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Good Stuff Eatery will open its first international location in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in the next eight to nine months, with the possibility of as many as four more shops in the country going forward. Chef Spike Mendelsohn and his family are franchising the restaurant with Gulf Restaurant & Park Company in Saudi Arabia, which is owned by the Al Sairafi family. The company also operates Quiznos in Saudi Arabia as well a number of Lebanese, Chinese, and Italian restaurants.
“One of them had gone to Georgetown and eaten and gone back home,” says co-owner Micheline Mendelsohn, Spike’s sister. “And we kind of just started talking with them about the possibility of bringing the brand over there.”
The Mendelsohn family gets as many as three to four franchise inquiries a week, Micheline Mendelsohn says. They’ve gotten about 10 total requests from the Middle East.
“We’re very careful about who we give the brand to and how we want to proceed with opening up different stores,” she says. So what ultimately sold them on the Al Sairafi family? “Sometimes you just meet people and you automatically click, and that’s what happened with this family… We’re excited to give them our baby and see what they can do with it.”
The restaurant plans to send a team over to the Middle East to make sure the staff is trained properly. The Saudi team will also come to the U.S. for training. While the Saudi Good Stuff will aim to replicate the American versions as closely as possible in terms of look and menu, there will be some necessary changes. For example, Islamic dietary laws restrict pork and alcohol. That means no beer, and beef or turkey bacon instead of pork. Micheline Mendelsohn says they also don’t allow very loud music in their restaurants. “When you walk into a Good Stuff Eatery, we have a really great playlist,” she says. “So that will be one thing that we’re going to change. We’ll do some different types of sounds. We’re going to figure that out.”
Y&H previously wrote a column about how American chains expanding to the Persian Gulf is all the rage. Red Velvet Cupcakery opened a location in Doha, while Arlington-based Elevation Burger has several locations from Kuwait to Bahrain to Oman. Other national chains like Pinkberry, Shake Shack, P.F. Chang’s, IHOP, Potbelly, and The Cheesecake Factory also have spots in the Middle East, along with celebrity chefs like Alain Ducasse, Gordon Ramsay, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.
Photo courtesy Good Stuff Eatery. Left to right: Spike Mendelsohn, Micheline Mendelsohn, Mary Vincent (notary from Sincerely Yours Inc.), Harvey Mendelsohn, Rayan Al Sairafi (Gulf Restaurant & Park Company Ltd.) and Catherine Mendelsohn.