“From America with love,” says Steak Escape franchisee, Michael Shariff when asked about his new franchise endeavor in Russia.
Escape Enterprises Ltd. of Columbus, Ohio, along with partners Michael Shariff, Mikhail Romanov, and the Sherwood Group, have signed a deal with Escape Enterprises to introduce the Steak Escape brand in Russia. The plans are to start with 20 stores and grow from there.
The first restaurant is scheduled to open in mid-2016 and is one of many Steak Escape restaurants they hope to open throughout Eastern Europe.
Shariff believes that Russia is ready for the freshly prepared, front-line grilling concept that is Steak Escape. “Russia hasn’t seen anything like this yet,” he says. “They’ve never witnessed elements of the show — the concept of building your own sandwich that is made fresh in front of your eyes!” Shariff also believes the newly reinvented sandwich grill will play well to Russian tastes.
“We went through a two-year process to re-imagine every aspect of our fast-casual brand,” says Escape Enterprises co-owner, Ken Smith. “It became a mission working with our food partners to source the best USDA sirloin steak, the healthiest hormone-free, all-white meat chicken and turkey, as well as to develop the best fresh-baked authentic Italian rolls. We also created new culinary recipes to heighten the flavors of all our sandwiches.”
Along with elevating their menu offerings, Steak Escape looked at the dining experience as being more than just eating. Customers now enjoy their meals in a “stylized natural urban” environment. In Steak Escape’s new prototype, a community chalkboard creates limitless, engaging interactions with their customers. One such interaction rewards those who make a difference in their community. Music also plays a big role. Steak Escape creates their own playlists, called Moo Moo Radio, and invites the community to contribute.
The Russian Steak Escape restaurants will serve the same menu as their U.S. counterparts, with few changes. Shariff says that burgers are a big deal in Russia and likes the fact that Steak Escape offers higher quality sirloin steak burgers as part of their reinvented menu.
Shariff who was born in Russia, is also a successful business owner and trademark attorney in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. When he first moved to the U.S. in 1995, he spent a number of years in the food service industry where he developed his expertise in casual dining, fast casual, and fast food concepts.
As a growing international brand, Shariff is looking forward to the future with hopes that by opening more Steak Escape restaurants it will bring more opportunities to the job market in Russia.
When asked about how politics might play a role in running the business, he adds, “The language of business is the language of peace.”
“He loves the product and concept and it was pretty obvious from our first meeting that we needed to work out an agreement for him to join the Steak Escape family,” says Lloyd Allen, VP of international franchising. “Michael feels that Russia is ready for our concept.”
Founded in 1982 and based in Columbus, Ohio, Steak Escape stakes its reputation on freshly prepared and grilled Cheesesteaks, Fresh-Cut Fries, Fresh-squeezed Lemonade, and a variety of fresh-grilled specialty subs, salads, and Smashed Potatoes. Today, Steak Escape restaurants operate in more than 100 cities in 23 states and seven countries. Last December, Escape Enterprises inked a deal to add additional international locations in Lebanon and Ghana.