By Ray Hanania
Last year during the Academy Awards, Oscar hostess Ellen DeGeneres ordered Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria (BMPP) pizza delivered to the show and then walked through the audience with the delivery driver, sharing slices with stars such as Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
The humor drew big laughs at the Oscars but also put a little known pizza franchise on the international map, giving it worldwide recognition, including in the Middle East where audiences were captivated by the nomination of three Arab films for the coveted Hollywood film industry awards.
A few days after, DeGeneres had the pizza delivery driver, “Edgar,” make an appearance on her show, “The Ellen Show,” where she gave him a $1,000 tip. Since the telecast, the brand has been deluged with franchise inquiries, officials said.
This week, BMPP Officials announced in Los Angeles that they have signed a deal with BinHendi Enterprises of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to develop the brand throughout the Mideast.
BMPP features the largest delivered pizza in the world, the Giant Sicilian, at over 20 square feet (1.9 square meters), as well as their signature Big Mama and Big Papa pizzas.
BMPP founders and siblings Aro and Allen Agakhanyan are described as a true American success story. The two brothers emigrated to America with their mother from Armenia in 1985 when they were both in their early teens and only spoke in their native tongue.
The first BMPP pizzeria was opened just six years later and the concept has grown to 20 restaurants throughout the Los Angeles metro market.
Dubai-based BinHendi Enterprises was established by its current Chairman Mohi-Din BinHendi in 1974. It operates more than 150 restaurant and retail locations throughout the entire region. According to BinHendi, “Big Mama’s and Papa’s Pizzeria provides BinHendi Enterprises a unique restaurant offering that will be embraced by both locals and expatriates in the region.”
BinHendi added, “BMPP’s strong link to Los Angeles and the southern California culture gives us a very unique opportunity.”
Ray Perry, CEO of Big Mamas & Papas Franchising, LLC said, “The first restaurant in the Mideast will open in Dubai.”
The Agakhanyan brothers have partnered with Perry’s PFD Franchise Services, LLC to form the franchise company. The principals of PFD have over 100 years of franchising and restaurant experience.
Many Arabs and Muslims closely identify with Armenians who were persecuted by the Turks during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. And many Armenians lived in the Middle East embracing Arab culture and the Arabic language.
This year’s Oscars will be hosted by Neil Patrick Harris.