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August 2019

All the latest from the Middle East hospitality industry

A Waldorf Welcome The DIFC property’s general manager on the chain’s first city hotel in the UAE

In Rhythm Two chefs reveal why some Indian restaurants in Dubai lack consistency

From Strength to Strength RAK Tourism’s new CEO Raki Phillips talks investment potential, securing 12,000+ keys by 2022 and attracting three million visitors by 2025 P30 - A sneak peek into the biggest exhibition for hospitality professionals

August 2019

CREAM The Art of the Pastry Chef Jimmy Boulay, French pastry chef at the Ritz Hotel in Tokyo, emphasizes that the final quality of a pastry is closely linked to the quality of its basic ingredients, which is why ingredient selection is such an important process. And while taste is important, its appearance has a role to play too. “Once the products have been chosen, it is up to the pastry chef to express his or her creative genius with a pastry which skilfully marries the fragrances and textures” Appearance, after all, is the precursor to what the palate tastes when it explores what the imagination has envisioned. Just like a painter or a sculptor, the pastry chef will first design a concept and then carefully select the materials – paying special attention to their flavours – before creating a cake just as an artist prepares a canvas. A pastry chef will design his cake the same way an architect designs his masterpiece. This is how Jimmy Boulay created his “Design Choc”, a graphic white cube.

The pastry chef must perfectly master his or her ingredients to ensure that no single ingredient clashes with another, allowing harmony to prevail. This is where European dairy cream comes on stage, its fat content adds an amazing depth of flavour, all you need to do is infuse it with herbs and spices in order to create an exquisite mint, basil, cinnamon or vanilla flavoured ganache. Whipped cream is what makes Saint-Honoré a delicacy and adds body to Vacherin dessert, without it, tantalising treats would be nothing. It also makes Fontainebleau dessert the ultimate indulgence. But cream in its liquid form alone is already a marvellous wonder. It provides silkiness on the palate and an incomparable glossiness to pastry cream; it lends a unique smoothness to custard and ice cream, where it is simply sweetened and flavoured. “European dairy cream goes beyond simply being an excellent ingredient, adding it is like a touch of magic”

The content of this advertorial represents the views of the author only and is his sole responsibility. The European Commission do not accept any responsibility for any use that may be made of the information it contains.


On the web Read the latest news, features and much more on our website.

08 News

26 Chain of the month

August 2019 // Issue #014

Contents 30 Event preview

34 Movers & Shakers

Features 08 //

News Dubai Tourism meets with UK partners, Bidfood expands its range and more

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COVER STORY Raki Phillips, CEO, Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority

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CHAIN OF THE MONTH Radisson Hotel Group

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34 //


Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019 // Issue #014


On the web Read the latest news, features and much more on our website.



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36 //

GM INTERVIEW Victor Chalfoun, Waldorf Astoria DIFC

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EVENT PREVIEW Gulfood Manufacturing

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F&B FAR AND NEAR The experts on Indian cuisine

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WHAT’S COOKING Zero Gravity Executive Chef Dwarika Bhatt

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SUPPLIER WATCH Hörmann; Magnify

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OPINION Martin Kubler, Bruno Trenchard and Vaughn Sears

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PRODUCTS Rational Middle East

Same connoisseurs of foodservice, now under one name.

August 2019

What's cooking?

Regionally recognized as different companies, we are a pot of ingredients that share the same passion, vision, and values for foodservice, and we are now proud to present ourselves as one single recipe to success – Bidfood. E. | W. | Toll Free: 3210-800

August 2019

Editor's letter

A note from the editor

D i n a Maa t y

Director Rabih Najm CEO Wissam Younane Group Commercial Director

Samer Alloush Editor

he month of August sets the stage for one of the most important periods for a number of industries, including – of course – hospitality and catering. Come September, hospitality professionals will come together for one of the biggest exhibitions in the region, The Hotel Show. A part of the inaugural Middle East Design and Hospitality Week 2019, The Hotel Show Dubai will be co-located with The Leisure Show, INDEX, Workspace, Surface Design Middle East, FIM and INDEX Home – so you can imagine how big we’re talking. Later down the line, on November 13 to be specific, Hotel & Catering News ME will be hosting its very own Leaders in F&B Awards and The Big F&B Forum 2019. The two events, being a massive celebration of the best that the industry has to offer, will shed the light on some of the most important topics, and recognise the game changers who are making it all possible. According to the KPMG UAE 2018 Food & Beverage Report, “the restaurant footprint in Dubai is high, second only to that of Paris”. A report

issued by the Business Registration & Licensing (BRL) sector in the Department of Economic Development (DED), Dubai, has revealed that 1,109 new restaurants and cafés opened in the emirate in 2018. “A further 1,600 F&B outlets will join the growing sector in the UAE”, forecasts a recent KPMG survey. A business slowdown for the summer break? Not on this side of the spectrum… So, while August may offer a plausible excuse for more beach days, it’s the private stretches within top hotels and resorts – as well as meticulous F&B provision – that got us talking. Next stop: the magnificent Ras Al Khaimah, and Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) CEO Raki Phillips will tell you why the destination is about to pop up on even more bucket lists than ever before. This month, just like our August issue, is packed full of exciting developments – and we can’t wait to see what’s coming up next. Regards, Dina

Dina Maaty Contributors

Marouane Al Mandri Art Director Aaron Sutton Photographer

Farook Al Saliq Marketing Executive

Vince Celestial

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For all commercial enquiries related to Hotel & Catering News ME contact T +971 55 776 4670 All rights reserved © 2014. Opinions expressed are solely those of the contributors. Hotel & Catering News ME and all subsidiary publications in the MENA region are officially licensed exclusively to BNC Publishing in the MENA region by Hotel & Catering News ME. No part of this magazine may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher. Printed by UPP


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August 2019


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Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed discusses plant-based investment at’s Future of Food event With a focus on the recent surge in innovation and demand in plant-based food technology, partnered with Facebook and WeWork to host The Future of Food 2.0: PlantBased Investing. Future of Food offered attendees insights into the world of plant-based investment, bringing thought leaders together for a discussion on the topic. Executive Director Jennifer Stojkovic moderated a fireside chat with founder and CEO of KBW Ventures Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, and author and environmental advocate Suzy Amis Cameron. The fireside chat was followed by a plant-based investor discussion featuring Dan Altschuler Malek of New Crop Capital, Johnny Ream of Stray Dog Capital and Prince Khaled, moderated by industry expert Bruce Friedrich of the Good Food Institute. Friedrich highlighted that, following the launches of Beyond Meat burgers in popular venues and outlets, demand far outstripped supply. Prince Khaled stressed that technology plays a major role in the plant-based products space, 8

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noting that there’s an evergrowing community of customers looking for meat alternatives. The venture capitalists all agreed that logistics and supply chain may become an issue as the popularity of plant-based products continues to thrive, adding that – while the outlook is promising and positive – it’s an issue that needs to be ad-

dressed during scale planning. Prince Khaled also drew parallels between historically nascent industries and the supply-and-demand equation, highlighting that plant-based proteins are currently the “clear winner” due to the maturity of space in comparison to cell-based agriculture. The event featured a Meatless Marketplace showcasing

a variety of plant-based foods, including industry mainstays JUST and Miyoko’s. In continuation of’s Future of Food event in 2018, this year’s edition honed in on the business side of plant-based food tech. With 300 attendees and more than 100 people on the wait list, The Future of Food has become one of’s most popular events.

