You have to do something rather special to stand out in the fast-food market nowadays. Needless to say, world gourmet wrap franchise Wrap It Up! is a solid contender
As crowded markets go, the fast-food arena is right up there. Whilst the likes of McDonalds and Subway continue to dominate the landscape, a host of new and exciting concepts have come to the fore since the turn of the millennium, all offering a fresh take on overseas cuisines. Whether it’s a consequence of people conducting more business on the move, or just part and parcel of globalisation, there has certainly been a demand for a greater choice of tasty hunger remedies. Suffice to say, this demand is being met, and then some.
One company tapping into this trend with relative success is Wrap it Up!, founded by Faisal Haque and Afnan Bashir in 2006. Having taken the decision to franchise its gourmet tortilla wrap offering in 2010, the company now boasts 11 stores across Central London and has been attracting significant investment as a result. However, whilst Haque and Bashir may have been responsible for tentatively introducing the humble tortilla wrap to the British fast-food market, it is another man that has turned it into such an intriguing business proposition.
Managing director Tayub Mushtaq became the firm’s first franchisee in 2010 after previously turning around the fortunes of its flagship store – a kiosk outside Liverpool Street station. He was soon overseeing four franchised outlets under the Wrap It Up! banner and Haque and Bashir ultimately decided to let Mushtaq drive the brand forward. You could almost say the rest is history but it is probably worth taking things back to the start before delving deeper into what lays ahead for Wrap it Up!
Mushtaq explains that the notion of a world gourmet wrap enterprise originally emanated from the adventures of the afore-mentioned co-founders. “Faisal and Afnan came up with the idea through travelling the world, seeing the different forms of street food, how it is served and the ingredients that are used,” he says. “They came up with the idea of putting together a combination of global products under one roof, which are served and prepared fresh for each and every customer.”
Indeed, what is also quite endearing about Mushtaq’s own entry into the Wrap it Up! journey is his experience as a consumer beforehand. “I worked in the city before I bought into the business and I used to have my lunch at Wrap It Up! for two to three years – I fell in love with the food,” he adds. “And in 2010, when they still had their first store, they started to advertise to bring in franchisees to help grow the business, and that is the stage that I thought ‘it is a good brand, it is a good concept’.”
Certainly, attempting to name another retailer whose focus is on tortilla wraps is an ultimately fruitless endeavour. But this in itself is what makes Wrap It Up! the compelling venture that it is, and goes some way to explaining the £2.5m it has thus far risen from private investors. “That is testament to the fact that the product works and it can compete with a burger, it can compete with a sandwich,” says a bullish Mushtaq. “People are fed up with eating boring bread sandwiches. They want more filling, they want fresh quality good produce, and we deliver.”
Naturally, there were some investors who Mushtaq wasn’t quite able to win over, including the five entrepreneurs who grace our television screens on Sunday nights once or twice a year. However, Mushtaq puts a positive spin on his Dragons’ Den experience, describing it as “the best PR we have ever had”. Moreover, there was recognition from the panel that Wrap It Up! filled a gap in a notoriously competitive market, and it was ostensibly only Mushtaq’s lofty valuation of the business that stopped the Dragons from coming on board. The company also undertook a rebrand as a result of feedback from the show, something which Mushtaq admits was a useful bit of advice.
Commenting on the rebrand, he says: “It gives the stores a world theme, a world feel. It gives customers the experience that they are actually coming into a store where they can see the influences of the food and how it has been absorbed by different cultures.”
Not one to be held down though, Mushtaq intends to appear on the show again next year, daring to go one further this time. “I will be going in at double the investment for half the equity because since the show was aired, and by the time I get to go on the show next year, we would have nearly tripled in size in terms of revenues and store numbers.”
Significant growth is definitely on the horizon for Wrap It Up!, and it will be a process where franchising has an important part to play. “We want to get up to 50 stores in the next three to five years, of which 35 would be company-owned and 15 would be franchised,” he explains. “And these are very conservative figures. It might well be that with the investment we have got and the potential of new franchisees that we open 70 or 80, but realistically we are targeting to get up to 50 stores by the end of year five.”
The interest is certainly there with almost 15 new franchisees already having paid their deposits. And the recent acquisition of Mexican fast-food chain Flying Burrito also looks like a sign of things to come. “We do feel that our concept and the product goes hand-in-hand and can compete with the likes of your Subway, your Burger King, your McDonalds,” says Mushtaq. “Wraps are the next big thing.” Time will tell of course, but given the belief that he has in his venture, we’ll give Mushtaq the benefit of the doubt for now.