The restaurant scene in Dubai is as innovative as any of the top dining destinations in the world, Marriott International vice president food & beverage, Middle East and Africa, Christian Abell has said.
Speaking exclusively to Caterer Middle East, Abell said “Dubai from an innovation point of view is equal to London or New York. There’s great restaurants, there’s great bars, everything’s happening.”
Abell joined Marriott’s team in the Middle East just over two years ago to set up its F&B division in the region, and he has been impressed with what he has found. So much so that he believes Marriott has had to continually improve its standard of quality.
He said: “Keeping up with that is something that frankly speaking we had to sharpen our pencils. We want to be leaders, not followers.”
To do that, Abell has had his team making trips to London and New York to check out up-and-coming concepts and ideas, but while Dubai is home to restaurants from world class chefs including Massimo Bottura, Jose Avillez, and Gordon Ramsay, he believes there’s plenty that can be learned from smaller restaurants in Dubai.
“We’re out and about a lot,” he said. “You learn on the ground. You can’t run an F&B department from the office.”
Adding: “The street restaurants, that’s where we get our ideas, those little start-ups. There’s a place in the back of Al Barsha, a little start-up area doing these very small, 30-seat restaurants. No licence, one chef, couple of people on the floor, and you can go in there and learn from these guys. What they can do with the little money they have, you think well why can’t we do that with a big corporation?”
Abell suggested Marriott needs to think more like these smaller concepts, saying: “They’re innovative because they have to be, we’re innovative because we want to be. But frankly we have to be doing a better job at it. So we really need to jump on their bandwagon.”
You can read the full interview with Abell in the August issue of Caterer Middle East. Subscribe here.