Mediterranean Restaurant Shawarma Press Is Pharmacist’s Next Adventure | Franchise News


Inspired by food from where she grew up, Sawsan Abublan founded Shawarma Press in 2017, leaving her career as a pharmacist.

When Sawsan Abublan launched Shawarma Press, she wasn’t just opening a restaurant, she was also making a career change. Inspired by the food and flavors of her youth, the pharmacist-turned-restaurateur took what she called “a leap of faith” and opened the Mediterranean concept in 2017 with the first location in Irving, Texas.

Originally from Jerusalem, Abublan grew up in Jordan. After meeting her husband and moving to the United States, she said though she was happy growing in her career as a pharmacist, the desire to start a business remained.

“You try to think of what’s the next idea no one has thought of,” Abublan said. “Technically, everything has been thought of, so it becomes tough. But during our visits overseas to Jordan, we would always be craving shawarma. My husband also travels all over the world for his work, and found that good, authentic shawarma was nowhere to be found.”

Shawarma Press, which she called “that breakthrough idea,” uses its chicken and beef shawarma in a variety of wraps, bowls and platters, and restaurants also serve house-made falafel, hummus and savory pastries. The model was created with scalability in mind, she noted.

“When we looked at the recipes, equipment and training, we made sure that everything we were doing for store No. 1 could be replicated into more stores, whether they were corporate or non-corporate,” Abublan said. “We also knew this idea would not require skilled labor, meaning anyone who’s an enthusiast who wanted to become a franchisee would be able to be a franchisee.”

The coronavirus pandemic hit just as the business was finalizing its franchise disclosure document, operating manual and store policies. While COVID could have derailed expansion plans, Abublan said there was a period of time when people were able to reflect on their careers. That in turn led to franchise interest for Shawarma Press.


Sawsan Abublan

“We landed our first franchisee in 2020 and got the deal signed that year,” Abublan said. “Our first franchisee took some time to get their first location open because of the delays and shortages. But they are now fully functional and open, and our second franchisee also opened in 2022.”

Another development for Shawarma Press during the height of the pandemic was a new relationship with Walmart. “We have two models for growth now,” Abublan said. “There will be stand-alone locations and now those inside Walmart. Those are two different models that are both very attractive for franchisees.”

Today, six restaurants are open, four of them in the Dallas area, and the others in San Antonio and just outside of Austin. Four are company-owned and two are franchised. Abublan said three locations are being developed in Atlanta, along with one in Kansas, another in Houston and a fifth in the Dallas market. The initial investment range for a store is between $235,500 and $440,750.

“From what we’re seeing, in terms of inquiries and what’s in the pipeline, I think we’re set really nicely for meaningful growth,” Abublan said. “My idea is to grow regionally. Starting with Texas, Oklahoma and Georgia, going as far east as we can go without overstretching our supply chain. When we grow like that, we can support all of the locations.”

Though Abublan is now several years removed from her work as a pharmacist, she said her background in the field still comes into play.

“I still use my healthcare background so much,” Abublan said. “Health regulations, cross contamination and public safety, all of those come into play in a restaurant,” she said. “People walk in and find out I’m a pharmacist and say ‘oh, no wonder it’s so clean.’”

She’s also still helping people in her franchisor role, too. “Our FDD requires franchisees and corporate locations to contribute a percentage of our sales to a nonprofit in the area. We don’t require them to support any specific organizations, but ask they reach out to local nonprofits. The locations here in Dallas are in contact with the homeless shelters, which always had a need for support.”

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