The Dixie Lee fast-food franchise, which began in Belleville, Canada in 1964, now counts Jamaica among its international markets, opening its first local branch on Feb 25 at the Portmore Pines Plaza. The chain of restaurants, which has over 80 locations worldwide, can also be found in Guyana and the United Arab Emirates, with construction underway in Ukraine.
The local Dixie Lee outlet is operated by Canadian-based Jamaican businessman Elisha Smellie, who successfully persuaded the international directors to invest in the country. Though one may have expected the franchise to plant its roots in Kingston, Smellie claims the move to Portmore was strategic. His market research revealed that Dixie Lee's main competitor, KFC, receives its highest profit margin in the country from one of its Portmore branches. He emphasised the importance of business owners in the diaspora investing in their home country, stating that he could have opened a branch in Canada, but opted instead to come back to the country of his birth to make an impact in the financial sector.
The evening's guest speaker, Keith Hinds, the Mayor of Portmore, also cemented the director's point by stating that Portmore is a haven for investors because of the success of businesses in the municipality. Hinds further encouraged more investors to capitalise on the potential of Portmore to host a myriad of ventures. "Portmore is a community that has become global in the last couple of years. We have close to half-a-million people living here, with a workforce that is second to none. This is what Smellie and his team realised, why they placed their first Dixie Lee restaurant in Portmore," he commented.
Noele Murano, operations director at Dixie Lee International, told Thursday Food, "Dixie Lee is on a course to expand and develop in the Caribbean, with a huge potential market here in Jamaica." What's more, Murano is confident the franchise will do well in Jamaica, explaining, "We are incorporating local cuisine (such as sweet potato pudding) into our menu. We are also engaging local companies like Rainforest Seafoods, Caribbean Broilers, and Pepsi Cola Jamaica. I think it is important for people to know that we are not just here to do business for our benefit. We are seriously investing in Jamaica for the benefit of the local people."
Currently, Dixie Lee Jamaica has employed 20 persons within the community of Portmore and it is the hope of the proprietors to open the first Kingston branch in a few months.