Atlanta Journal Constitution:

While a recession has slowed overall U.S. restaurant growth, Atlanta food franchises are finding ample room for expansion in the Middle East.

Several Atlanta-based restaurant groups, such as AFC Enterprises, Church’s Chicken and Focus Brands, continue to add outlets in the Middle East. Raving Brands and Petrus Brands, also based in Atlanta, see opportunity as they enter the region.

Although the United States has political tensions with some Mideast nations, the Atlanta franchises say their brands have been embraced by business partners and consumers.

U.S. fast-food chains —- known for consistently and quickly preparing meals —- are a good fit for the rapidly developing region, said Church’s Chicken President and CEO Harsha Agadi.

Church’s has 18 restaurants in four countries there. In 10 years, the chain could have 150 to 200 outlets in the region, Agadi said.

“What works in the Middle East is very easy: Be American,” Agadi said. “What you’re selling is ‘Made in the USA.’ The best thing America makes, in my opinion, is not cars, it’s not planes, it’s not computers. It’s fast food.”

Church’s does have ties to the region. It’s owned by Arcapita, a Bahrain investment bank that bought the brand in 2004 from Atlanta-based AFC Enterprises. Read more.