August 2019


Bidfood UAE adds vegan and glutenfree desserts to its portfolio Bidfood UAE, a multi-channel foodservice provider of international F&B brands, has partnered with Mademoiselle Desserts to supply its Handmade Cake Company vegan and gluten-free products across the UAE. The partnership comes as a step in Bidfood UAE’s goal to increase its vegan food offerings, in order to cater to rising demand for vegan substitutes. “Vegans also deserve to indulge in succulent desserts and our partnership with Mademoiselle Desserts is a step in the right direction. Their products are unmatched in terms of quality, sustainability and taste, and will guarantee customer satisfaction without a doubt,”

says Jad Asaad, Bidfood UAE marketing and brand development manager. Mademoiselle Desserts’ Handmade Cake Company range includes gluten-free carrot and chocolate cakes, scones, chocolate fondant, and toffee

pudding. Plus, vegan cheesecakes and fudge cakes. “With the help of Bidfood UAE’s massive reach in the country, we’ll ensure that no sweet tooth is left unsatisfied,” says Mademoiselle Desserts’ UK commercial direc-

tor Gareth Jones. “Our range makes it possible for restaurants, coffee shops, dessert stores and culinary chefs to easily incorporate delicious vegan dessert options into their menus, and – vegan or not – everybody will love it.”

The Big Food & Beverage Forum 2019 to take place in November BNC Publishing and Hotel & Catering News Middle East’s The Big Food & Beverage Forum 2019 will take place on Wednesday, November 13 at Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City. From founders and CEOs, to F&B managers, key players, professionals and hotel general managers, the biggest names in the industry come together every year at Hotel & Catering News ME’s Big Food & Beverage Forum to engage in game-changing discussions and network. Attendees will share their expert analyses on the F&B, tourism and hospitality sectors. Join 160+ professionals at the event this year, where Hotel & Catering News Middle East will be partnering with some of the biggest names in the UAE, region and globally. Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


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August 2019


Millennium Taiba Hotel Madinah wins ISO in food safety

Truebell expands portfolio with Far Eastern product range

A five-star property, Millennium Taiba Hotel Madinah has won an ISO certificate in food safety management. Located at the heart of Madinah, Saudi Arabia, next to Al Masjed Al Nabawi, the hotel has been awarded the certificate because it has met the requirements of ISO 22000 in its 2018 version. IQNet, credited by the DQS CFS GmbH the German Association for Sustainability, has awarded the certificate to the hotel for its strict compliance with standards and requirements. The certificate focuses on the provision of food and beverages services. Millennium Taiba Hotel Madinah comprises a variety of F&B outlets, including Al Araik which serves Malaysian, Middle Eastern and Western cuisines. Plus, Al Anbariah café which offers pastries and coffee.


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The UAE-headquartered Truebell, a GCC importer of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), will be adding a variety of Eastern Asian products to its portfolio over the next 12 months. “Over the last few decades, the region has become a melting pot of ethnicities, resulting in the globally-attuned F&B destination that we see today,” says Bhushant J. Gandhi, Truebell’s divisional manager for Retail & Food Service. “Despite the wide selection of cuisines available in the country, Asian, Indian and Italian flavours have dominated,

remaining top preferences over the years – which is somewhat reflective of the UAE’s demographics and of course its favourite dishes,” he adds. According to KPMG’s UAE 2018 – Food & Beverage Report, Asian cuisine – primarily Japanese, Chinese and Thai – has consistently ranked among top food choices in the UAE for several years. At present, Truebell has more than 60 global products in its portfolio including popular brands from East and South East Asia such as Yakult probiotic drink, San Miguel Foods, Sin Mui Heng Dimsums, Dae-

sang Chonga Kimchi, Kikkoman Soy, Laco Edamame, Nissin Noodles and Purefoods, with Malay food products soon to be added, as the company begins to source products from Malaysia. Following the opening of their new state-of-the-art distribution centre during the third quarter of 2018, Truebell has introduced a range of new flavours, with products from countries including Germany, Brazil, Japan, Greece, the Philippines and the UK. Established in the UAE in 1984, Truebell Marketing and Trading is an importer, wholesaler, distributor and exporter.

Call for nominations: Leaders in Food & Beverage Awards 2019 Nominations are now open for BNC Publishing and Hotel & Catering News Middle East’s Leaders in Food & Beverage Awards 2019, which will take place on Wednesday, November 13 at Hilton Dubai

Al Habtoor City. Categories include both People and Restaurants, with some exciting new additions that reflect the dynamic nature of the industry. Restaurant Categories recognise the best

venues in the region, offering exceptional service and worldclass dining experiences, as well as the biggest market disruptors, while People Awards celebrate visionaries, leaders and pioneers.

August 2019


Dubai Tourism meets with UK partners

Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) held a series of strategic meetings with UKbased tourism and media companies in London last week. The Department shared new destination insights, including the diverse festivals sector, and highlighted the emirate’s commitment to its third largest source market, as part of efforts to further boost British tourist arrivals. Led by His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director-General of Dubai Tourism, the discussions enabled the Department to strengthen relationships with prominent trade partners, providing even greater visibility for the diversity of Dubai’s offerings across the travel and trade ecosystem in the UK.

“Maintaining robust global partnerships and deep-rooted stakeholder networks across our markets lie at the core of Dubai Tourism’s strategic efforts, enabling a unified ecosystem that accelerates our goal of becoming the world’s number one most visited, revisited and recommended city. We remain committed to ensuring that our valued partners – both, locally and globally – are well-aligned with the emirate’s tourism strategy and empowered to collectively leverage diverse campaigns and concerted efforts to ensure that Dubai remains a perennial favourite for British travellers,” says HE Helal Saeed Al Marri. HE Almarri also provided insights into future growth

plans and marketing initiatives to drive awareness over the city’s evolving product offerings for British travellers, and discussed ways in which Dubai Tourism could work even more closely with British stakeholders and media to promote the emirate to target audiences in the UK. “Tour operators and destination management companies who attended the meetings included Thomas Cook, dnata Travel Europe, Best At Travel and Southall Travel, while Dubai Tourism also held wideranging discussions with stakeholders such as Red Bull and key media companies including CNN International, BBC Global News, NBC, Google, The Telegraph, and News UK,

which comprises several national newspapers such as The Times, The Sunday Times, and The Sun, as well as radio stations including Virgin Radio and Talk Radio,” HE adds. The strategic meetings offered a clear indication of the UK’s continued prominence as one of the emirate’s top source markets and fit within the framework of regular industry engagements initiated by the Department to further enhance collaboration with stakeholders and partners in line with Dubai’s Tourism Vision 2022-2025. The meetings in London are part of a series of similar discussions that Dubai Tourism plans to hold with stakeholders and media in other key international markets. Hotel & Catering NEWS ME



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August 2019



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Kerzner International names new general manager for Atlantis the Palm

Kerzner International Holdings announced the promotion of two key executives, Massimiliano (Max) Zanardi has been named general manager of Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai and Sergio Pereira general manager of Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort in Morocco. According to Kerzner, Zanardi will lead the successful operation of Atlantis, The Palm, the flagship entertainment resort destination in Dubai. Focused on guest experience, this key role is critical to delivering the vision of Kerzner International – Amazing Experiences and Everlasting Memories. Zanardi will drive operations, overseeing guest rooms and suites as well as 24 different dining ex-


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periences and waterscape attractions including Aquaventure Waterpark and one of the largest open-air marine habitats in the world. In addition, Kerzner adds, Zanardi will focus on talent development for the resort for over 3,000 employees at Atlantis, The Palm. Zanardi will report directly to Tim Kelly, executive vice president and managing director at Atlantis, The Palm and The Royal Atlantis Resort & Residences. Zanardi brings over 20 years of experience in luxury hospitality and previously held the roles of general manager at One&Only Portonovi in Montenegro, managing director for Mazagan Beach & Golf Resort and leadership positions at The Ritz-Carlton.

