Osama Hanif was as hungry for an opportunity to prove himself as he was to eat his favorite halal food in Kansas City, he said, reflecting on the years-long process of opening an East Coast restaurant franchise in the Midwest.
“Once I got my first taste of a company’s growth, I knew I wanted to continue. I’m the kind of guy who dives deep and figures out how to swim,” said Hanif, a 23-year-old franchisee of the national food chain, The Halal Guys. “That’s why we tried to open The Halal Guys during the pandemic. open a business at the time, but we saw the potential.”
The Halal Guys is a fast casual halal restaurant that got its start on the streets of New York City. Three Egyptian men recognized how Muslim taxi drivers were looking for a place to enjoy halal food in Manhattan, so they bought a food cart and opened the first The Halal Guys in 1990. Since then, The Halal Guys has opened more than 100 stores brick-and-mortar around the world and Kansas City is getting its first taste.
Click Here read more about The Halal Guys.
The opening of The Halal Guys Kansas City location was set for Friday. During the opening celebration, Hanif and his team plan to host giveaways: The most coveted prize is The Halal Guys free for a year (one dish a week for 52 weeks) for the first 10 people in line, he teases.
“Even if it wasn’t me bringing The Halal Guys to Kansas City, I’d be the first person in line when they open,” Hanif said. “That’s how much I love this food.”
All food served by The Halal Guys is halal certified. Halal is an Arabic word meaning lawful or permitted, so halal food is one that adheres to Islamic law, Hanif explained.
“A prayer is said when the animal is slaughtered and all the blood is drained from the animal’s body,” he said. “That means any toxins or potential disease-causing agents are removed, so it’s a very high quality meat. It’s best for you and the animals are cared for in a humane and responsible way.
The Halal Guys offers beef gyro, chicken and falafel platters and sandwiches and is known for its world-famous white sauce.
Click Here to check out its full menu.
Ambition beyond age
Hanif had just turned 20 when he started applying to become a franchisee with The Halal Guys in 2020; but when he applied, he did so under his father’s name, he recalled.
“I wasn’t trying to fool anyone; I just knew he’d be the one to sign the paperwork,” Hanif said. “So I got a call from the franchise and they asked if that was the case. [my father] Mohummad. I panicked and said yes and carried on with the conversation. I was the one who answered all the emails and set up the meetings. … I told them after about a month and I showed them that it’s not a matter of age, it’s a matter of hard work and a willingness to learn.
Growing up, Hanif watched videos about The Halal Guys and their food, quickly becoming fascinated by the company’s history and mission, he shared.
“I was able to get involved with the franchise, despite my age, because they realized I wasn’t a kid who liked The Halal Guys,” Hanif said. “I was a kid who understood Halal kids.
Although Hanif’s investigation was on behalf of his father, he and his father were on the same page that Hanif would be the leader of the franchise, he said.
“I can’t sit here and say I did it all myself because I had a lot of support from my parents, my uncle and my father’s business partners,” Hanif said, noting that his father is in the business of owning and managing petrol station. “They are the people I call for advice. They let me make my own decisions, my mistakes, but they’re always there when I need them.
Halal Guys weren’t Hanif’s first business venture either. Restless during the pandemic, Hanif founded Nexus Wholesale Imports, a wholesale business that sells products to retail stores and gas stations.
“He grew up really fast and that was how I was able to prove to my dad that I was ready to take on something bigger,” Hanif explained. “It’s still in operation, but I’ve been able to train other people on the business so I can focus my efforts on The Halal Guys.”
While managing Nexus Wholesale Imports and securing a partnership with The Halal Guys, Hanif graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City with a degree in finance in December 2021.
First of five
Hanif signed a five-store deal with The Halal Guys, allowing them to open franchises in most of Missouri and parts of Kansas.
“We can go all the way up to St. Louis, Missouri, and down to Otlathe,” he noted. “We’re trying to create this triangle where we think the franchise is going to do the best.”
Originally, Hanif set out to open the first location in Midtown, he said.
“We really wanted to be in Midtown, but until the streetcar is ready and construction is complete, I don’t think it’s wise to have a shop there,” Hanif explained. “I can definitely see it being the location of our third or fourth restaurant. … How we thought about finding a place from the start to where we ended up was drastically different. We realized that the suburbs are where we need to start and then move towards the centre.”
The first location just outside of Liberty, Missouri, is also next door to one of the busiest Chipotle restaurants in metro Kansas City, Hanif added.
“This has been a huge selling point for us,” he said. “I learned that passion is not enough to do business; sometimes you have to step back and look at it from a numbers perspective.
Hanif and his team are already looking for a second location, he said, noting that he has spoken to a few homeowners in Johnson County.
“Kansas City is very ready and excited for The Halal Guys,” Hanif said. “Ever since we announced we were bringing it to Kansas City, every day I’ve had people commenting on social media asking when we would be opening. I’m thrilled to finally share this food and brand with everyone.”
The American dream
The story behind the Halal kids is the epitome of the American dream, Hanif said.
“Three guys from Egypt immigrated to New York. They came to the land of opportunity, kicked their butts, and created something extraordinary — to this day, the line never stops,” Hanif said. “It has become a staple for the people of New York. Whether a person eats The Halal Guys for the first time or the thousandth time, their reaction is always the same; their eyes light up and they can’t believe how good it is.
It’s a journey that Hanif sees for himself, he continued.
“My parents immigrated here from Pakistan and they worked very hard to give me the opportunity to be able to pursue my ambitions,” she shared. “When I watch The Halal Guys, I can only relate to their story.”