An American pizza company had everything in place for its first expansion out of its home market except one important detail: its name. Naked Pizza, a name that refers to pizza without preservatives, added sugar or "trans fats", had to change its name to NKD Pizza for its expansion to the UAE to avoid raising local eyebrows.
"We just wanted to be sensitive culturally, because the name could be offensive to some people if they didn't understand the product ?" said Ian Ohan, the GCC area developer for the company. "We wanted to be very, very careful not to offend anyone here in the region." NKD Pizza, which was started in New Orleans by Jeff Leach and is backed by the US billionaire Mark Cuban, plans two test outlets in Dubai this year and hopes to expand into Abu Dhabi by next year. The chain, which will have 15 stores in the US by the end of this year, aims to open 100 stores across the GCC within five years.
"Dubai just seems like the natural first start," said Mr Ohan. "It's an established population, there is very little choice here in terms of healthy fast-food options, and it's also a very dynamic business environment. It's really a great crossroads for business from all over the world." The chain has also been a leader in using social media such as Twitter to promote its business in the US. It has established a NKD Pizza Twitter feed specifically for Dubai.
And for the many regional residents whose guilty pleasure is a trip to a fast-food restaurant, it's good news. With troubling rates of obesity and diabetes in the Emirates, more consumers are becoming health conscious. According to a Datamonitor survey released last year, 79 per cent of participants in the UAE and Saudi Arabia said they were more health-conscious than they were two years ago, taking more care to read nutrition labels and seeking out products with health benefits before buying.
Mr Ohan said NKD Pizza uses all natural ingredients and its crust is made with 12 grains and seeds. A slice has about half the calories of their competitors, he added. "It's really about what there isn't in there," he said. "It's all natural food and it happens to be served in a fast-food format. "People sort of villainise fast food but a white linen cloth doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you."