Hossam Nabil joins Millennium Hotels as cluster director of sales and marketing for three properties Millennium Al Barsha, Millennium Atria Business Bay and Millennium Montrose Executive Apartments announced the appointment of Hossam Nabil as cluster director of sales and marketing. “I am fortunate enough to be part of the success journey of Millennium Atria Business Bay, Millennium Al Barsha and Millennium Montrose Executive Apartments. In line with the hotels’ growth strategy, I have a commitment to attract new markets and continue to grow the solid reputation of the brand in the Middle East region,” says Nabil. Joining Millennium from

Crowne Plaza Deira, Nabil brings more than 22 years of UAE hospitality experience to his new role, having held senior sales and marketing positions with global groups such as InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), Time Hotels and Rotana Hotels. Millennium Al Barsha is a 4-star property owned and developed by Deyaar Development PJSC. It’s home to two restaurants, as well as rooftop and lobby lounges. Millennium Atria Business Bay is a luxury serviced residence complex comprising studios, and one, two, and three-bedroom penthouse and duplex apartments.

August 2019


Danat Al Ain Resort appoints food and beverage manager

Fairmont The Palm appoints Kai Winkler as general manager

Danat Al Ain Resort has appointed Dennis Smith as their new food & beverage manager. According to the Resort, Smith will manage restaurants and banquet operations by developing new culinary experiences while maintaining the highest standards of service. He will oversee the hotels’ nine outlets, which include award-winning Indian restaurant Tanjore, in addition to Irish pub McGettigan’s and Italian restaurant and bar Luce. On the appointment, Danat Al Ain Resort General Manager Kevin Lawless says: “We’re pleased to have Dennis on board and are positive that with his expertise, we’ll be able to provide unmatched experiences for our guests across all our outlets. His eye for detail and work ethic in driving team development and delivering outstanding levels of customer service make him a valuable addition to our brand.”

New director of revenue at Roda Al Murooj Roda Al Murooj has named Abhishek Ray as its new director of revenue and e-distribution. According to the property, Ray will drive revenue and e-distribution efforts for the 528 key hotel rooms and serviced apartments, including six dining and entertainment outlets, meeting rooms and a ballroom, in addition to a fitness centre and spa. Ray brings over 16 years of experience in hospitality to the role from across Asia, the Middle East and Africa regions. He has worked for properties including the Shangri-La and Traders Hotels, Qaryat Al Beri, and Beach Rotana Complex in Abu Dhabi, as well as others under InterContinental Hotels Group.

Fairmont The Palm has appointed Kai Winkler as the resort’s general manager. According to the property, Winkler will be taking over from the resort’s former general manager Mark Sawkins, who has grown within the ACCOR brand as vice president of luxury brands within the region. Winkler brings over two decades of experience to the position. Starting his hospitality career in 1995 in Germany, he has since had years of international assignments in the fields of sales and marketing, rooms, and food and beverage.

“We’re pleased to welcome Kai to the team at Fairmont The Palm. He has joined at an exciting time for the resort with the relaunch of its new beach, plus new additions to its F&B portfolio. His entrepreneurial and strategic approach towards creatively driving performance will contribute to the property’s overall accomplishments and elevate the resort’s brand presence within the community and the destination at large,” says Mark Sawkins, vice president of operations at ACCOR Luxury Brands Gulf.

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August 2019

openings & Launches

World’s first children’s restaurant to open in Dubai

White and the Bear, the world’s first children’s restaurant, is set to open in Dubai. Located in Jumeirah 2, the restaurant’s entire concept was created with little ones in mind. From the food, to miniature seating, and workshops, everything has been designed to take food and recreation for children to a new level. “I’m very particular about giving my children healthy food, and it was frustrating for us as parents to go out and not be able to find a variety of healthy food choices for our children. We always try to develop healthy eating habits at home, but there’s very little we can control once we’re out,” says founder Hana Al Mulla. “White and the Bear is exactly the stress-free solution that so many parents in Dubai need. A place where your child will only be exposed to healthy, fun food choices. We’re a nut-free zone and overall allergy-aware, so parents can walk in with-

out a worry,” she adds. The brand has partnered with celebrity chef and children’s food expert Annabel Karmel to develop the majority of the dishes on the menu. “With White and the Bear, the promise begins with healthy, nutritious food that’s fun for your children. During early childhood, eating habits and tastes are formed for life: this is the time to introduce an array of different flavours,” says Karmel.

“The menu for White and the Bear promotes food exploration, with healthy alternatives to fast food favourites. It’s important that children stay fueled on the right foods throughout the day, and my specially designed meals are superfun, yet healthy and perfectly balanced for young palates,” she adds. White and the Bear’s offering further extends into getting children involved in the very process of nutrition, giving them the independence of knowing what’s in their food and then choosing what resonates the most with their personality. The restaurant’s healthy menu dishes include no-sugar energy balls made with dates, hamburgers that have been created using carrots and apples, Bolognese pasta with hidden vegetables, among others, to ensure that the menu remains fun, yet healthy for children. The restaurant is set to open its doors to little ones in the last week of July.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers opens at Mall of the Emirates

American fast-casual restaurant concept Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers is now open in the Mall of the Emirates. Located at the mall’s ground floor food court, this is the brand’s second Dubai location. Freddy’s opened earlier this 18

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month at The Dubai Mall, the first move in the franchise’s international expansion. “We strive to provide fast, friendly service and premium quality food at an affordable price,” says Yousef Khattar, managing director of TasteBuds Group.

“Mall of the Emirates is one of the region’s premiere destinations for shopping and entertainment, making it a great fit for our newest location. We hope to be a popular place for area shoppers looking for a quick bite to eat, as well as for those who want to relax and enjoy a fresh meal and dessert treat with family and friends.” Freddy’s is known for its cooked-to-order steakburgers made with lean, 100 percent ground beef, Vienna Beef hot dogs, crispy shoestring fries and frozen custard desserts made with freshly churned chocolate or vanilla frozen custard. Freddy’s was co-founded in 2002 by Scott Redler and Bill, Randy and Freddy Simon, and opened its first location in Wichita, Kansas. There are currently more than 340 Freddy’s restaurants, serving 32 states across the US.

