We British have rather exacting standards when it comes to food. Not only do we already have a diverse and exacting palate, but our demand for healthy, well-sourced ingredients means that we can be rather cynical about making room for a new restaurant chain in our hearts. However, the increasing appetite for nutritious vegetarian cuisine as well as our preference for brands with a conscience, means that the UK is likely to have a soft spot for a kitchen blending the tasty yet wholesome falafel with flavours from around the globe. Make way for Just Falafel.
The franchise began life in Abu Dhabi in 2007 when founder Mohamad Bitar spotted a gap in the market. “Falafel was a traditional street food from Egypt,” explains Mike Biggins, CEO of Just Falafel UK & Ireland. The vast majority of falafel trade in the Emirati city came from street vendors and small independent restaurants. “It was crying out for an entrepreneur to bring some structure to give the customer consistency and give it to them in a comfortable environment.”
Unsurprisingly, the store’s first menu item kept things traditional with a classic falafel wrap but Bitar was anything if not adventurous. “He decided to do a Greek version because he wanted something that would appeal to more western tastes,” Biggins says. After a little consideration of his market, Bitar realised that it made sense to cater to Abu Dhabi’s substantial Indian population and produced an option specifically targeted to their taste buds. Biggins continues: “As he migrated into Dubai, they realised that this concept of offering different flavours had a lot of attraction.”