Joey Ghazal crowned as Restaurateur of the Year 2018

The founder of The Maine Oyster Bar & Grill and Barbary Deli + Cocktail Club won at the Caterer Middle East Awards
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Joey Ghazal accepting the award from Gavin Dodd.
ITP Images
Joey Ghazal accepting the award from Gavin Dodd.

Joey Ghazal, founder of The Maine Oyster Bar & Grill and Barbary Deli + Cocktail Club, has emerged victorious after being named the Restaurateur of the Year at the Caterer Middle East Awards 2018.

The competition for this category was tough; judges debated over the entries for more than an hour. The highly commended nominee was Baker & Spice’s Andre Gerschel, and Ghazal was presented his trophy by A. Ronai managing director Gavin Dodd.

Ghazal, who has opened more than six outlets in his career across the region, is on the floor of his restaurants on a regular basis. He told Caterer Middle East after picking up his trophy: “It’s home so I feel like I’m entertaining my guests, and meeting new people all the time. That’s where I feel most alive. That’s my natural state.”

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An entrepreneur who is giving the consumers exactly what they are asking for right now with fresh concepts, he has spotted gaps in the market and monetised underserviced locations. Asked about the ingredients needed for a successful restaurant, Ghazal said: “Emotional intuitiveness. A lot of people get everything right and then they just miss that one thing – maybe the music is wrong, maybe the service is not emotional enough, maybe the space doesn’t resonate with people.

“It’s important to see it in a 4D perspective – some people miss that. It’s sad because so much work has clearly gone into things, and sometimes you just need that emotional intuitiveness to understand what the guest is looking for.”

An avid supporter of new technology and techniques, his decisions have led to increased profitability, and notably, his first restaurant in Dubai made ROI in under one-and-a-half years.

And yet he isn’t stopping there. Ghazal revealed: “I’m definitely working on expanding The Maine. That’s happening faster than even I can comprehend. It’s very exciting because The Maine has a lot of legs and I think there’s more to say. I’m excited to show people what I have in store,” while reiterating that the expansion doesn’t involve copying the concept - which also won an award on the night.

He continued: “I’m also working on a couple of undercover things that I can’t really share but it will definitely be different.”

This year's awards were supported by: platinum sponsor Emaar Hospitality Group; category sponsors A.Ronai, A&T Group Interiors, Bragard, Precision Refrigeration and TSSC, Pulsar Foodstuff, 1765 Gemini; dessert sponsors EMF, Cacao Barry, Callebaut; photobooth sponsor Mintano by Sketches; social media partner Tint; water sponsor Acqua Panna and San Pellegrino; and beverage sponsors MMI, Campari, Fever Tree, and Skyy Vodka.

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