August 2019


The Lofty Caviar Brunch, Dubai Opera The pursuit of luxury in Dubai is anything but a challenge – it’s what the glamorous emirate is all about, after all. The Lofty Caviar Brunch at Dubai Opera’s summer edition promises guests an opportunity to “indulge in life’s little luxuries”, but the dining experience evokes a sense of grandeur that makes us think that this may just be what the biggest of luxuries are all about. Located in Downtown Dubai, The Loft has been designed as a circular open space “aloft” The Opera and offers unrivalled views of The Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa from its dining room and garden terrace. The setting boasts golden hues and lots of soft greys; you’ll feel as though you’d been transported to a mansion some place far away – if that mansion was a restaurant where you could have some of the best truffle-infused dishes you would ever have. We start off by heading to the cold cuts, cheese and bread station, which features an impressive selection of cured meats. Right next to it, the chefs cook up mushroom risotto and pasta, the latter being undeniably one of the best al dente ziti creations we’ve tried. As we marvel at the greatness of the carb-loaded dish, the sharing set menu arrives at the table, and it includes freshly baked flat bread with a creamy ricotta, truffle pizza and more. Next up, we grab the tongs and fill our plates with plump oysters, shrimps and ceviche shells. And, of course, what better than the caviar to go with all the seafood? The Loft’s station doesn’t disappoint with one of the richest, smooth-as-butter varieties we’ve ever tasted. Then, the mains are served: juicy braised lamb shoulder, salmon with perfectly balanced Puy lentils and more – it’s pure elegance on a plate.

The dessert station, where the chef’s doing some of his best ice cream mixing tricks, keeps it short and – well – pretty sweet. The tiramisu takes the cake: you can taste Italy in every forkful. The cream-

based selection is also fantastic, with plenty of favourites to end the meal. The Lofty Caviar Brunch is a must for luxury lovers – we’ll leave the indulgence part up to you.

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August 2019

Cover Story

Next stop, RAK Raki Phillips is no stranger to the art of envisioning phenomenal experiences for guests and bringing them to life. Here, the CEO of Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, tells Hotel & Catering News Middle East about what’s coming for the emirate, which has attracted 1,072,066 visitors from domestic and key international markets in 2018 You’re a hotel industry veteran; please share your journey with us. My journey started in my hometown of Orlando, Florida, which is one of the most attractive tourism destinations in the world. As I was studying hospitality management at the University of Central Florida, I took on several part-time jobs to gain work experience which included various roles in Front Office, Concierge, F&B as well as an airport shuttle driver for one of the local hotels. After a successful apprenticeship programme, I was onboarded for a key management role and ended up with a wonderful seven-year career with Universal Orlando. After Universal Orlando, I made a move to the Middle East to gain international experience and joined Ritz-Carlton Hotels with my first stop in Doha as the director of sales. I later went on to join Fairmont in Dubai, where I spent more than eight years with my final role as the regional director and was responsible for overseeing development, sales, marketing, revenue management and stakeholder relationships. Fuelled with a spirit of entrepreneurship, I played a key role in launching and expanding SugarMoo Desserts, Dubai’s first online dessert delivery bakery, and Earth Hotels, a sustainable, tech-forward and design20

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centric hotel concept, before landing my dream job at Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA). As a seasoned hotelier, how do you view RAK as a hospitality landscape and what are you aiming to achieve in this new role? The diversity of the land in Ras Al Khaimah is one of its main points of differentiation from anywhere else in the world. Blessed with 64km of pristine beaches, more than 7,000 years of untouched heritage and culture, and the highest mountains in the country, Ras Al Khaimah is a unique destination that appeals to all kinds of international and domestic travellers. Guided by the Destination Strategy 2019-2021, we’ll focus on diversifying the Emirate’s tourism offering to attract a wider segment of tourists and higher yield of visitors seeking authentic experiences. Having said that, we recognise the importance of differentiated product development and are looking forward to launching many exciting products and projects which include Jebel Jais Adventure Park and the Luxury Camp project on Jebel Jais – both already in the pipeline. We’re also looking to strengthen our MICE profile further on a global stage as we’re seeing a gradual rise in the number

of corporate/business travellers in the Emirate. Moreover, we’ll continue to promote our destination in key source and emerging markets as we aim to secure 1.5 million visitors by 2022, and three million by 2025. How has RAK performed in terms of hospitality in 2018 and what are your expectations for the next few years? The Ras Al Khaimah hospitality market continues to go from strength to strength and offers great potential to investors due to the significant rise in the number of international and domestic visitors, and commendable growth in hotel performance across many metrics over the last few years. According to a report commissioned by Marjan, and quoting data from JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle) Research and STR Global, the performance of Ras Al Khaimah among global benchmarked destinations in both occupancy and ADR has remained stable over the past three years. This stable market performance has shown that Ras Al Khaimah is developing into a destination rather than simply a cluster of resorts. Ras Al Khaimah had the second highest revenue per available room in the region at AED 449.7 ($122.5), average occupancy of 70.2 percent in 2018 and the highest

August 2019

Cover Story

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August 2019

Cover Story

daily room rate at AED 640.75 ($174.5). The emirate performs significantly above the Middle Eastern average in terms of occupancy. In light of current robust visitor demand, solid regional and international partnerships in place, and iconic asset and product launches over the last few years, we aim to secure the aforementioned numbers of visitors. Why should a visitor stay at a hotel in Ras Al Khaimah, what are some of the most special aspects of the emirate? With a 64-km coastline, unique desert landscape and the UAE’s highest mountain, it’s one of the region’s most diverse destinations for a holiday of sun, fun, adventure and relaxation. The beaches and hotels offer a wide variety of activities while the desert and mountains are ideal for safaris and nature trails. With authenticity and hospitality in mind, Ras Al Khaimah offers a diverse collection of accommodation to suit any taste. In terms of culture, Ras Al Khaimah is home to all three Emirati tribal traditions – coastal, desert and mountain – living in beautifully preserved, authentic environments in a place where visitors come face to face with Arabia’s historic past, through archaeological sites, museums and a largely unchanged rural life. Home to Jebel Jais, the country’s highest mountain peak at 1,934 metres above sea level, Ras Al Khaimah draws active adventurers from around the world. The launch of Jebel Jais Flight: The World’s Longest Zipline, one of our key milestones in 2018, has welcomed over 30,000 flyers so far. This put Ras Al Khaimah on the tourism map, breaking the world record and strengthening the Emirate’s credentials as the fastest growing adventure tourism destination in the region. Our competitive edge and charm simply come from what we promise our travellers, which is an authentic and accessible Arabian experience. Everything we do is focused on how we complement the other emirates and add value to the UAE as a whole, particularly with 22

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We’ll continue to promote our destination in key source and emerging markets as we aim to secure 1.5 million visitors by 2022, and three million by 2025.

our 45-minute proximity from Dubai International Airport. What’s the profile of your most frequent guest/traveller? We secured a 10 percent growth in visitors last year compared to 2017, mainly led by the UAE domestic market, which continues to generate 38 percent of overall visitors. Germany continues to be the leading international source market with 83,605 visitors, followed by Russia, with 83,531 visitors – up by a significant 17 percent on 2017. The third largest source market was the UK, with 63,054 visitors, up 11.5 percent, India was fourth with 62,325 visitors, up 22 percent, rounding out the top five was Kazakhstan with 27,168 visitors, a growth of 28 percent. Our high-yield global tourist segments mainly include Active Adventurers, Cultural Explorers, and Wellness Seekers,

that we continue to attract year on year, owing to a rich body of natural and cultural assets in Ras Al Khaimah. These visitor segments get to experience adventure through mountain activities, discover more than 7,000 years of historic sights and authentic Arabian culture, and relax with world-class luxury indulgence at plush hotels and resorts. Boasting a powerful combination of the high-profile adventure attractions such as the world’s longest zip line, a diverse beach-desert-mountain offering and authentic cultural experiences, Ras Al Khaimah is one of the fastest growing tourism destinations in the region with the trappings of an all-round destination. What’s the percentage of luxury hotels out of your total room inventory? What’s the ratio of leisure versus corporate travel? Around 80 percent of our overall

