(photo credit: Courtesy)
A young man sticks his head into Tel Aviv’s new Ibn Gvirol Cinnabon store. “Are
you open for business yet?” he asks. It is Friday, a couple of hours before the
official grand opening. “Oh, man, if I bring some to my wife, she’ll love me,”
he says, half to himself. In a corner, an a/c repair man sets up the air
Behind the counter, employees prepare for a clearly drooling
Israeli public’s first run on this great American treat.
Cinnabon franchise to Israel has been a nearly two-year project of restaurant
entrepreneur Ronen Sorinov and his wife, Katya. With silent backers and,
according to Sorinov, an initial investment of nearly NIS 1.5 million, their
group ROK Investments has obligated itself to launch at least 10 stores in the
next three years, four of which are planned for Tel Aviv.
been on the premises since 7 a.m. At that early hour, when most Tel Avivians
were enjoying the start of their weekends, he began the day’s work, along with
one of his employees. They have recently returned from a week’s training at a
Cinnabon in Cyprus. Now Sorinov – thrice crowned the strongest man in Israel in
a contest that included dragging three 7.5-ton trucks for 30 meters – together
with his team, is flexing his muscles, so to speak, under the attentive eyes of
two members of Cinnabon’s corporate training staff.
In an upstairs
kitchen, he begins carefully measuring the ingredients for the flour of the
famous cinnamon buns. They add water and blend it in a huge mixer. Every once in
a while, Sorinov checks in the Cinnabon recipe book to make sure they are
precisely following all directions. The smell of Cinnabon’s proprietary Macara
cinnamon, specially imported from Indonesia, plus brown sugar, permeates the
“If you come here or you go to Asia or to America, you still get the
same product,” explains Dillon McFarland, international operations manager for
Focus Brands, the company that owns Cinnabon, in addition to a number of other
well-known American franchises. He wears a Cinnabon shirt and ball cap and has
an infectious enthusiasm for his work.
Downstairs, preparations for the
opening-day crowd are in high gear. Recipe cards lie on the
“After they make it a few times with the pictures, we will
leave the recipe cards out. They are in Hebrew so I can’t read them, but I can
recognize the numbers of the measurements,” McFarland says.
If a Cinnabon
location wants to make a change to a recipe or even substitute locally produced
ingredients, it must receive corporate approval. This, according to McFarland,
ensures that the products of every location carrying the Cinnabon name meet the
same standards of taste and quality. Cinnabon Israel also adheres to all kashrut
requirements, and at press time the kashrut certificate was on its way to the
This ability to consistently offer a taste consumers recognize is
key to success with a brand like Cinnabon, according to Yehuda Ceder. He is the
former CEO of the now-defunct Dunkin’ Donuts Israel franchise.
the most important thing to remember is training, training, training,” he says.
“The repeatability of the taste, the taste must always be the same.
is important, as well as the freshness of ingredients.
customers will return and say, ‘It’s not the same bun that I had.’” THE DOORS
have only been open for about an hour, but the line at Cinnabon runs out of the
entrance and onto the sidewalk. Tel Aviv is giving it a very enthusiastic
welcome. The buns are being sold almost as fast as they come out of the
“What will we take?” a little boy asks his mother. He dances around
with his younger brother as he peers over the countertop at the different white
frosted cinnamon buns lined up on hotplates.
“Whatever they have when we
get there; that is the safest route,” his mother replies.
Outside, in the seating area, a couple
enjoys a Cinnabon with coffee. “We saw the ‘Coming Soon’ sign,” says 28-year-old
Hilah Harari. She describes the Cinnabon as “very tasty.”
Boaz, 30, says he agrees but still prefers the US version. “The American one is
better. In America, we’d sit on the bus for hours craving it.”
what they’d say if they knew the recipes were exactly the same, Hilah laughs and
replies, “The setting is different; it’s problematic.”
Ceder agrees with
Hilah’s analysis. “We know you can go to the same place to drink coffee today
with one person and the next day with another person, and you’ll think the taste
has changed. So the important thing is the feeling, the impression of the
Regardless of the version comparisons, things appear to be
going well. “I have never seen any market where you can put ‘Coming Soon’ signs
on the doors and people are still knocking to get in,” says Robert Derieux,
director of international operations for Focus Brands. He adds that this clear
consumer passion for the product, coupled with the involved management approach
of the Sorinovs, are what give him confidence in their ability to
“The hands-on owner has a much better chance of success. It is
extremely important that you are engaged in your business.”
adds one more point – something he says proved to be Dunkin’ Donuts Israel’s
fatal flaw and a quality that Cinnabon will have to have if it is to conquer the
Israeli market. “There is a need for long-range planning until they reach an
adaptation between the product and the customers. For this, the owner will need
to invest in the long term.”
Business considerations aside, Sorinov puts
it on a much more basic level. He says he believes in the product, he loves
Cinnabon, and he thinks Israelis will too.
“I want to have a Cinnabon in
every mall in Israel and at the airport. The most important thing is that every
Israeli will know Cinnabon – that it will be just like a
felafel.”Cinnabon is located at 62 Ibn Gvirol Street in Tel Aviv. Tel
(03) 726- 6694. The classic Cinnabon bun costs NIS 17.