Naan Kabob, an Afghan and Middle Eastern Restaurant in Toronto, is opening three new locations in the Greater Toronto Area, has plans to open 25 locations throughout Canada by 2028, and is expanding internationally.
Starting out as a family owned business in 2010, it has now grown into a larger company with ten locations within the Toronto area. In 2024, Fahim Ahmadi, the vice president of development at Naan Kabob, says the brand is in process of opening three locations which will be in Newmarket, Hamilton, and Niagara Falls. Leases for these locations are in process, but Ahmadi indicated they will be opening at the end of the year.
Naan Kabob is known for offering a variety of affordable and fresh Afghan food options where guests can expect to have their orders within 15 minutes.
“Our focus is serving fresh food, creating consistency across our service, and quality of our food. We had some challenges introducing Afghan food in the market as there were some other players in the area, so we wanted to create a casual premium category where it is not fast food, not casual – but something more premium with great quality. So, that is our model and we have an aggressive growth plan, going nationwide, and at the same time expanding internationally,” says Ahmadi.
25 openings within four years
As for other expansion plans, Ahmadi says he is looking to open 25 locations across Canada by 2028 including Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.
“Those three locations are the major provinces and each of them will take about five locations. We are also looking at Winnipeg and Ottawa as it is another great growing market, but Calgary, Vancouver, and Edmonton will be our top goal.”
Ahmadi says instead of opening locations all at once, he will take it slow and open flagship stores first, see how they develop, and if successful can open more locations.
“We want to make sure the structure is well established where they don’t sign five deals without ensuring the market responds and how successful the location will be. We are looking forward to our market segment, at the same time we want to continue to support franchises because we would like to make sure this is strategic because our brand reputation and popularity will be on the line – It is just not about opening more locations, but creating the brand. We don’t really want to give it out to anybody.”
Ahmadi says the brand will be looking for people who have food experience and have worked for food chains, have an understanding of the market segment, and who can easily open “because Naan & Kabob has all the infrastructure, all the systems, operation procedures, and marketing support.” The brand is currently working with JLL for finding locations, Ahmadi says the brand will be looking for locations outside or within malls,next to Starbucks, next to premium brands, but is avoiding food courts as the brand is being cautious with rent and wants easy access for delivery partners.
Due to the unfamiliarity in the Quebec market, language requirements, and its unique culture – the brand will not be entering into Quebec right now, but will look at it later.
“We don’t really know the market for us to really go into Quebec. We really need an expert from the market to be successful. It is an amazing market and a lot of the things are easier, but we definitely need an expert because a lot of brands have failed going into Quebec – so I think we are a little scared of entering into that market right now. The decision to enter into the Quebec market would likely depend on overcoming the identified challenges, such as the language barrier, culture differences, and finding the right local expertise.”
For the past four years Naan Kabob has been looking into expanding internationally, but when Covid hit, the brand put the brakes on. For this year, the brand is now looking into expanding into Dubai and in Europe with London as its first stop.
Both locations in Dubai and London are expected to open by the end of the year or in the first quarter of 2025. Ahmadi says he will be looking into other locations in Europe and in the Middle East, though specific locations are undetermined.
“It has been very hard to find locations, so we have been working with JLL to find the right ones, but we have our team ready once we have a lock in a location to start going there, building, and planning out the opening. This is something we are hoping to open by the end of the year or the first quarter of 2025, it is our number one priority.When given the green light, it will probably take four to five months to open, give and take to build a location.”
New experience for every location
To keep locations interesting, each Naan Kabob location has its individual design as it is not a “cookie cutter” franchise where each store looks the same. This approach to designing is part of the brand’s strategy to enhance customer experience.
“We are not like other franchises, we make every location different. The designs will add extra costs for us because every time you are building a different restaurant. The whole idea is how do we keep excitement for customers when they go to a different location. At the same time, our work culture is different too – people who work with us believe in our concept and really work from the heart. It’s not just a franchise – it’s still a family business and it is heavily dependent on the quality of the food, consistency, and the warm welcoming of customers.”