August 2019

Cover Story

star hotel inventory is luxury. Ras Al Khaimah is largely a leisure destination, attracting active adventurers, cultural explorers, and luxury and wellness seekers from around the world. A segment of our domestic visitors are also day-trippers who come for hiking, offroad driving, camping and other outdoor activities, in addition to families, friends and couples visiting for short breaks and staycations in Ras Al Khaimah. However, as one of the most diverse destinations in the region with its highprofile adventure attractions, pristine beaches, and undulating deserts, Ras Al Khaimah has also begun to attract interest from corporate travellers from around the region and beyond over the last few years. Only a 45-minute drive from the Dubai International Airport, Ras Al Khaimah is a boutique MICE destination with a highly competitive inventory of facilities

including five-star hotels and resorts, two 18-hole golf courses and the region’s firstof-its kind convention centre, Al Hamra International Exhibition & Conference Center. An impressive architectural milestone, it spans a total area of 4,500m2, complete with spellbinding sea and garden views. You have very ambitious plans for future development with many new luxury hotels in the pipeline. Does this translate into a premium/luxury positioning of RAK? Although Ras Al Khaimah is home to some of the world’s most luxurious hotel brands such as The Ritz Carlton and Waldorf Astoria, it also offers a wide range of options inclusive of boutique, midscale, premium and city hotels in order to meet the needs of a diverse travel base. In terms of our overall five-star

luxury plans, we remain committed to strengthening our supply of hotel keys as we believe it will contribute to increasing the popularity of the destination with both international and domestic tourists. There’s huge potential in the emirate for entities looking to build and develop resorts, niche accommodation options and new tourism products. With over 6,700 keys currently available in Ras Al Khaimah, the emirate already features world-class hotels and resorts including properties such as Waldorf Astoria, Hilton, Rixos, Rotana, The RitzCarlton and many others. The destination is expected to offer more than 12,000 keys by 2021, with new hotel brands confirmed for the pipeline including Conrad, Intercontinental, Radisson, Movenpick and Marriott. One of the latest trends we’ve seen in the UAE and other GCC countries is the concept of luxury camping, which appeals to a large segment of people who are interested in experiencing amazing picturesque views within a comfortable, luxurious setting. Ras Al Khaimah is launching its very own Luxury Camp in 2020, which will complement the array of adventure tourism attractions currently on offer in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. With many projects in the pipeline, we hope to further enhance Ras Al Khaimah’s nature-adventure offering combined with our luxury positioning. How do you work with the partner hotels and what’s special for hospitality companies willing to invest in setting up in RAK? It’s an exciting time for hoteliers and hotel investors in Ras Al Khaimah, and with renowned international names joining the portfolio of accommodation options, it provides for greater recognition of the Emirate’s potential for investors. Working with independent assessors, we’ve outlined strong return on beach and mountain properties. Looking at beach resorts in particular, existing hotels have shown high profit conversion when compared to similar regional markets. To accommodate this growth in visitors, Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019

Cover Story

the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority is providing potential investors with a range of innovative opportunities to develop stand-out properties across the emirate. We have considerable opportunities within several development projects, including Al Marjan Island, which has been earmarked for an additional 15 hotels by 2025. We continuously work hard to support all our partner hotels, roping them in for our integrated seasonal campaigns, trade roadshows and industry events, in a continuous effort to drive their bookings throughout the year. We hosted the Arabian Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC) in 2018 and earlier this year, which provides a platform for dialogue on the various catalysts impacting the hospitality investment industry. In an effort to drive summer bookings every year, we collaborate with our partner hotels for our ‘Summer Campaign’, which provides guests with attractive offers on stays and attractions. A successful initiative, the Summer Campaign had resulted in a 15 percent increase in the room occupancy of summer 2018 versus summer 2017. Do you offer special incentives to homegrown and local brands? As part of our Destination Strategy 20192021, our three-year strategic tourism development programme, we’ll focus on nurturing small and medium home-grown enterprises to create further employment and business opportunities for Emiratis. A special highlight is our support for Suwaidi Pearls, one of the leading national entrepreneurship projects in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah. A local project owned by Abdulla Al Suwaidi, Suwaidi Pearls is the only pearl farm in the region that offers an insight into the UAE’s socioeconomic tradition of pearling, which was once the lifeblood of the local community and the country’s main source of wealth. What, in your opinion, is the most attractive touristic angle for RAK, and how can the hospitality and F&B industries support it? From traditional cuisine to the finest 24

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August 2019

Cover Story

many home-grown F&B concepts that will add to visitors’ experiences.

The Ras Al Khaimah hospitality market continues to go from strength to strength and offers great potential to investors due to the significant rise in the number of international and domestic visitors, and commendable growth in hotel performance across many metrics over the last few years. restaurants, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Ras Al Khaimah. Whether you’re looking for an elegant dinner in a five-star hotel or a casual lunch along the Corniche, there’s something for every taste and preference. As mentioned earlier, Ras Al Khaimah is a diverse tourism destination in the region, thanks to its unique natureadventure offering, which allows it to compete with top worldwide destinations. With a great portfolio of tourism assets clubbed with robust hotel performance and strong incentives, Ras Al Khaimah offers the perfect investment climate to the hospitality industry. While we continue to diversify and

enhance visitors’ experiences through differentiated product development, it’s also crucial for us to broaden our hospitality offering to welcome high-yield visitors of all kinds, all year round. We continue to support incredible home-grown concepts such as Al Fanar Restaurant, which offers traditional Emirati cuisine with authentic Arabian hospitality in a nostalgic ambience, further complementing our cultural tourism assets (forts, palaces, museums, mosques and tombs) and elevating the experiences of cultural explorers. The imminent opening of the Jebel Jais Adventure Park will also see the launch of

What about the F&B sector in RAK; what developments do you foresee? Ras Al Khaimah features an excellent culinary scene while playing home to globally known hotels and resorts, known for their rich gastronomic offering. As a cultural gem, Ras Al Khaimah is the ideal destination for a taste of authentic Arabian and Emirati cuisines. Dominated by splendid natural landscapes, foodies also enjoy picturesque views at Puro Café and Terrace, located on Al Marjan Island, and at Puro Express (food truck) located at the Jebel Jais Viewing Deck Park. Our F&B sector complements our overall nature-adventure offering, ensuring visitors have a holistic experience during their stay in Ras Al Khaimah. How do you see yourself in the next five years, will Expo 2020 bring in business to Ras Al Khaimah as well? Expo 2020 is a key milestone in the history of the UAE and region, placing the country on the road to further global recognition. Expo 2020 will be a great opportunity to showcase Ras Al Khaimah on a global platform and for the world to experience the Emirate’s spellbinding natural beauty, rich culture and heritage, excellent hospitality and unrivalled experiences. Expo 2020’s theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ complements our strategic three-year programme, the Destination Strategy 2019-2021, which focuses on diversifying our tourism offering, attracting foreign and local investment within the tourism sector and nurturing home-grown small and medium enterprises to create further employment and business opportunities for Emiratis while prioritising sustainable, nature-based adventure and authentic cultural experiences. As we aim to attract 1.5 million visitors by 2021, and three million visitors by 2025, we’ll continue to create compelling offerings that combine the emirate’s key promises: pristine beaches, natural beauty, cultural heritage, excellence in hospitality and unrivalled experiences. Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


