New York street-food vendor The Halal Guys looks to open Berkeley storefront

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A well-known New York City restaurant, The Halal Guys, looks to expand from its street-food roots to a restaurant location in Berkeley sometime in 2016.

The franchise’s decision to open in the city comes after positive responses from the young demographic at its New York locations, specifically with college students, according to Tom Nguyen, a franchise owner who would oversee the Berkeley restaurant. He attributes its reported popularity among students to the low prices and accessibility of the company’s food.

The Berkeley restaurant will resemble the New York storefronts but will continue to offer the same options as its food carts, according to Nguyen.

Jerry Bao, a UC Berkeley senior, has tried The Halal Guys’ food several times while visiting family in New York and said he “anticipates a lot of success” for the company, expecting that its popularity will transfer to the West Coast.

“Hopefully, they’ll maintain the same taste from the East Coast,” Bao said. “If they do, it’ll be a huge hit, just the way In-N-Out is in Texas.”

The Halal Guys has opened four carts and two storefront locations in Manhattan since its opening as a food cart in 1990. The company now plans to expand nationally to areas including Southern California, Las Vegas and Texas. The Halal Guys is also looking to open international locations in the Philippines and Malaysia, said Marketing Manager Ali Abdelmohsen.

There are currently three food carts with locations near the UC Berkeley campus, on Bancroft and College avenues.

Ann Vu, an employee with the Healthy Heavenly Foods food truck near campus, said she is not threatened by the potential of a The Halal Guys’ storefront location. She said she focuses on “good food, good service, good prices and a clean establishment” rather than on the presence of other businesses.

“There’s absolutely room for competition,” she said.

Adin Levy, a UC Berkeley sophomore from New York City, said that she ate from The Halal Guys’ carts frequently throughout her high school years but that the “appeal of Halal was not necessarily about the quality of the food … but about the experience.”

She worried, however, that The Halal Guys might be at risk of losing some of what many consider its New York charm by choosing to open in Berkeley a storefront instead of a cart. Levy said she hopes the company will remain “loyal to its roots.”

The company is currently in the process of searching for potential locations in Berkeley, Nguyen said. He added that the Berkeley franchise will focus on being easily accessible to both UC Berkeley students and faculty.

While The Halal Guys hopes to open a franchise near the campus in 2016, the timeline is dependent on the availability of a location in the city.

Contact Elaina Provencio at [email protected].