Burger King signs up Allied & Wow as its partner to enter Nigeria

Burger King has signed a development agreement with Allied & Wow to enter Nigeria. Allied & Wow is headed by Antoine Zammarieh, the former COO of Eat’n’Go, the Domino’s Pizza franchise holder in Nigeria.

It has been a long time coming. As far back as late 2018, Burger King had gone on record about its intent to enter Nigeria. Indeed many watchers, including us, thought the US-based chain would announce concrete plans in 2019. It didn’t.

Instead, what we have now is a development agreement between a new company, Allied & Wow, and Burger King to open Burger King franchises in Nigeria. Antoine Zammarieh, who founded Allied & Wow, knows the market well. For five years from 2014-2019 he ran Eat’n’Go, the Domino’s Pizza franchise holder in Nigeria. He took Domino’s up from launch to 100 stores in just five years, a rare expansion success for an international QSR brand in an otherwise challenging market.

He will need to apply all that experience developing the Burger King brand in Nigeria. The key challenge is building the supply chain to support it. Pizza franchises are comparatively easy to develop. Multinational burger franchises require a more integrated and complex supply chain, especially for beef, tomatoes, lettuce and the potatoes for french fries. A major challenge in Nigeria is that importing its core ingredients is ruinous for its value chain, brings considerable fx issues and is unsustainable in the long term.

The development agreement means that Zammarieh will now look to find sites in Lagos and start operations in Nigeria. It is a risk for several reasons – the investment needed, the complexity but also fundamentally whether customers want it.

Across West Africa consumers are far less interested in burgers than either fried chicken or pizza. Many don’t really trust the provenance or quality of minced beef, regardless of which brand of restaurant they are eating in. In Ghana, where franchisee Servair opened the first Burger King outlet in May 2018, there are still only three outlets in total. By contrast there are 19 branches of KFC, which opened its first branch in 2011.

So it isn’t a given that Burger King will succeed in Nigeria, even with someone of Zammarieh’s experience behind the franchise. McDonald’s has famously been very slow to expand in Africa, with stores in just South Africa, Morocco and Egypt and no obvious plans to enter Nigeria or other high interest growth markets like Kenya or Ghana.