august 2019

chain of the month

Radisson Hotel Group Radisson Hotel Group is one of the world's largest, with seven hotel brands, and more than 1,400 hotels in operation and under development around the world. The Group’s portfolio includes Radisson Collection, Radisson Blu, Radisson, Radisson RED, Park Plaza, Park Inn by Radisson and Country Inn & Suites by Radisson. Radisson Rewards is the group’s global rewards programme, offering loyalty benefits for guests, meeting planners, travel agents and business partners. As for Radisson Meetings, it’s built around three service commitments: Personal, Professional and Memorable, while delivering on the basics and Radisson’s signature “Yes I Can!” service spirit. More than 95,000 global team members work for Radisson Hotel Group and at the hotels licensed to operate in its systems.


Hotel & Catering NEWS ME

august 2019

chain of the month

In Numbers 97 94 Operating hotels

In the pipeline

Developments Recent development activity in the region includes conversion and re-branding opportunities, as well as city and resort hotels, serviced apartments and a lifestyle offering with the region’s first Radisson RED opening this year. More openings include a new Radisson Blu next to the Dubai Canal, the first Radisson Resort globally, which will open its doors in Ras Al Khaimah and the Group’s first hotel to be opened in Casablanca, which will be a Radisson Blu. The Group has also opened their second Park Inn by Radisson in Makkah, end of July 2019. The new Park Inn by Radisson hotel will add an additional 355 rooms to their portfolio.

Upcoming properties in the MENA region • Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Canal View (September 2019) • Radisson Red Dubai Silicon Oasis (Q4 2019) • Radisson Blu Hotel & Residence Nairobi Arboretum (Q4 2019) • Radisson Blu Hotel Casablanca (Q4 2019) • Park Inn by Radisson Jeddah Madinah Road (Q4 2019) • Park Inn by Radisson Hotel Riyadh (Q4 2019) • Radisson Resort Ras Al Khaimah (Q1 2020)

Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


august 2019

chain of the month

Tim Cordon, Senior Area Vice President, Radisson Hotel Group to do really well. It’s still a market which boasts high occupancy all year round, and pretty strong room rates when compared to international markets. Retaining staff is a challenge within this market. We believe that benefits should exceed salaries. This was one of the reasons we’ve led initiatives to revise and adjust our policies to better support our female employees to become leaders – including enhanced maternity leave, continuous coaching and development for female employees and developing social responsible partnerships. In fact, we were the first hotel group to announce the assignment of our first Saudi female GM in KSA.

What are the hotel group’s key goals for the immediate future and why?

What were the hotel group’s key achievements and milestones in the past 12 months?

During 2018, we’ve contracted 1,505 rooms, with 950 rooms opened, making a significant progress in developing our five-year operating plan – a comprehensive strategy which is aligned with our partner Radisson Hospitality, Inc. It was our organisation’s vision is to be one of the top three hotel companies in the world and we’ve recently just become number two. This is one of the greatest achievements following the acquisition by Jin Jiang International, which currently includes over 8,500 hotels worldwide. I also think that this is reflected in what we’re doing in the region, modernising systems, heavily investing in technology and using that to get ever closer to our owners, guests and employees – not to mention opening 16 hotels in the last 18 months!

What were some of the key challenges facing your hotel group and the hospitality sector in general, and how have you met these?

Many have concerns within the hospitality industry of an impending oversupply in the Middle East hotel market. I personally think that there are still opportunities for select hotels with the right brands and the right operating model


Hotel & Catering NEWS ME

In line with our five-year plan, we’ll build on our unique service heritage of making every moment matter for our guests, owners, shareholders and employees by being a true host and the best partner. Our recent development activity in the region has spanned the spectrum of hotel products. Saudi Arabia continues to offer ample opportunities in the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah, as well as further diversification as the Kingdom works towards Vision 2030. The rebounding Egyptian economy has given way for our portfolio signing of six additional hotels this year. Morocco’s robust economy backed by the King’s vision will continue to attract investment and provide expansion opportunities.

How’s technology dictating the way you run your business and liaise with customers?

We’ve recently just launched our new multi-brand and mobile-first global website,, which also serves as the platform for Radisson Rewards members. It’s available in English and Arabic, which is a key milestone for our market. This online landmark brings our group a step closer to becoming one of the industry’s digital leaders. Alongside, we’re launching a new Radisson Hotels App. Designed and developed as a practical tool for effortless booking, it puts guests and members front and centre. Thanks to its seamless interface and intuitive user experience, guests can explore the Radisson Hotels portfolio in just a few taps.



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August 2019

Event Preview

The Hotel Show Celebrating its 20th edition during the Middle East Design and Hospitality Week 2019, The Hotel Show Dubai will take place from September 17-19 at the Dubai World Trade Centre. The landmark event, which has evolved in parallel with the GCC’s leisure and hospitality sector over the last two decades, will feature key discussions among thought leaders from both industries. “The GCC’s hospitality sector is focussed on putting its best foot forward when tourists from around the world visit the UAE for the Expo, as well as other international happenings scheduled to


Hotel & Catering NEWS ME

take place in the GCC. The Hotel Show, true to its legacy, will be a confluence point for the GCC’s hospitality sector to align on best practices and the way forward for the industry, which is at the threshold of a fresh boom. The best part of the Show this year is that it’s co-located with six other events catering to sectors that complement the hotel industry,” says Nathan Waugh, portfolio director, dmg events, Hospitality Division. “Participating companies include OS&E International, Procurio, Everstyle, MG Hotel Supplies, Emirates Dimlaj, A to Z Hospitality, Modern Event, Dutch Lab, Table and Beyond, Lion’s Wood

Banquet Furniture, Intros Hotel Supplies, ASSA ABLOY Group, Dometic, Dubai Furniture Manufacturing Co. and WMK Hospitality. Plus, Groupe GM, La Bottega, Boon Coffee, Stellar USP, DreamMaster, Restonic, Intercoil, Zubair Furnishing, Prime Selected Products (PSP), Fairmont Designs, Poly Products, Diversey and 1765 Gemini to name a few,” he adds. During the Middle East Design and Hospitality Week 2019, The Hotel Show Dubai will be co-located with INDEX, Workspace, The Leisure Show, Surface Design Middle East, FIM, and INDEX Home. For more details, visit

August 2019

Event Preview

New this year

The Hotel Room Design Challenge

In Numbers • According to the GCC Hospitality Report by Alpen Capital, “the GCC hospitality market is projected to reach $32.5 billion in 2022”. Furthermore, the hotel sector is expected to experience a significant surge in demand as Expo 2020 Dubai approaches, in addition to other global events due to be hosted in the region. • Moreover, the Hotels Market Report by Ventures Onsite indicates that approximately 25 million visitors will arrive in the UAE for Expo 2020 and, as a result, “Dubai’s hotel room supply is expected to reach 132,000 in 2019, with the Emirate aiming to complete 160,000 hotel rooms by October 2020.” • The Report anticipates that the UAE will continue to lead the GCC’s luxury hospitality segment until 2022, with “73 percent of existing luxury hotel stock and 61 percent of the region’s pipeline located in the country.”

