As a bona fide institution with over 30 years of street meat experience, The Halal Guys are the definition of the American Dream. Eating from a street food cart is a true rite of passage in New York City, but these guys are the ones that reign supreme above all others. If you’re looking for a quick bite, and you want to learn more about the kings of the corner, here are the Top 10 Untold Truths Of The Halal Guys! (Part 2)
10. Humble Beginnings
The story of The Halal Guys began in 1990, in the bustling city of New York. Three Egyptian immigrants, Abdelbaset Elsayed, Ahmed Elsaka, and Mohammed Abouelenein, left their home country and headed to the states in hopes of a better life. Since the street food business was already booming, even back in the day, they decided to open a humble hot dog cart on 53rd St & 6th Ave. However, while that initial idea wasn’t so bad, the dogs didn’t do so hot. They soon discovered the huge demand from Muslim taxi drivers for fast, good halal food – which was pretty hard to come by back then. So, instead of continuing the uphill battle of the hot dog business, and as a way to stay true to their culture, they seized upon this new opportunity. The three founders turned to something they knew more about than hot dogs and started selling halal food, still from the carts. It became the first cart in New York City to ever offer halal food. Word got around that delicious food was served out of that specific cart, and people hastily hurried over there, wanting to get their hands on some. In recent years, The Halal Guys have even put some hot dog vendors out of business because everyone is going crazy for their food! And this is how the simple hot dog stand became a famous vendor of platters of chicken, falafel, and gyros.
9. Cab Drivers Played A Critical Role
As we’ve just mentioned, cab drivers were partially to thank for the creation of the most iconic halal meat carts to even exist. They were the ones who inspired the founders to take the leap and switch up their menu – which has been practically the same ever since The Halal Guys opened, by the way. But, it’s not the only thing these cabbies need to be thanked for. For the younger generations, you might be shocked to hear that, back in the early 1990s, the internet did not exist. Yes, what a bummer, right! That means that in order to get visibility and attract any kind of following, you needed to garner some good old fashioned word of mouth and hope everyone got the memo. As you can imagine, it wasn’t always that easy. Not only were The Halal Guys situated in one of the busiest cities in America, but they were also pretty new to the whole food cart business. Without any real contacts, getting their food known in such a huge city was a real problem. That was, at least, until the trusty cab driver community came to the rescue and started making The Halal Guys their go-to spot. Since a lot of cab drivers were Muslim and Halal Guys was a great way to get quick and cheap Halal food, it was a no-brainer. The more the drivers went, the longer the lines got, and the more curious people became. It’s even said that whenever tourists would ask their cabbies where to go eat, they would often suggest The Halal Guys. With promotion like that, you can’t help but grow your business tremendously.
8. They Created A Whole New Food Genre
Halal food is served all over the world and has been for ages. So, while the menu served up at The Halal Guys is far from new, the way the food is served certainly deserves recognition. Before The Halal Guys existed, fast, affordable, and around the clock Halal food was not an option. Or if it was, it was very well hidden. Sure, there were other kinds of food sold out of carts day and night, but nothing ever came close to what these guys were offering. They basically paved the way for other similar food services to follow. They worked hard and found a way to combine the best of two cultures. Meaning, Halal Guys is practically a hybrid of two things; traditional halal ingredients and spices, mixed with an “Americanized” presentation. What do you get from this unique combination? A brand new genre of food – American Halal Street Food. As a new thriving segment of the restaurant industry, American Halal Street Food has grown exponentially in popularity over the years and has encouraged a lot of other communities to start their own food businesses. Thanks to its booming popularity, The Halal Guys food is now enjoyed by everyone, no matter their cultural backgrounds, and you no longer need to live in NYC to experience the taste of The Halal Guys.
7. They’re Expanding… Fast!
While The Halal Guys is still extremely present in the street food biz, they are no longer just that one little cart on the corner of 53rd St & 6th Ave. They are now all over the fast-casual scene and have actual restaurants! And they’re not just in New York anymore either, no no, they’re worldwide! Even though most of the new locations are located in America, they have begun expansion all across the globe. In places like Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, the UK, and South Korea, you can get yourself a nice plate of delicious halal food and be greeted with the ultimate customer experience. The Halal Guys now have over 400 new restaurants in development, making them one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in America. It’s all thanks to a meeting with restaurant franchising company Fransmart, also responsible for the franchising of much loved fast-food chains Five Guys and Qdoba Mexican Grill. A deal was made, and lives were changed. With their hard work and dedication, The Halal Guys were able to make a real name for themselves, growing and flourishing left and right. They represent the epitome of the American Dream and are living proof that anything is possible when you’ve got the right team with you!
6. The Combo Platters Are Next-Level
For over three decades now, The Halal Guys have served up some pretty iconic food from their street carts – and now, their restaurants as well. Their delicious affordable halal meals are the perfect representation of cultural traditions and cuisines blending together perfectly to create some new, out-of-this-world food. While most of the menu items worldwide have obviously changed a little, they still include some timeless classics that have yet to be matched by any other street food vendor. For instance, the beef gyro, chicken, falafel, and sandwiches, along with sides such as hummus and baba ghanoush, have all been rocking it since the very beginning. The item that is most in-demand though, is the falafel. So much so that in Houston, Texas, they go through over 600 pieces of falafel every day. That’s a whole lot of chickpeas. But, the real big deal at The Halal Guys? The thing that makes any wait worth it? It’s the Combo Platter. Often referred to as the “Halal Classic” or simply “The Platter,” the Combo Platter is one of the best things to get on the menu. This entree consists of a chicken & beef gyro served over rice with lettuce, tomato, pita, and the world-famous white and red sauces. And for one day this summer, you could even get the platter for only $1. This one day only promotion allowed you to place an order on the delivery app DoorDash for the Union Square location in NYC, and the first 2,000 people were able take advantage of the offer.
