SATISFYING IRAN’S FAST-FOOD HUNGER

Iran 2017 | AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES & FOOD | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ata Ghotbi, Chairman of ATA Corporation, on local eating trends, interest of international fast-food chains in Iran, and expanding into regional countries.

What capabilities have allowed you to build one of the respected brands in the Iranian food industry?

The most important variables that help us to be respected in the food and beverage industry are the infrastructure and customization of our licensed brands. From the creation and the design of the brand to the management strategy, having these capabilities in the Iranian legal environment along with the right certification from the government are the most important factors to succeed. The full range of the services that brands need in the food industry are provided by ATA Corporation, and this is the most important focus to attract major firms such as KFC or McDonalds. I am proud to say that ATA is now the leader in the fast food industry in Iran. We have a different and varied share of the total sales of the fast food industry. Due to our 10 years of experience, we have established 35 branches between our two brands, Atawich and Grill Fast Food 17. Our market research is based on the young consumers, and our brands are customized accordingly. Our R&D section renews the menu every six months based on the results of thorough research. As generations pass, the eating trends of Iranians have changed, and nowadays we are moving toward healthier food with fewer calories. In this regard, Grill Fast Food 17 aims to offer a healthy option for youngsters, whereas Atawich targets families.

Do you forecast an increase of foreign brands coming to Iran?

We had many requests to be the master franchisee of international brands like KFC or McDonalds in Iran. If anyone would like to invest in the Iranian fast food industry, we will help them with full customer proposals. There are untapped opportunities following the sanctions, when no major brands entered the market. In this sense, we are join ventured with MAKPA group. We are the third party, which manages the implementation of the global brand in the country, and we are now in the process of franchising. At the same time, we want to expand our franchises in the Persian Gulf, Turkey, and CIS countries. After the lifting of sanctions, we have had several requests for opening franchises of Atawich and Grill Fast Food 17 abroad. Our products are new for foreign countries in the portion size and the way they are cooked, so there is a lot of interest. We are currently negotiating with some major franchisees in Turkey, Kuwait, and the UAE.

How are you adapting your business to global standards amid plans to expand across the Middle East?

After predicting that sanctions were going to be lifted, we designed a vision of where we would like to be over the next decade. We have prepared ourselves and adapted to Iranian standards by developing a supply chain system which is specialized for Iran. Now we have an inspection team operating throughout our branches with the main idea of expanding in the Middle East and the neighboring countries. We are also preparing ourselves to be the first choice for big brands such as McDonalds coming to Iran, developing our capabilities to support the franchising process when international brands join the market.