ISTANBUL - Simit Sarayı, a domestic brand that grows upon the popularity of simit, Turkey’s favorite cheap and easy snack, eyes global expansion. The firm has established ’Simit Sarayı Europe GmbH’ for its European operations and also plans to open branches in the United States and elsewhere. The aim is to have more branches than McDonalds
"Simit Sarayı" thrives upon the popularity of "simit," Turkey's favorite, cheap snack, taking it to the level of specialized simit shops. Simit, a baked ring of bread covered in sesame seeds, is famous throughout the Middle East.
Simit Sarayı aims to open 500 branches in Europe before 2018 with its new partner, the chief executive of a German company with a 150-year history.
Haluk Okutur, a founding partner of Simit Sarayı, said the company would open a new branch in Greece this year. "The importance of the project becomes clearer as a CEO of an established German company preferred to be our partner," Okutur said, refusing to clarify the name of the German businessman. "He will endorse his shares in the upcoming months and become the head of our European operations. He has established the Simit Sarayı Europe GmbH. The company will start operations in June."
After the operations, Simit Sarayı branches will be opened in six German cities, Okutur said, adding that the firm plans to open 500 shops in European countries, such as the Netherlands and Britain by 2018, increasing the number of employees to 100,000 from the current 2,000.
The firm will this year organize in Europe and plans to expand to other continents, including Africa, over the following years. "We are aiming to open more branches than McDonalds branches," he said. "If there exists 34,000 McDonalds branches globally, we will aim for 34,001 Simit Dünyası branches."
The firm also plans to open a new branch in Chicago, United States, but will not name the operation as Simit Sarayı at first. Depending on the results, Simit Sarayı may plan to open up shop in New York’s Times Square.
In its global operations, Simit Sarayı plans to sell 70 percent Turkish products and 30 percent local products. The firm has received many partnership proposals both from investment funds and corporations from countries such as Britain, Ireland and Sweden and it is "willing to evaluate them," Okutur said.
As the global economic crisis deepened in the second half of 2008, Simit Sarayı accelerated operations in the domestic market, increasing the number of branches from 44 to more than 110. Okutur said they always moved "opposite to the market."
Key to growth
"After 2006, the markets became brisk as rents and key money increased, but we slowed down our growth," he noted. "In the first half of 2008, people were affected by the crisis psychologically and panicked, provoking a decrease in rents. As rents declined, we increased our operations. We are aiming to reach 250 branches in the domestic market."
The firm has been growing 70 to 80 percent each year since its foundation in 2001, Okutur said, adding that this year Simit Sarayı aims for 100 percent growth.
The firm has acquired Pizza Max and Miss Crispy in February and aims to expand these two Turkish brands overseas, too, Okutur said. Pizza Max has 16 domestic branches, while Miss Crispy has four.
Simit Sarayı plans to change the logos and concepts of both brands. It targets 100 Pizza Max and 50 Miss Crispy branches by 2010, Okutur said, adding that both brands are growing through the franchise system, with investment costs for a single branch at around $100,000.