Some of the UAE’s leading interior designers and fit out contractors will compete at The Hotel Show’s newest feature: The Hotel Room Design Challenge. Competing teams will have a designated space within the event to create their room set design, based on the theme: Dubai: A World of Possibility, a Lifetime of Stories. Visitors at the event will vote for their favourite room set design during the first and second days of The Hotel Show, and the winning team will be awarded at the Middle East Hospitality Awards on September 18 at the Ritz-Carlton, DIFC. Participating companies include Gensler, Godwin Austen Johnson and STYLIS NSG. Commenting on the new feature, Waugh said: “Every year, at The Hotel Show, we look to improve and refresh our feature content to ensure that the event remains fresh, relevant and inspirational for all our stakeholders. This year, as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Hotel Show, we wanted to include a feature which gives designers the opportunity to express themselves, and challenge themselves to represent the past, present and future of Dubai through design. I speak for the whole team when I say that we can’t wait to see how some of the region’s leading design and fit out companies fulfil the creative brief.”

• As for Saudi Arabia, aside from the Kingdom’s push towards growing into a leisure and entertainment hub in the region, the report states that “the cornerstone of KSA’s inbound tourism is the annual pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah, forecast to increase to 30 million visitors collectively,” reveals Ventures Onsite. • According to the Sustainability Travel Report, “70 percent of global travellers say they would be more likely to book accommodation knowing it was ecofriendly, whether they were looking for a sustainable stay or not”. In the Hotels Market Report, Oliver Heath, a biophilic design firm shares that, “guests are willing to pay 23 percent more for rooms containing biophilic elements.” • The GCC tourism industry has seen a rise in millennial travellers in the last few years and this trend is expected to continue. According to Expedia, “nearly 70 percent of millennial travellers are likely to extend their business”.

Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019

Event Preview: The Hotel Show

Check this out

The Chef’s Table The second edition of The Chef’s Table competition will take place during The Hotel Show Dubai, held from September 17-19 at the Dubai World Trade Centre. Offering top 12 UAE chefs the opportunity to showcase their skills and creativity in a timed cooking competition, ingredients to be used aren’t revealed until the countdown. “Team effort will be integral to win this competition, where contending teams will be judged based on hygiene, kitchen skills, creativity in putting ingredients together, cooking skills and of course taste,” says Chef Uwe Micheel, president of the Emirates Culinary Guild, who will lead the panel of expert chefs judging the competition. To recreate a full dining experience from the moment someone steps into a restaurant, participating teams are required to have one barman, two service members and three members in the kitchen, with the addition of a steward. “The first edition of Chef’s Table hosted at The Hotel Show last year was a resounding success and it quickly earned its status as a star feature at the event,” says Nathan Waugh, portfolio director – Hospitality Division at dmg events. “We’ve expanded the competition by a third this year, and we’re delighted to once again be partnering with Emirates Culinary Guild for this exciting competition, which serves as a glowing testament to the culinary excellence that the UAE proudly offers,” he adds. According to the KPMG UAE 2018 Food & Beverage Report, ‘the restaurant footprint in Dubai is high, second only to that of Paris’. A report issued by the Business Registration & Licensing (BRL) sector in the Department of Economic Development (DED), Dubai, indicates that 1,109 new restaurants and cafés opened in the emirate in 2018. ‘A further 1,600 F&B outlets will join the growing sector in the UAE’, forecasts a recent KPMG survey. Alongside its rising global image as a food destination, Dubai is home to an increasing 32

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population of food bloggers. Chef Micheel highlights that, while he has the highest respect for reputed bloggers in the UAE who know food inside out, he feels that the majority are self-proclaimed experts who need to sharpen their knowledge and skills on the topic. To develop proficiency as a food expert, Micheel recommends spending time with chefs and identifying one’s weaknesses in the area. The award-winning author of Chef at Home says: “If you’ve only eaten pizza your whole life, how can you comment with authority on fine dining, French cuisine?” Discussing current food trends in the UAE, the president of the Emirates Culinary Guild shared that Greek cuisine is currently in favour, and that there’s an increasing demand for fresh food in line with global trends. The KPMG Food and Beverage Report supports this, stating that ‘multiple operators indicated a noticeable increase in vegetarian and vegan options’, and

‘increasing awareness about health has led some to reduce or give up meat, gluten and milk products’. At the same time, Chef Uwe notes that the Middle East’s shawarma and kebabs are gaining accelerated popularity in the international food scene. Shedding the light on challenges faced by chefs in the Middle East, Chef Uwe revealed that there’s pressure to prioritise aesthetics over taste so that food is social media-worthy. Another looming issue, he adds, in the local and global industry is food wastage, which can be resolved with more responsible behaviours when it comes to consuming and serving food. The competition this year features Jackson Vending Dallmayr as Coffee Sponsor, Madar Farms as the Sustainable Partner, Southern Cross as Meat Sponsor, Montalbano (Top Chairs) as Chair Sponsor, Bragard as Uniform Sponsor, Diversey as Hygiene Sponsor and 1765 Gemini as Tableware Sponsor.

ALL-INCLUSIVE CULINARY DISCOVERIES AT ANANTARA EASTERN MANGROVES Book the perfect family getaway and cherish quality time together in one of our luxurious rooms or suites, each tastefully furnished with family-friendly amenities. Relish global culinary delights prepared in interactive live kitchens amongst the spectacular mangroves view. Oer includes unlimited house beverages for adults and daily breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rates starting from AED 799 per night. Terms & Conditions apply

For reservations, email or call +971 2 895 8700


August 2019

Movers & Shakers

Get the Party Started

Ben Thompson, managing director and founder of events company Love Parties, reveals (some) of his secrets to hosting the perfect brunch in the city, and more How did you first get into event planning? Tell us a bit about your journey. I saw an opportunity after visiting New York City about six years ago and attended an event, which was a brunch called Lavo. I had been in Dubai for about three years then and “brunches” back then were very different from what they are now. Dubai brunches only really played background music and were focused around food and beverages. However, Lavo was something else. We turned up at the event at the typical brunch time, which is 1pm, and sat down for a three-course meal. Being used to Dubai brunches, I just assumed drinks were included, but oh how wrong was I. Turns out, only bottle service. Regardless, after the main course and a few drinks, a DJ cranks up the volume. At the time I just thought it was a sound test for the club later as it was only 2:30/3pm, but the lights dropped and he just kept dropping track after track. Finally, all the chairs were taken away and a full-blown, clubstyle party was underway. I came back to Dubai and started, not only Dubai’s first-ever party brunch, but my first creation…loveBRUNCH (if you know, you know). The rest is history. Share with our readers what goes into the conceptualisation and execution of your brunches; how do you come up with the idea and what helps you make it a reality? This could take a while, but to keep it brief: first, we obviously needed to find a venue. We typically try to find hidden gems around the city with strong footfall. Next, we start creating the brand, specific for that venue. For me, these two elements are the most important ones. Don’t get me wrong, we do also focus on the


