Naf Naf Grill CEO Paul Damico speaking today at the Finance and Growth Conference, hosted by Franchise Times at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas.

“The definition of ‘naf naf’ is really to fan the flame,” says Paul Damico, CEO of Naf Naf Grill, referring to the Israeli term of bringing family together to cook meats over an open flame. Naf Naf is ready to fan its franchising flame, according to Damico, who joined the Chicago-based brand in 2017 after Roark Capital injected its second round of funding.

Speaking today at the Franchise Times Finance and Growth Conference at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas, Damico touted Naf Naf’s chicken shawarma, made in-house at each restaurant, along with each location’s full bakery dedicated to making “best in the industry” pita bread, as reasons why the brand stands out in an increasingly competitive Mediterranean-focused segment. That food, along with technological enhancements for online ordering and third-party delivery—“I think we’re years ahead of where some more established brands are,” he says—put Naf Naf in a strong position to grow via franchising.

Naf Naf is testing a smaller format 800-square-foot location in downtown Chicago that Damico says is doing about $2,800 per hour in sales. “We feel like we’ve solved for every layout where we want to see our brand,” he adds of site options for inline, endcap, food court, urban and suburban locations.

The brand has 38 locations open in seven states and Washington, D.C., and Damico expects to sign about 85 franchise agreements a year as Naf Naf targets multi-unit operators for three-unit deals. The initial investment range is $563,000 to $984,000, with the average unit volume for the eight locations included in the current FDD at $1,107,232.

Naf Naf recently signed its first 10-store exclusive area development deal for central Indiana with Indianapolis-based investment company 316 Investments, through its affiliate Fan the Flame LLC. The agreement will expand Naf Naf’s footprint to Indianapolis, Bloomington, Lafayette and Fort Wayne. 316 Investments is owned by Greg Willman and Phil Salsbery, and the group previously operated Qdoba and Steak ‘n Shake locations. It also develops retail real estate nationwide for tenants like Starbucks and Chipotle, and manages a portfolio of early stage venture investments focused on technology and health care related start-ups.

The Finance and Growth Conference continues through Wednesday, May 8, at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas.

 

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