5. Founders Play Favorites
When you own a restaurant, it can be hard to stay completely impartial and not to play favorites when it comes to your menu offerings. You have to try to sell each product equally in order to maintain consistent sales and not favore any one item – unless it’s clearly ahead in the race. However, at The Halal Guys, the founders aren’t afraid to pick favorites and share their own prized go-to orders. While, technically, they do love everything on the menu – and how could they not? – there are some specific items that just stand out for them. In an online article, the founder’s preferences were revealed, and they aren’t disappointing. For starters, Mohammed prefers the classic combo platter, aka one of the tastiest things available from The Halal Guys. Then, Ahmed is partial to the chicken sandwich, mostly for its taste but also its on-the-go convenience. And last, but not least, Abdelbaset is also a combo platter guy, but, with a little twist: he orders it without the famous hot sauce – saying it’s a little too spicy for his taste. Usually, you can tell a lot about a place when you know the owners are eating their own food. In this case, we know exactly what to get, and we get the stamp of approval from the founders themselves. But, maybe we’ll get the combo with the red sauce, you know, to stay authentic to the recipe!
4. The Famous Sauces
While we’re on the topic of delicious and famous sauces, why not dive into just how amazing they are? If you go to any The Halal Guys locations, you will be offered a choice of three sauces to add to your meal; white sauce, red sauce, and barbecue sauce. Each is just as tasty as the last, but many people have a soft spot for the white sauce – a very well-guarded secret recipe. The white sauce has remained a street-cart trade secret on the order of the KFC Original Recipe, and The Halal Guys do not plan on releasing the information anytime soon. Sure, the packets list some common ingredients like egg yolk, vinegar, water, and a natural flavor, but nothing more specific. The creamy, tasty white sauce has been doused over platters of lamb, chicken, and rice since the first location opened, and the most information that we have is that it has mayonnaise in it. Everything else is kept under wraps. But that’s not the only sauce that’s created a buzz at The Halal Guys. The hot sauce is also a pretty fine choice for anyone who’s not afraid of a little heat. Because, when they say hot, they mean seriously hot. Like, a Scoville rating of over 100,000 kind-of-hot. Twice as hot as Tabasco or cayenne chili. So, if you’re planning on ordering some, proceed with caution. It’s not everyone who has the stomach to handle that much spice, but if you think you’re up to the challenge, go wild!
3. More Cloud Kitchens To Come
Famous for their signature long lines at any hour of the day, The Halal Guys definitely know a thing or two about business. The restaurant opened its first brick-and-mortar location in 2014 and has begun to expand into the sit-down restaurant world. Today, it has taken its first step into the delivery-only “cloud kitchen” business to meet growing customer demand. Cloud kitchens, often called ghost kitchens, are essentially fully-equipped kitchens that prepares food off-premises. It also allows franchisees to include delivery services without opening new locations or overburdening staff at existing restaurants. It basically unlocks opportunities in desirable markets while avoiding typical barriers like high rent or infrastructure costs. While this initiative from The Halal Guys was taken before the whole pandemic took place, there’s no denying how useful this new idea has been in our current situation. With new procedures and health measures, cloud kitchens are coming in handy as they reduce human contact and allows for more food to be prepared. The Halal Guys plans on opening more and more cloud kitchens and expand its reach as much as possible. As the delivery market expands, so does the business for cost-effective ways to offer just that.
2. A Website To Fuel Growth
Speaking of the delivery market, one of the most popular ways to order food has gone from in-house to online in the last couple of years – and especially since the beginning of the pandemic. With over four carts, 95 restaurants, and 400 more locations in the pipeline, The Halal Guys needed to find a way to expand without getting drowned in extra costs. This is where the website comes into play. To complement the brand’s ongoing growth and innovation, The Halal Guys partnered up with Gourmet Marketing to develop its new website to enhance the online user experience, and obviously, simplify functions such as online ordering for catering and delivery. The modern, user-friendly website offers a platform that will inform and educate customers with the latest company news and services with features like a weekly blog, individual location pages with information about each restaurant, and convenient ordering links – all designed to make the customers’ experience effortless. Plus, now you will soon be able to shop online, but not just for food. Branded t-shirts, hoodies, water bottles, you name it – all available for purchase via the website. The site also helps people stay up-to-date on the company’s latest safety protocols, and the loyalty program is also better supported.
1. Now Available At Your Grocery Store
There’s arguably not a better feeling than heading to your local grocery store, only to find products from your favorite restaurants right there on the shelves. You no longer need to cheat on your budget to get a restaurant meal – you just need to put it in your cart and act like it belongs there! It looks like The Halal Guys understood that and decided to go ahead and bring their food goodness to our retail and grocery stores. Through a partnership with CAA-GBG, The Halal Guys want to extend its reach through licensing and product extension initiatives focused on the specialty food and grocery space. It’s all about giving fans around the world the chance to try and buy their products, even if they don’t have access to the restaurant. “Its’ a major step in our strategic global growth plan,” said Ahmed Abouelenein, CEO of The Halal Guys. Since CAA-CBG is well known worldwide for its ability to help brands successfully expand into new markets, it just seemed like the right move to make for The Halal Guys. With food and packaged products available at grocery stores, it will definitely help the brand expand and reach existing – or new – fans all over.