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Kuwait's F&B Industry: Challenges and Opportunities

20 Dec 2023

In the Gulf, Kuwait has long been viewed as a leader in the food and beverage (F&B) sector. Recent figures, nonetheless, suggest that the country might have lost its stellar position to competitors in the area. We contemplate the possible reasons behind the dethroning of Kuwait and highlight the opportunities that exist to regain its competitive edge.

The World Bank in 2020, determined that oil exports accounted for 85.9% of Kuwait's total export revenues making it one of the main drivers of the country's economy. However, for the last few years, the Kuwaiti government has been striving to diversify its economy. That is why it established The National Fund for Small and Medium Enterprise Development in 2013 and the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) launched an incubator program, in 2016, providing SMEs with training and mentorships. Furthermore, in 2019, the Kuwaiti government introduced a new law to encourage investment in the private sector, which includes tax incentives for investors and exemptions from customs duties and other taxes on imported equipment, raw materials, and other inputs used in the production of goods and services, including food and beverages. Also in 2022, it organized The Kuwaiti Food Festival to promote the country's F&B industry and support local businesses.

The “fast food and takeaway” segment is a top earner in Kuwait's F&B industry, generating over 40% of the industry's revenue, as highlighted by IBISWorld's report. The report predicts that the market will experience a compound annual growth rate that will reach $4.7 billion by 2025. Meanwhile, KPMG's report projects a higher growth rate of 4.6% for the Kuwaiti F&B industry from 2021 to 2025.

Kuwait is known for having a high cost of living compared to other countries; KPMG's report further revealed that Kuwaiti consumers spend an average of 14% of their household income on food and beverage, which is relatively substantial.

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Franchising's increasing popularity in Kuwait is evident with international franchise brands like McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Subway, Burger King, and Domino's Pizza dominating the market. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the franchise sector grew by 7% in 2020, as reported by the International Franchise Association (IFA)With over 50 international franchise brands and more than 1,500 franchise units across the country, the fast-food industry in Kuwait is expected to grow further, according to a report by Euromonitor International. This growth presents opportunities for local entrepreneurs to partner with established international brands and expand their businesses. In fact, McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut alone have a combined total of over 160 outlets across the country, as noted in a report by Franchise Direct. Other popular franchise brands in Kuwait include Subway, Burger King, and Domino's Pizza. Overall, the figures demonstrate that franchising has become a key business model in Kuwait, offering local entrepreneurs access to established brands and proven business models as well as the opportunity to tap into a growing market.

Initially supported by Saudi clientele, these local concepts are now experiencing growth and success thanks to an influx of international visitors.

Euromonitor reports that the following ten leading F&B operators in Kuwait account for over 70% of the market share:

  1. Americana Group: The top restaurant operator which accounts for popular brands, such as KFC, Hardee's, TGI Fridays, and Pizza Hut, has a significant presence in Kuwait.  

  2. Yum! Brands: The owning company of numerous well-known fast-food chains, including Taco Bell, has a substantial presence in Kuwait.

  3. McDonald's: The global fast-food chain has a strong presence in Kuwait, with several locations across the country.

  4. Alshaya Group: The leading international retail franchise operator with major brands under its belt, like The Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Chang's, has a significant presence in Kuwait.

  5. Gulf Catering Company: The top catering and food service provider in Kuwait, serves a wide range of clients, including airlines, oil and gas companies, and government agencies.

  6. Food World: The popular supermarket chain also operates several cafes and restaurants in Kuwait.

  7. Casper & Gambini's: The Lebanese homegrown café-restaurant has multiple locations in Kuwait.

  8. M.H. Alshaya Co.: The popular international retail franchise operator manages several food and beverage brands, including Starbucks and Shake Shack.

  9. Kout Food Group - This is a leading food and beverage company in Kuwait with a diverse portfolio of brands, including Burger King, Pizza Inn, and Taco Bell.

  10. Costa Coffee: This is a popular coffee chain that has multiple locations in Kuwait.

Although international chains dominate the Kuwaiti F&B market, the Kuwait Times reports that there is an increasing interest in local and regional F&B concepts. Several popular homegrown restaurants in Kuwait are worth exploring; here are the top ones:

  1. Mais Alghanim: A classic Kuwaiti establishment serving traditional dishes in an elegant setting.

  2. Melenzané: An exquisite Italian food restaurant.

  3. Prime & Toast: is a cozy cafe known for its creative take on classic dishes.

  4. Freej Swaileh: This Kuwaiti restaurant offers a taste of local cuisine with a modern twist.

  5. The Foundry: is a popular restaurant offering a steakhouse experience with seafood options and vegetarian dishes.


In 2021, Kuwait's foodservice industry was valued at KWD 924 million (equivalent to USD 3.1 billion). However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many F&B operators experienced a decline in revenue and foot traffic due to lockdowns and restrictions on indoor dining, greatly impacting the industry. According to KPMG’s report, many restaurants and cafes were forced to close temporarily or permanently. According to a Kuwait Times article, around 150 restaurants and cafes closed for good.

Despite COVID-19’s repercussions, Kuwait's food and beverage industry is gradually bouncing back and adjusting to the new reality. This recovery can be attributed to the efforts of both F&B operators and the government, who have taken measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and support the industry, including offering delivery and takeout services.

The Kuwaiti government's proactive steps to bolster the growth of the F&B industry include setting up food parks and promoting organic farming.

Despite these challenges, there are still opportunities for Kuwaiti F&B companies to regain their competitive edge. By leveraging its strengths, such as its regulatory framework, the government's support for SMEs, and the growing demand for local and regional concepts, Kuwait can position itself for long-term growth and success in the GCC's F&B industry.

Tags: Kuwait, F&B sector, challenges, opportunities, diversification, small and medium enterprise, Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority, tax incentives, fast food, takeaway, compound annual growth rate, high cost of living, franchising, international franchise brands, market share, Americana Group, Yum! Brands, McDonald's, Alshaya Group, Gulf Catering Company, Food World, Casper & Gambini's, M.H. Alshaya Co., Kout Food Group, Costa Coffee, homegrown restaurants, Mais Alghanim, Melenzané, Prime & Toast, Freej Swaileh, The Foundry.


#Kuwait #FandBIndustry #FoodForward #NationalFund #KDIPA #Franchising #FastFood #LocalEntrepreneurs #MarketShare #InternationalChains #HomegrownRestaurants #Diversification #Opportunities #Challenges #Growth #Economy #Investment #FoodFestival #SMEs #Gulf #OilExports #CostofLiving #MarketSize #Revenue #IndustryAnalysis #BusinessModels #Expansion #COVID19 #BrandPartnerships

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