The Halal Guys, a “crossing the chasm” success story

The Halal Guys restaurant design checks the “right boxes” for crossing the chasm” to win over a mainstream market. Well, after the food is “right,” of course. Photo credit: QSR

My introduction to halal, the practice of butchering and serving meat under Islamic law, came from my friendship with Ida. She came to Governors State University (University Park, IL) that year on a Fulbright Scholarship. She was beautiful, funny, and seemed to always have a flock of men chasing her.

The Islamic form of slaughtering animals or poultry, dhabiha, involves killing through a cut to the jugular vein, carotid artery and windpipe. Animals must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter and all blood is drained from the carcass.

BBC News, What is Halal Meat

Because I do so much research involving the culinary arts and restaurant/foodservice trade, I know of The Halal Guys. I have eaten gyros for most of my adult life. Was turned onto falafel thanks to a young woman I worked with (who first came to the US as a GERMAN exchange student, which seems odd…but on the other hand, she like many Europeans was more traveled and culinary adventurous).

The Halal Guys are a recent transplant to Chicago–proper. Being a fast growing franchise and given their signature menu item is the gyro, no surprise someone would bring the concept to the City.

Especially since The Halal Guys tagline is Authentic American Halal Food.

That aside, wonderfully, their meats are certified halal.

For a product to be Halal certified, it means that it is lawful and acceptable under Islamic guidelines. Muslims living in non-Islamic countries look for Halal certification before consuming food, whereas in Islamic countries, like throughout the Middle East and Indonesia, all food is Halal.

Halal meat is healthier because animals raised the Halal way are grown with much care versus animals raised on factory farms. Animals are free to graze, and are grass-fed with no antibiotics and hormones treatment.

The Halal Guys website

This was a bit of surprise given what halal meat is. It would seem to be confusing if not a turn-off to mainstream Americans. On the other hand, note there is zero mention of slaughtering animals and draining their blood. Rather, the site ties the meat to “healthier for you” and “uncaged, grass-fed” practices which are nectar to upper middle class, white kids. Once you capture this crowd (e.g. Chipotle, the early years), you can win over the rest of the mainstream including urban audiences.

The Halal Guys gyros made with certified halal meat

Keeping it real, though, urban folks (read: black folks) have long been devotees of gyros (usually called guy-rolls with the accent on guy).

And as I call out in the photo of the restaurant design, it’s easy to see they get how to cross the chasm and win over the mainstream. The modern wood and steel elements shout “millennials eat here. you’ll feel at home. and safe). It’s a smart approach.

The Halal Guys’ brand has evolved and we felt it was important to acknowledge that,” says Margaret Carrera, Chief Development Officer of The Halal Guys. “We hope the new design pays homage to the origins of The Halal Guys while continuing the evolution of the brand well into the 21st century.”

QSR, The Halal Guys Unveil New Restaurant Design

There are a gazillion joints–mostly mom-and-pop and not surprisingly, Greek-owned–that sell gyros in the Chicago Southland (and N.W.I. with a shout-out to Munster Gyros which are still great-tasting, packed with meat, and reasonably priced).

Still, an enterprising business person could probably open a The Halal Guys restaurant franchise and still do fine. There are plenty of mom-and-pop places that specialize in hamburgers, while Sonic, Culver’s, Freddy’s, and Portillo’s keep bringing em in.

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