR segment as long as it tastes good and is inexpensive.

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