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Europe focus: Turkey – Europe’s gateway to the Middle East

Europe focus: Turkey – Europe’s gateway to the Middle East

Franchisors would do well to harness the many benefits of the anchor of Southeastern Europe.

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Words by Kieran McLoone, deputy editor for Global Franchise


Population: 82 million
Size: 780,580 sq. kilometers
GDP: $1.14tr
Franchise market value: $43bn

While franchising was only introduced to Turkey when McDonald’s opened its first Istanbul location in 1985, you’d be forgiven for thinking the business model has always been a part of the country’s infrastructure. An exponential rise in the popularity of Turkish franchising, both for international as well as domestic brands, has positioned this country as a surprising frontrunner when it comes to European development and beyond.

There are undoubtedly some key cultural differences that franchises must consider, such as 99.8 per cent of the country being of Muslim faith, but this hasn’t stopped some of the biggest Western names finding immeasurable success within Turkey.

Burger King, for example, opened its first Turkish restaurant in 1995, and now has more than 600 locations throughout the region. This surpasses even the golden arches themselves, with McDonald’s currently operating around 200 locations in this dense, vibrant economy.

A track record of foreign investment

According to the Turkish Franchise Association (UFRAD), there are approximately 3,000 different franchise brands currently operating within the country – 36 per cent of which are of international origin. On the opposite end of the spectrum, around 120 Turkish brands have managed to thrive well enough within their home market to expand internationally.

From 2013-2018 the number of franchisors in Turkey tripled, helped in no small part by the $180bn in foreign investment Turkey has received over the last 15 years. Franchising brings in around $43bn for the country, with the city of Istanbul being the focal point for much of this activity.

“As well as being the most populous and busiest city in Turkey, Istanbul is the center of all national and regional trade and distribution channels,” explains Özhan Erem, founder of EREM Media Group, and organizer of Istanbul’s popular Be My Franchise Expo. “In addition, Istanbul welcomes millions of tourists every year as well as a significant number of visitors, not only for holidays but also for exhibitions and symposiums of various topics.”

The start of something big

The upward trajectory of Turkey’s franchise industry is one of the main appeals for international franchisors, and positions the country as one-to- watch for burgeoning franchisors as we enter a new decade for business development.

The GDP per capita for the country, for example, has more than tripled over the past decade and now sits at around $15,200. The country’s population, meanwhile, is staggeringly young, with over half of Turkey being under the age of 30.

“Turkey has a young population where the average age is 32, and it’s expected to reach 105 million by 2050,” says Erem. “Therefore, those who invest in Turkey today will have the upper hand in their future business endeavors.”

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