Shakespeare and Company brews up for expansion abroad

The cafe chain, based in Dubai, is taking its popular act on to the international stage. It is looking at new franchise locations in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

The cafe chain Shakespeare and Company, based in Dubai, is taking its popular act on to the international stage. The company is looking at new franchise locations in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, according to its business development manager Suzanne Blake. She said Shakespeare and Co had worked to develop and refine the brand since it opened its first cafe in Dubai in 2001 and was now ready to make its mark abroad.

"The UAE is a small country, so it only makes sense to go and look at the GCC and after you're in the GCC to move into other sectors as well," Ms Blake said. Shakespeare and Co opened its first cafe outside the UAE in Damascus in February and will open another franchise in Bahrain before the end of the year, Ms Blake said. The chain is already in discussions with potential franchise partners and plans to open other cafes across the Middle East within the next five years, she said. Europe and the US were longer-term targets, she added.

The market for coffee in the Middle East is booming, with sales of freshly brewed cups growing from an estimated US$45.7 million in the UAE in 2004 (Dh167.8) to $351.6m last year, and by more than 30 per cent in Morocco and Saudi Arabia in the same period, data from Euromonitor International show. Shakespeare and Co is continuing to expand on the domestic front, too, and opened its first cafe in Abu Dhabi, in the Central Market development, about two weeks ago, said Ms Blake. It also plans to open a cafe in Al Ain Mall this year and another in Paragon Bay in the capital next year, she added.

Still, Shakespeare and Co has not been immune to the fallout from the economic downturn. In response, the retailer has streamlined its processes to reduce costs and stopped hiring staff, said Ms Blake. It has kept cafe prices steady but reduced what it charges for its catering services, she added. "People are less willing to spend on parties and company get-togethers. Those things have become more competitive in pricing."

aligaya@thenational.ae

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