Uno Chicago Grill has opened its doors at the Mall of Dubai, which is the world’s largest mall. This is one of several new openings in the area for Sofra LLC, the master licensee for Uno in the Middle East, which signed a 20-unit development deal covering nine countries: Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, and Bahrain.

Sofra, headed by Major General Abdul Aziz Al Bannai, former head of security for Dubai, opened its first Uno franchise in Dubai, which set records for unit sales. Then, through a sub-licensee, Sofra opened units in Jeddah and Dammam, Saudi Arabia and most recently their first unit in Kuwait.

Continuing its commitment to guest service and satisfaction, Uno’s lead chef and concept team have made menu and restaurant design changes to reflect the cultural and taste preferences of diners in each area. For example, several of the new restaurants have separate entrances and dining areas for single men and families. Pork dishes, as well as alcohol, have been removed from the menu, and Halal-certified meats are featured.

“There is a clear acceptance of western brands in the region, as long as they are sensitive to local cultures,” says Frank Guidara, CEO, Uno Chicago Grill. “And, unlike the current economic climate here in the U.S., entrepreneurs in the Middle East have access to the financial resources needed to develop global concepts.”

Uno Chicago Grill has recently extended other international franchise development agreements in Korea and Honduras with existing franchise partners. Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Mexico have numerous active candidates for franchises. In the U.S., franchises are also expanding, with current franchisees signing development agreements to open restaurants over the next five years.