Top 10 Outlet Openings of 2010
Caterer Middle East’s pick of the hottest F&B outlet launches from around the region — all of which show how the right market research, branding and ethos can generate a successful new business even in a tough economic climate.
Caterer Middle East’s Top 10 Outlet Openings of 2010 is a round-up of the most interesting, buzz-generating,commercially confident launches of this year.
Outlets did not have to be of any specific orientation to be included — just strong in their particular arena, with
the potential to do well in the market.
The list was compiled using recommendations offered by industry professionals and ITP editorial staff,
while thefinal ranking was selected based on votes cast by the ITP editorial team.
Please note that the Top 10 Outlet Openings of 2010 is an entirely subjective list.
Hakkasan, Emirates Palace
Topping our list of this year’s top outlet openings is Hakkasan Abu Dhabi — the Hakkasan group’s third outletworldwide, bringing the brand’s trademark modern Chinese cuisine to a new audience.
Executive chef Lee Kok Hua explains: “The base of the menu is classical Cantonese cuisine, then we mix in some Far
Eastern and Chinese cuisine as well.”
Hakkasan Limited chief operating officer Didier Souillat believes the new outlet has “a bit of an edge” over other
UAE restaurants of the same calibre, but insists: “We’re not about being competitive, we’re about complementing what
is already a great food offering in Abu Dhabi, and indeed the UAE.”
Chef Kok Hua agrees: “We don’t want to compare ourselves with other restaurants. When we arrived here, we did our
market research in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but we can’t weigh ourselves up [against other outlets], because we have a
different approach. We are guided by our Hakkasan philosophy; we are a Chinese restaurant like no other.”
“We have a lot going for us: there is no such concept as Hakkasan in the region at the moment,” continues Souillat.
“The attraction of being in Emirates Palace is a plus; and I think the features — not just the food, but the whole
layout and its appeal to the senses — will definitely continue to fill the place up.”
Rhodes Twenty10, Le Royal Méridien
Rhodes Twenty10, opening this summer at Dubai’s Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort and Spa, will provide a steakhouse
concept “with a new twist”, according to patron chef Gary Rhodes.
“We’re going to make sure the guest is in control of what they want to eat, not just having what the menu says they should,” he explains.
Commenting on the restaurant’s inception, Pam Wilby, complex general manager of Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort and Spa and Grosvenor House Dubai, adds: “We had been planning on renovating our existing steak house, Prime Rib, for some time; so when Gary Rhodes approached us regarding Rhodes Twenty10, the timing could not have been better.
“Based on his food concept, the restaurant’s design mixes both contemporary and classical elements with trendy details,” she continues. “This has been achieved drawing on luxurious fabrics, black sparkling marble floors and a chic lilac colour.”
Wilby insists that although Dubai already boasts many steak restaurants, Rhodes Twenty10 wil bring something new to the market.
“The emphasis is based on sharing, bringing family and friends together,” she says. “Plus the menu will range from classical dishes to some much more exotic creations, such as the Rhodes Twenty10 signature burger: presented without a burger bun, topped with foie gras.”
Tribes, Mall of the Emirates
This family restaurant is scheduled to open in UAE shopping complex Mall of the Emirates’ new food court before the end of the year.
Foodfund International head of operations Joe Van Jaarsveld labells the venture a “unique, contemporary experience of traditional tribal cuisine, encompassing recipes from all over the African continent”.
“The décor is going to transport the diner to mysterious ancient Africa, as well as bringing flavours from the modern style. Add vibrant service, carried out by enthusiastic personnel from all over the continent, and the unforgettable experience will be complete,” he asserts — while executive chef Roy Soundranayagam adds: “We have a close relationship with our staff who come from several African tribes, and having tasted some of their favourite dishes, I knew we were on a winner.”
Soundranayagam reveals that the menu comprises traditional dishes from most countries on the African continent.
“We have been researching, testing and perfecting the flavours and recipes with our team for the past 18 months,” he explains.
