Jones the Grocer's Yunib Siddiqui on his retail chain's expansion
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Jones the Grocer’s Yunib Siddiqui on the retail chain’s expansion

Jones the Grocer’s Yunib Siddiqui on the retail chain’s expansion

Jones the Grocer has 24 stores and cafes across the Middle East. Yunib Siddiqui, the CEO spoke to Gulf Business about growing his food retail business

Zubina Ahmed
Jones the Grocer

Jones the Grocer specialises in gourmet food since 1996 in Australia. Tell us more about it’s growth, scale and revenue in the Middle East over the last few years.
The first Jones the Grocer store opened in Abu Dhabi in 2009 and the second on Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai in 2010 and since then it has been a unique journey of learning and growth.  Those two stores set a benchmark for casual dining in the UAE and the region. Today in 2022, we have 24 stores with system revenues exceeding $32m and several more opening throughout this and next year.

Jones the Grocer CEO
Yunib Siddiqui, CEO of Jones the Grocer

Our uniqueness comes from two folds. We cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner from scratch. Nothing is bought in. Every recipe has batch recipes – in other words, if a dish uses vegetable stock, we boil the vegetables with herbs and garlic to make the stock rather than buy it in readymade. It’s all about achieving the best flavour which surpasses anyone else in our space.

We bake our bread from scratch, no pre-mixes. Just butter, flour, eggs, and yeast. We make our own pastry too, all of it every day. We roast our coffee locally to our recipe and pour a fantastic cup. On the retail end, our stores typically carry 200-900 globally and locally sourced gourmet small-batch artisan groceries of which half are exclusive to us and around 30 per cent are labelled Jones the Grocer. We have a walk-in artisan cheese room and charcuterie, we conduct children’s food workshops and adult cooking classes.

How are you growing an F&B Business through franchising while retaining a strong identity?
Our recipe to success is strong, time tested, continuously improving and well-documented operating systems twinned with training and compliance – these elements are our backbone for a credible franchise expansion. We audit all our partners monthly for both brand and operational compliance and work with them to imbibe everything to deliver consistently good and memorable experiences across our stores.

We aim to tickle the fancy of food enthusiasts with natural ingredients culled from different parts of the globe. Our highlights include the jones traditional full English breakfast, the home-made coconut pancakes, the chicken Caesar salad, the sea bass fillet and the ultimate burger. Not to mention the plethora of mouthwatering desserts and specialty drinks. We also have options for everyone from vegan to meat-lovers.

Jones the Grocer
Jones the Grocer store

Tell us about your strategic partnerships with hotels.
Hotels have always been an interesting proposition for us. They are brilliant at selling rooms but often not so good at their casual F&B. There’s a natural synergy between quality hotel brands and us. We drive increased dwell time in properties by offering dining and entertaining across all day parts. We host events such as cooking classes and workshops for kids which appeals to resort hotels. Our gourmet grocery, artisan cheese and deli provide guests with an option to eat good food in their rooms or serviced apartments. Our recent partnerships include Delta by Marriott, with a Jones the Grocer store opening at their JBR property.

What are the key trends of the region’s F&B industry and your expansion plans?
F&B appears to be back after the covid hiatus in Dubai. Abu Dhabi has still to get to where it was pre-covid. Regionally, Riyadh and Doha are hot spots. But I have a sense that rent to revenue ratios are still off-kilter. There is pressure on good operators to perform like showmen, beyond cooking and serving food, to squeeze out every last drop of revenue in imaginative, perhaps unsustainable ways.

At the current state, we’re undergoing a vast expansion stage both regionally and globally. The next six months will be busy with 10 stores opening in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, India, and UAE – Dubai specifically.  Looking forward to 2023 we’ve got further expansion set in Saudi Arabia and India, and site plans for the UK.

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