Jan van Delden, managing partner for ITICO F+B, which holds the master franchise for the brand in the UK, confirmed the closure to BigHospitality, saying the site had become unfeasible as a result of the severe decline in trade and footfall caused by the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“Central London has become a ghost town, and sadly we do not expect things to recover for a long time,” says Delden.
“Prior to the pandemic our Leicester Square restaurant was doing major business, but that was reliant on a high footfall from central London office workers and both local and international tourism, all of which have deteriorated as a result of the pandemic.”
The Halal Guys, which serves hot sandwiches or platters made with chicken, beef or falafel, opened its Leicester Square restaurant – the brand’s first European site – back in March 2019, with ITICO F+B originally hoping to expand the concept to 20 locations across the country in the next five years.
It later opened a second London site in Earls Court, which has continued to operate a delivery service throughout the pandemic and will reopen for dine-in customers once lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Despite the closure, Delden remains optimistic about the prospects for growing The Halal Guys brand in the UK.
He says ITICO F+B is currently in negotiations to take on a new London site in a more suburban location, which he hopes will open later this year.
There also remains active plans to expand to other cities around the UK.
“Our focus is still on London, but we do want to explore other areas for growth too," he says.
“Despite the struggles of the last year, we still believe there’s plenty of potential for our brand to thrive in the UK market.”
The Halal Guys was founded by Egyptian immigrants Mohammed Abouelenein, Ahmed Elsaka and Abedelbaset Elsayed, who opened a street food cart in New York in 1990.
Franchising began rapidly in 2015, with more than 450 sites sold in six countries over the following three years.