And Van Jaarsveld is confident all the hard work will pay off. “The lack of disposable income has meant the public are far more careful where they spend their hard-earned cash,” he admits. “But we believe that quality food, at prices that scream value, with service that is genuine not automated, will always ensure success. Add a bit of theatre to the whole experience and its success has no limit!”
Floor 10, Kempinski Nile Hotel
Floor 10 is a new ‘dining destination’ at Egypt’s recently opened Kempinski Nile Hotel, in Cairo.
The outlet’s maître de cuisine, Simon Dow, describes Floor 10 as “an eclectic mix of influences from Europe, with little touches from the Middle East”.
“Although the menu foundations are prominently French, we have really updated them to create a sexy, edgy dining experience — so the customers feels like they are having something new and fresh and will want to come back,” he explains.
The hotel’s director of F&B, Raoul Duclos, adds that the concept has been developed as something “simple, fresh and unique — the first real Michelin-star experience in Cairo”. But establishing this venue was not without its challenges, Duclos admits.
“Finding the right balance between investment and potential return was vital — as was planning the actual concept.
Unique often means expensive, and nowadays ‘expensive’ is a risk,” he comments.
But Duclos feels the team has successfully accomplished what it set out to do, as does Dow.
“We as a team believe in what we’re doing, which is definitely a key point in delivering a new concept,” he says.
Maze, The Pearl — Qatar
Adding yet another string to his bow is celeb chef Gordon Ramsay, who has opened a Doha branch of his maze restaurant at The Pearl — Qatar.
Restaurant manager Suzanna Parry describes the outlet’s offering as “European cuisine with Asian influences in a relaxed and informal environment”.
“We are not trying to replicate the exact same fine-dining experience of maze London, but instead adapt the concept to Doha using local produce as much as possible,” she explains.
Executive chef Robert Daniels agrees: “We decided on a concept for our menu before arriving, but then after being here and doing some market research, we took what we had and re-adapted that to the local environment.”
According to Parry, Doha is a prime market for F&B expansion. “Doha is where Dubai was 15 years ago,” she observes. “I’ve only been here five months and have never seen so many openings so close together; F&B projects are popping up all the time on The Pearl and it’s fantastic to be here first.
“Our success will be based on our continuous efforts to be different, to provide great service and more importantly fantastic cuisine,” Parry asserts.
Meanwhile Daniels says it is “down to the products and services that we offer as a business, and the standards that we maintain, that set us apart from the rest of the market”.
Mango Tree Bistro, Souk Al Bahar
In at number six is Mango Tree Bistro, the younger sibling of the established Mango Tree brand, which opened at Dubai’s Souk Al Bahar this year.
According to manager John Victor, Mango Tree Bistro was created “for the younger generation of customers; it’s very casual and the menu is more approachable.”
Chef de cuisine Ananto Hadi adds: “Our menu is a bit more simple than the average Thai menu, but without any compromises in taste — we fly in ingredients from Thailand to ensure that. This is simple food aimed at the younger generation, which is a big trend these days in Thailand.”
Hadi admits that getting exactly the right ingredients can be a challenge. “But we have overcome that by finding suitable back-up alternatives that don’t compromise the taste,” he explains.
Victor is confident of the brand’s success in the Middle East: “The Bistro concept was specifically designed a few years back for this market segment and price point,” he reveals.
“And we will continue to draw diners through our unique offers, the building of a loyal customer base and by constantly pushing things one step further.”
Pampano, The Pearl — Qatar
An unusual collaboration between opera star and celebrity chef comes in at number seven, adding to the growing F&B portfolio on The Pearl — Qatar.
Celebrated Mexican chef Richard Sandoval has partnered with opera legend Placido Domingo, to bring “modern Mexican seafood to Doha”, says the outlet’s operations manager, Hichem Benamor. Chef Fabian Coronado expands: “Richard Sandoval’s concept is a modern mix of traditional Mexican recipes, with a touch of Asian ingredients. He always uses high quality seafood and fresh goods.”
