Undisputable Lebanese leader

To this day, Wooden Bakery remains the most reputable bakery in the Lebanese market. After many years of success, the company managed to set itself as an example that many tried to follow and others failed to copy, leaving it to thrive as an undisputable leader. Mr. Ghassan Bou Habib, Shareholder and Vice Chairman of Wooden Bakery, revealed the secrets behind the company’s success

How many branches do you have in Lebanon and around the world, and what are your plans for the future?
We currently have 30 branches in Lebanon with six new ones set to open next year; we are also planning on expanding in the KSA where we already have 6 branches.

Bearing in mind the market importance and the success of our company, we will complement our expansion by building a new factory respecting the highest international standards. As part of our expansion and development strategy, we will be entering the Emirati and Qatari markets in the next stage.

What helped you stand out over the years?
For the last two decades, we have been known for our innovation and creativity at the level of our services, for the quality of our products, and our constant commitment to satisfying our clients’ needs and exceeding their expectations on a daily basis, all year round.

What did the Franchise concept represent to you?
It marked the most important turning point for our company. The Franchise concept allowed us to spread our presence throughout Lebanon and reach a customer count exceeding 60,000 per day. This is what made us leaders in our field. At first, this concept constituted a great challenge for our industry, but we were up to the challenge that allowed us to go regional and raise the Lebanese flag high.

How do you perceive the competition?
Not many companies are similar to us in the market, although we believe that the competition pushes us to raise the bar and does not threaten us in any way. Wooden Bakery’s commercial model is unique, which allowed it to start a revolution in this sector. Today, many investors are trying to catch up with us and copy us.

What are the challenges facing this sector and what are your demands to improve performance?
We demand a more efficient role by the syndicate, although we admit that the circumstances are not favourable. The syndicate should be supporting the sector and assessing the prices, but the deteriorating situation is preventing such a step.

We call for proper support, especially since the price of raw material has risen, while the prices of our products remain the same, seeing how the consumer cannot be asked to bear the cost. In order for us to continue offering our consumers the best quality at the best price, we ask that quality standards be imposed, alongside the encouragement and protection of Lebanon’s industrialists.

How do you view the importance and fast evolution of franchising? What role did the LFA play at this level?
The LFA is working properly and seriously, and conveying the name and image of Lebanese companies to foreign countries in a remarkable way. It is carrying on with its work in support of the various Lebanese sectors. There is no doubt that franchising is allowing Lebanese companies and industries to go international, while shedding light on the uniqueness of our economy and culture and positively contributing to the country’s GNP. This is actually being reflected by the overwhelming success seen on the regional and international levels.

What is your take on the success and progress of franchising in Lebanon and to what do you attribute them?
Franchising in Lebanon is proceeding as per the regulations and many Lebanese have the necessary experience, know-how, and sense of initiative. International standards were implemented in Lebanon, which led to important and international Lebanese concepts that were highly successful in Lebanon and abroad. By supporting franchising, the LFA contributed to the development of this sector. Nevertheless, and in my opinion, the success of this system is due to the refined taste of the Lebanese, who always seek excellence and continuity by offering the best quality in services featured in the franchising system.

What do you think of the initiative launched during BIFEX in support of the Lebanese franchises abroad?
We are big advocates of this initiative as an important incentive in support of Lebanese creativity, thus preventing its copying and opening up investment opportunities before it.

What are the conditions you impose on the potential franchisees?
Speaking from experience, we prefer it if the franchise applicant is an expert in this field; someone who would keep an eye on his business to ensure a better outcome. The person who wants to join Wooden Bakery’s family should abide by the rules and regulations stated in the contract for the benefit of both parties.

Do you find it necessary to have rules and regulations governing the franchise system?
There is always room for improvement, but the LFA is regulating the franchising sector in light of the chaos that is sometimes seen in this sector. After all, the LFA’s perseverance and success, along with Mr. Charles Obeid’s achievements, are what led us to where we are today. We would like to thank him for his efforts and ask him to proceed down this path.

Do you have any plans for the coming stage?
Today, our plans are based on a two-way strategy: To continue growing in Lebanon by satisfying the needs of our Lebanese clients and upholding the same level of quality, and to translate our expansion strategy by tapping into new markets such as the UAE and Qatar in the near future.