In difference there is opportunity
developing high quality food offerings utilising ethnic cuisines and
building strong business format franchises around them, Mahmoods and
wok2go are two examples of the successful integration of British
multiculturalism and entrepreneurialism
look at any of our high streets reassures me. Britain is finding
opportunity and growth in difference…the UK’s taste for ethnic and
hybrid foods is rapidly growing.”
Text: Tony Urwin
Fully 10 per cent of the British population is foreign-born, yet the
Tiber still flows calmly to the sea a prosaic shade of green. Despite
60 years of cries that the ‘end is near’ our nation is responding as it
always does in the face of other cultures. By adopting what it likes,
and turning it distinctly British in the process.
There is precedent, of course. In 1662, our King Charles II married an
immigrant. A Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza arrived on our
island with a host of curious, even shocking practices from her home
country. For one thing she drank a bitter, stimulating infusion made
with the dried leaves of foreign shrubs. One can only imagine what the
pamphleteers of the day were saying. While some denounced the foreign
queen’s ‘tea’, more tried the beverage and found it to their liking.
Today, a cuppa is quintessentially British, while sardines are
While I cannot fault some of our pundits’ concerns, a look at
any of our high streets reassures me. Britain is finding opportunity
and growth in difference. Two recent clients of FDS-Northern are proof.
Devout Muslims will only eat foods that are permissible
according to Islamic holy law. Foods that are proscribed are called
Haram while those that are allowed are called Halal (which literally
means ‘permissible’). For meat to be halal, it must come from an animal
that was alive and healthy when it was slaughtered. The animal must
have been killed in a precise and humane manner as a religious
dedication was made, and its blood (which is haram) must have been
drained. Most people aren’t aware of the ethical and health benefits of
halal meats, but anyone who has tried some is struck by its taste.
Halal meat is delicious.
Eating halal is relatively difficult in a non-Muslim country. Religious
dedications are not the only practice absent at most slaughter houses.
With most meat haram, eating out becomes a limited experience for many
Tariq Mahmood and his business partner Mahboob Hussain are typical
Britons. They enjoy a good burger, pizza and barbecue chicken, and
won’t let small matters like “health” or “conventional wisdom” get in
the way. In 2001 the Bradford-based pair opened Mahmoods , a
comprehensively-branded restaurant offering a fully halal menu of
Britain’s fast food delights. To their surprise the restaurant was just
as successful with the city’s student population as it was with
Bradford’s Islamic population (one taste of their delicious fare and
you too will be a fan).
A second Mahmoods opened in the city to keep up with demand,
followed by another in Leeds, and now another in Dewsbury. With
enquiries and interest coming from all corners of the UK, Mahmood and
Hussain knew that franchising was the best way to meet the anticipated
nationwide demand for their unique offering while maintaining an
unerring commitment to quality. The franchise will not be available
until Spring 2008, yet word of mouth alone has Mahmood and Hussain
planning for their first franchising class. Mahmoods is a distinctly
British invention. What other Western country could produce a
profitable franchise based on Halal pizza and burgers?
George Leung was initiated into the rich culinary traditions of China
at an early age. His father was a star chef in Liverpool’s Chinatown
and the owner of five successful restaurants. Reared in his father’s
kitchens, George was cooking alongside master chefs by the age of 11
and a star chef in his own right by 21. Following in his father’s
footsteps he opened a series of wildly popular restaurants, but refused
to stop there.
Hoping to popularise the authentic flavours of true Chinese
cooking, George created wok2go. A health-oriented take-away with high
quality standards, wok2go systematised elaborate recipes so that anyone
could prepare authentic, fresh and healthy Asian dishes. The tremendous
success of wok2go made franchising the most logical way to manage its
rapid expansion. Today, Britons are not only eating good Asian food,
they are making it, regardless of where they were born. We love good
Asian food and we not only found a way to enjoy it, but to make it a
profitable business too. Nothing could be more British.
I’d love to buy some of our noisier pundits a burger at
Mahmoods and then take them around to meet any one of wok2go’s many
successful franchise owners. The rivers are foaming all right – but
with opportunity and profit.
The UK’s taste for ethnic and hybrid foods is rapidly growing. If your
restaurant or take-away is riding the wave, contact me without delay.
You may be sitting on the next British national dish.