Turkish-American sisters now franchising Flatbread Grill

| by Cherryh Cansler
Turkish-American sisters now franchising Flatbread Grill

Turkish-American Sisters — Arzu, Fusun, and Gonca Esendemir — have decided to franchise their 10-year-old concept.

Turkish-American Sisters — Arzu, Fusun and Gonca Esendemir — grew up in poverty but didn't let that stop them from fulfilling their dream of creating their own restaurant brand —  Flatbread Grill.

"My sisters and I built this very unique concept from scratch, with passion and dedication," said Arzu Esendemir, co-founder and CEO of Flatbread Grill, who has spent the past decade developing the business model with her two sisters. "We created the logo, we designed the interior, developed the menu and bread recipes, handled all the marketing, operations and buildout completely on our own."

The sisters, born to immigrant parents, are now franchising the Mediterranean bakery that they started 10 years ago in Hoboken, New Jersey. 

"We believe now is the time to franchise because our operations are efficient, and there is growing demand in our type of cuisine,  Gonca Esendemir, CMO, said in an email to FastCasual. "Also, on a personal note — our father's days are numbered, and we would like him to see our hard work pay off before he goes."

A Jersey City location opening in April will be the brand's second unit, and the women have a lease out on the American Dream Mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey. They are also speaking to franchisees all across the country, in the Middle East, Europe, Turkey, Canada and India.

"We are looking for franchisees who can add value, grow with us and represent our family and business values," said Gonca, who prefers to partner with experienced owner operators, multi-unit owners and individuals with high net worth.

The franchisee fee is $42,000 and the investment — depending on market and size of store — will range between $266,0000 and $777,0000.

The menu

The Flatbread Grill menu consists of traditional and proprietary Mediterranean recipes fused together, which appeals to people from all walks of life because of its accessibility, quality, and price point, according to the sisters.

Inspired by their love of traditional Turkish food, they developed the menu using many of the recipes from their mother and father's traditional Turkish recipe. They also focus on providing healthy and high-quality food.

The vegetarian options are all vegan, for example, which includes the bread. Some items, such as a proprietary red lentil soup and cracked wheat rice, are high in protein and minerals. The women do not use butter or heavy cream for meats and hummus like many other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern concepts. 

"Our signature sauces, such as the yogurt-cucumber and green tahini, are full of unique flavor that is unmatched by other concepts," according to the company website.

Thumbs up

The sisters created Thumb Bread, a proprietary bread recipe with no artificial flavors or preservatives.

One of the staples of the menu is Thumb Bread, a proprietary bread recipe created by the sisters with no artificial flavors or preservatives. Inspired by traditional Turkish pide bread, Thumb Bread is the base for flat melts but also comes alongside salads, soups and flat-top platters. Many customers also purchase the bread by itself, according to the sisters.

How it began

After the oldest sister — Fusun — was laid off from her day job, she and her sisters joined forces to open the restaurant, while also supporting their sick parents, who could not afford health insurance. The concept took off almost immediately via word of mouth with the "The New York Times" giving the concept an outstanding review.

Although the sisters battled a significant amount of racism and discrimination against their socio-economic upbringing, as well as their race and religion, and sexism over the course of a decade, they forged ahead and built a business model that is now being pursued as far as India for expansion. They also built up a worldwide social media following by sharing their personal and business journey.

"There were times we knew we were being treated differently because of our background," said Gonca Esendemir, who oversees marketing for the brand. "Whether it was our sex, race, or religion, we were under constant scrutiny. A producer for a major reality TV network even told us that we were not 'white enough' for rural America to like us."

Having built the brand with very little money during the height of an economic recession, the sisters used their creativity and tough upbringing to survive in one of the toughest industries in the world.

"Our family values and our bond as sisters are two of the factors that contributed to our success," said Fusun, who oversees the financial side of the business. "We watched our parents struggle greatly growing up. Both our parents worked hard to make an honest living. Hard work is in our blood."

Photos: Submitted by Flatbread Grill

Topics: Bakery Cafe, Business Strategy and Profitability, Equipment & Supplies, Ethnic, Franchising & Growth, International

Cherryh Cansler

Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com.

wwwView Cherryh Cansler's profile on LinkedIn

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