Focus Brands International Inc. reportedly brought the first U.S. restaurant brands to Libya earlier this month after the debut of its co-branded Cinnabon and Carvel location was delayed several months by the Libyan civil war that ousted former leader Muammar Gaddafi.
Before the start of the Libyan revolution in February 2011, Focus had been working for two years on securing the restaurant’s location in Tripoli and finding the local franchise group. The conflict formally ended last October when Gaddafi was captured and killed.
Brothers Arief and Ahmed Swaidek opened the Cinnabon–Carvel location as franchisees on July 2.
“The tenacity and courage of our franchise partners and their team show their ultimate commitment to the Cinnabon brand,” said Mike Shattuck, president of Focus, which oversees international expansion for Cinnabon, Carvel, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Schlotzsky’s and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels.
The Swaideks plan to open another Cinnabon unit in Libya this year as part of a deal for 10 locations over the next five years. The brothers also will be the franchisees for more Carvel units and Moe’s Southwest Grill locations in Libya.
“The guests love the overall experience at Cinnabon, and they tell us they are enjoying the Western flavors and unique hospitality we strive so hard to offer in beautiful surroundings,” Shattuck said.
Libya is the first foothold for Cinnabon in North Africa, and the brand is seeking franchise partners to develop the brand in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. Another Western brand to expand to North Africa was Johnny Rockets, which recently began construction on the first of 10 restaurants planned for Morocco.
Cinnabon has 900 bakeries in 51 countries, and other new markets for the brand in 2012 include Nicaragua, Iraq and Ukraine. The chain reported that it plans to enter another eight markets in the next 12 months. Focus has a large footprint in Russia as well, where it has opened 71 Cinnabons in three years and where the first of 50 Moe’s locations will open this year.
Across the Middle East and Southwest Asia, several Western restaurant brands are finding consumers open to their concepts, including Caribou Coffee, Wing Zone and Texas Roadhouse.
Cinnabon and Focus Brands are both based in Atlanta.