March 14, 2024 • Restaurants5 min read

Restaurant Partner Q&A: Rami Awada, Which Wich UK | Just Eat for Business

We sat down with UK Managing Director and Master Franchisee Rami Awada to talk about his journey so far, franchising and more.

Rami WW Extended

Tell us about yourself and your journey to becoming Master Franchisee at Which Wich

When I first stumbled upon Which Wich in the States, I was immediately drawn by the concept, the brand's culture and vibe and their creative ordering system. But after trying various sandwiches, I understood why they call them ‘superior.’ The menu offerings are unlike any other brand and I knew right then that it was a concept that Londoners would love, and could take the U.K. by storm. At that time we had already been in touch and were exploring multiple different brands to bring over to London so we immediately got in touch with Jeff Sinelli (the Founder of the brand) and his team, and the rest is history.

Please share some of the challenges and the positive aspects of franchising

In the world of franchising, one of the primary hurdles lies in establishing a comprehensive and robust support system that extends across the entire franchised territory. From a supply chain standpoint, a major challenge in franchising is ensuring a cost-effective and efficient supply chain that aligns with the brand's economic model, but also to maintain it relative to the yearly increase in price index. This was a key focus for us especially in the UK with the recent post-covid and post-Brexit macroeconomic conditions that had substantial effects on labour and food inflationary cost increases. This task would be particularly daunting for brands with a smaller footprint, lacking the direct economies of scale. Fortunately, our partnership with Sysco, with them being our global suppliers significantly alleviated this challenge for our brand.

When it comes to franchising, being up to date from a tech perspective is imperative. While many franchise systems offer varying levels of a 'tech stack'; ranging from adequate to moderate to exceptional — what truly distinguishes a great system is its commitment to providing a state of the art and robust 360 degree 'Back Office' Technology. Equally crucial is providing a comprehensive internal 'Franchise system' that facilitates seamless Franchisor-Franchisee relations. This includes communication, training and visual assets, operational protocols and everything in between.

As for the positives, joining or establishing a well-recognized fast-casual franchise provides an immediate 'access to market'. This helps with franchisees inheriting a loyal customer base from day 1 and building their business from a 'comfortable blanket' rather than having to build it from scratch. From a Franchisor's perspective, provided that their system is well supported and with proper lead selection, then the sky's the limit in terms of growth potential, both from an estate perspective but also and most importantly from a speed/rate of growth perspective.

In addition to that, franchise agreements (in general) often include marketing and advertising support from franchisors, which is obviously the case with our brand. This can include national advertising campaigns, promotional materials, and access to marketing resources, helping franchisees attract customers and drive sales while enhancing brand visibility and awareness, both on physical and also digital channels.

What are you most proud of throughout your journey?

There have been several proud moments! We have grown our catering volumes over 200% YoY, while especially enjoying great relationships with catering marketplaces, especially JEFB whom we have always enjoyed working with to supply our WICHes to as many corporate eaters as possible. This eventually constitutes almost a 'business within the business' to our brand which in turn is translating to an increased interest to franchise our brand in key cities, as we can now comfortably provide blanket catering demand across our territory for our future franchisees. 

Moreover, the big focus on catering unlocked some key opportunities for our brand, the latest of which is being selected by the Commonwealth Secretariat on a long-term contract to cater to all Commonwealth meetings held in their HQ in Central London. Here, we will be feeding high profile governmental delegations from all the Commonwealth countries.

A proud moment for us is being voted in the top 10 multiple times globally in the the quick service and fast casual sectors. Our latest achievement includes winning the gold award at the Sammies in 2023, organised by the British Sandwich and Food To Go Industry Association, where we validated our position as a leader in the premium sandwich market in the UK and globally.

Another proud moment that comes to mind is being offered a one year pop-up in London's prestigious Selfridges food hall, where we showcased a select range of our WICHes to shoppers. This has helped further in our brand exposure and saw us develop great relationship with Selfridges too.

Lastly, a big proud moment is establishing and optimising our brands' urban model and 'setting it up for success'. This means being well equipped for fast paced environments and customers throughout, by introducing an Elaborate Grab n Go offering, a kiosk ordering system as well as 'Click n Collect'. From a product perspective, we've developed a delicious 'English' breakfast menu, thus providing an 'all day menu' and an optimized setup that has attracted multiple travel hub landlords & operators seeking partnerships.   

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?

Generally speaking, venturing in entrepreneurship is often a laborious and demanding task. One must be able to balance out their energy, especially in terms of self care and work life balance in order to not burn out; Identifying the initial targets of their business, form financial requirements, people, operational processes and everything in between with a long term approach and identifying small steps towards achieving their long term targets.

You should remember that entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay focused on your vision, remain adaptable to change, and never lose sight of why you started your journey in the first place. With dedication, leadership, passion, and a willingness to learn and grow, you can turn your entrepreneurial dreams into reality.

With regards to food entrepreneurs, I summarise my advice with: 'you are as good as your client's last visit'. Making sure to implement operational consistency within your brand, whether with regards to product quality or speed of service, is an absolute must and constitutes the backbone of any restaurant business whether franchised or not. 

For those that are looking to venture into the food world and before deciding on a brand to create or to partner with, they must always be up to date with consumer expectations, behaviour and landscape, especially since the COVID pandemic where our industry has since seen multiple shifts in consumer behaviours on multiple fronts. Even more so for UK food entrepreneurs, where inflationary cost increases have been more felt in our territory post-Brexit than the global trends that we are seeing. This means that providing  'value for price' is now more important than it has ever been before for our industry in terms of their positioning within their target market. Therefore, two keywords that come to mind and should be considered before creating or partnering with a brand are resilience and versatility. 

What are your plans for the future? 

Looking ahead, my future plans include expanding the Which Wich brand across our UK territory and beyond while making sure that we are targeting multiple different formats (High street, Travel, Kiosk, Mall etc) and through our many different channels.  It is a great time for entrepreneurs who are looking to franchise to get in early before the territory is sold out.  Additional information on the franchise can be found here. 

I'm committed to continually innovating and enhancing the dining experience for our customers while fostering a culture of excellence and entrepreneurship within our franchise network. I'd say to 'Watch Our Space' and get in touch if you want to #GetYourWichOn!

Rami Awada is a Canadian entrepreneur and is the master franchisee and Managing Director of Which Wich Superior Sandwiches in the United Kingdom (UK). He was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon before moving to Montreal, Canada to pursue his studies in industrial engineering.

Rami explored real estate and finance before pivoting to the food and beverage industry and venturing into food franchising. He introduced Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, the premium, American fast-casual brand to Europe, establishing its flagship location near Covent Garden, in central London. Pioneering the urban model for the brand, he is dedicating himself to mastering delivery and takeaway operations while expanding the brand's catering arm.