As others before him, Coronado has found the regional supply chain to pose problems. “Most items are imported, so their availability is therefore dependent on the suppliers. In order to overcome this, we have to contact a purveyor in the country and arrange for a local supplier to import specific ingredients we need,” he says.
But both Coronado and Benamor have full confidence in the success of the venture. “Good food is always in demand; despite the downturn, the public still dines out,” reasons Benamor. “Quality food and service will always be the winning horse in this race.”
The glitz and glamour of Las Vegas arrived in the Middle East this year, in the shape of renowned US restaurant brand Caramel, managed by The Light Group.
Jim Moaddab, director of operations for the group in Dubai, comments: “Caramel provides patrons with a young and sophisticated contemporary American restaurant, perfect for a quick bite or business lunch. Then by night it transforms into an exciting and energetic ultra-lounge serving flavourful and decadent plates, and offering a full-service bar; ideal for unwinding.”
Moaddab believe the outlet’s location at DIFC — “and the progressive nature of the brand” — will secure its appeal within the busy market. “We offer something a bit different,” he insists.
Discussing the menu, executive chef for The Light Group, Brian Massie, explains he wanted to create “a light fare, tapas style menu that’s conducive to its surroundings”.
“We want to be the first in Dubai to introduce trendy, fresh, innovative food,” he says. However Massie admits the region’s suppliers have raised challenges in this department.
“In the US, we’re used to vendors with years of experience, and the vast availability of many products — so if my vendor doesn’t have something, 100 other vendors will be able to get it to me in five minutes,” he explains, adding that this is not necessarily the case in the Middle East.
But Massie is not prepared to expect less. “The Dubai way isn’t always the right way, even if it is the answer you get from all the vendors; you need to set ground rules and explain your expectations, then live by those ideals,” he says.
Breathtakingly colourful new restaurant Shahista is hoping to make its mark as the UAE’s only outlet offering top-end Afghani cuisine.
Owner Safi Group’s chairman, Ghulam Hazrat Safi, expands: “There are many Afghani businesses across sectors that are headquarted in Dubai — but not many that relate to the F&B industry, particularly in a fine-dining atmosphere. This was the primary reason behind conceptualising Shahista.”
Safi reveals that the main challenge of launching the restaurant was sourcing the correct team. “But we are very happy with our choices and have managed to bring the restaurant to life in exactly the way we had planned,” he adds.
Shahista chef Wahid Ullah notes that the only mandate for the outlet’s menu was to make it authentic — and this is where he is planning to appeal to customers.
“In tougher economic times, chefs have to be more particular about satisfying their customers,” he explains. “You get one chance to make your guest a loyalist, so you can’t go wrong: if you get it right, you have a customer for life.”
Despite the competitive market, Safi is optimistic about the future: “Success depends on quality of service and food; we maintain these aspects at the highest standard, and so far the result has been very encouraging.”
Shiba Bar, Jumeirah The Meydan
Located on the lobby level of the plush new race-side hotel, Shiba Bar brings a taste of Japan to Dubai, with a chic, urban twist on traditional décor. For those looking for more than beverages, there is also the Shiba Restaurant nearby.
Commenting on the Shiba offering, hotel general manager Abdin Nasrallah notes that it has “a fantastic bar setup”, revealing that he personally chose the chairs and cushions for the outlet.
“We have created a food court of sorts, overlooking the track, off the hotel’s main lobby — the bar and lounge and ballrooms and all-day dining and the Asian restaurant and bar are within easy reach, all on one floor, which makes it easier for guests to shop around and to choose where they want to go,” he explains.
Coming from an F&B background, Nasrallah does not underestimate the importance of good service in his outlets: “Serving doesn’t just mean giving a tray of food; it’s learning how to talk to people, how to make others happy, how to give people what they want; and it gives great satisfaction when you realise you have done that.”