Hotel & Catering NEWS ME

Left to Right: Kieran Lindsay (Love Parties partner), Jess Coburn (Marketing and Events Manager) and Ben Thompson

fundamentals of the actual event: food, drinks, great service, but I guess venue and brand are the foundation, and then customer experience follows and becomes what we focus on week in, week out. We see this as our main point of difference from our competitors; we listen to our customers. Our team attend every single brunch, observing the way it goes, noting strengths and weaknesses, so every week we learn and improve. A Dubai institution, it can often be hard to bring something different to the table in terms of brunches. How do you keep things exciting? With all our brands, we almost create our own competition. So, with this in mind,

we’ve focused on one of the simplest, but also biggest drivers for our guests – music. Each one of our brands has its own music policy. We Brunch is the commercial, open-format brunch which a 21-year-old can enjoy, but you can get away with taking your parents along, too. Hidden is for house-lovers and The Stage is live acoustic. Launching on July 19, we’re excited to announce “For Love of Brunch”, a concept for all 90s hip-hop and R&B lovers. You produce different types of events; what would you say is the most challenging part of your job and how do you overcome any obstacles? Since we launched our first brunch

August 2019

Movers & Shakers

(loveBRUNCH) five years ago, we’ve had a lot of people and venues join the “party brunch” scene, which has created healthy competition. Luckily for us all, Dubai loves to brunch, but this really keeps us on our toes, making sure we’re always improving each brand and offering guests a new and elevated experience to keep them coming back.

FLO Brunch

Tell us about one particular funny situation you’ve faced at any of your events that you’ve managed to tackle, but can’t forget until now. We used to throw boat parties (loveBOAT) back in the day when I didn’t mind taking my shirt off, and as you can imagine – they can be quite a “lively” affair. At the end of one of our evening events, a lady was “walking” off the boat while chatting to a friend and literally took one step too many off the pier and straight in to the Marina. Luckily for her, the security and us were alert and noticed, and so managed to pull her back onto the walkway. We’re grateful the situation had a happy ending, that’s for sure. What are some event and catering industry trends you’ve seen so far in 2019? We’ve noticed an ever-increasing number of party brunches. We welcome competition as it means that there’s demand for this type of entertainment. It also means that we refuse to settle; we’re always looking to improve.

Hidden Brunch

Pizza Express

What’s your dream event? Will we see it become a reality soon? We’ve always wanted to take our Dubaibased company international and, on the UK’s next bank holiday on Sunday August 25, we’re launching Hidden in the UK at McQueens in Shoreditch, London. This is a great achievement for me and the team, we already have two dates secured for Hidden UK in 2019, with the first having sold out in a matter of weeks, so we’re all very proud of that. We’ll also hopefully secure a couple of dates for We Brunch in the coming months in London, so again we’d be thrilled if we can have at least one UK-based We Brunch event before the year ends. Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019

GM Interview

Top of the Hub

Waldorf Astoria DIFC has become the centre of attention. Victor Chalfoun, the property’s general manager, discusses the future of the financial district’s newest kid on the Happiness Street block

Tell us more about your career journey. I’ve had the pleasure of working with the Hilton brand for over 19 years, taking on several positions across more than five countries, with Waldorf Astoria DIFC being my tenth role in the portfolio. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management in 1999 and built my career by working in luxury hotels across the world, including my tenure with Conrad Pezula in South Africa, where I assumed my first General Manager role. This helped me perfect my managerial skills and develop my domestic and international experience in hospitality. 36

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When did you find your passion for the hotel industry, and the luxury sector in specific? Luxury is deeply embedded in the DNA of Dubai, perhaps even synonymous with the city. I was first attracted to the luxury landscape of the hotel world when I discovered, as hoteliers, we were able to offer exceptional and extraordinary experiences to our guests and truly be a part of their global adventures. Luxury has always been about delivering quality over quantity. The dynamism of the industry has kept me on my toes until today, as our strategies continuously evolve to

cater to ever-changing needs of luxury guests around the world. Was the choice of location strategic? What does it mean for the UAE’s first Waldorf city hotel? Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is the brand’s first city-based hotel in the UAE, joining two other Waldorf Astoria properties in the country – Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah and Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah. The hotel will serve as a meeting place for the movers and shakers of Downtown Dubai and is an ideal location for travellers

August 2019

GM Interview

who are on a short stopover or a longer stay to explore the vibrant city of Dubai. Earlier this year, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the launch of DIFC 2.0, which will add 13 million square feet of space to the Centre. We’re thrilled to be a part of this rapidly growing district. We aim for Waldorf Astoria DIFC to become the desired hotel for all our customers, whether they’re business or leisure travellers. Our strategy will be focused on attracting people from all over the world through creating a captivating environment, which is achieved through classy interior design as well as

Luxury is deeply embedded in the DNA of Dubai, perhaps even synonymous with the city.

impeccable service. I believe the local and global markets will find our offerings fresh and appealing for the UAE, and they’ll be curious to experience it all. What are the most unique features of the hotel and how do you plan on competing with others in this popular district? Firstly, there’s the hotel’s unique design and architecture. We have an exclusive space, which starts from the 18th floor of the Burj Daman building. We offer our guests unobstructed views of Dubai thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows in every room. We’ve taken a personalised approach to Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019

GM Interview

Hilton was the first hotel brand to invent the mini bar, and introduce in-room televisions and 24-hour room service. our spaces – the 18th floor, for example, is a place to see and be seen. Our entry-level rooms are also one of the largest in DIFC, starting from 43 square metres. The hotel comprises 28 serviced residential suites, where tenants can enjoy longer-stay accommodation as well as the facilities. An exquisite elevated culinary experience can also be found within Waldorf Astoria DIFC, where three distinct dining options and bars are presented. Bull and Bear restaurant is the hotel’s signature restaurant, while the rooftop lounge, St Trop and the brand’s iconic Peacock Alley Lounge and Bar will serve as meeting points for different occasions. The hotel boasts a retreat through its state-of-the-art fitness centre and sanctuary spa, which comes with four treatment rooms. A number of reimagined meeting spaces are also located in the hotel’s dedicated Business Centre, along with a Ballroom and Library. As you can see, Waldorf Astoria DIFC provides an all-encompassing experience for the discerning business or leisure traveller. What was the inspiration behind the concept and design? We’ve proudly linked our hotel’s personality to the glitz and glamour of the 1960s, which is making a comeback. The 38

Hotel & Catering NEWS ME

hotel’s design has been heavily influenced by this decade – we wanted to honour every line, shape, colour and form, with the hope that our guests will have the opportunity to experience an era gone by. We’ve created a charming environment through the classy design of the interiors as well as the impeccable service. I believe our guests – a mix of local and international travellers – will find this appealing and be curious to experience it all. What are some key features at the hotel that will reshape guest experience? The UAE continues to pave the way for luxury hospitality in the region and the world, and one of the growing trends is creating extraordinary experiences for travellers. Waldorf Astoria DIFC is no different; we’re so much more than just a hotel where you stay; it’s a hotel where guests will want to spend every waking moment. At Waldorf Astoria DIFC, we offer “True Waldorf Service” which delivers graceful, anticipatory services from the moment a guest books through to checkout. Our personal concierge will create flawless experiences by tailoring guests' stays to their exact specifications. I had the pleasure of interviewing and hand-selecting each and every member of

my team. It was very important to me that there was diversity among us and that the right talent would be completely dedicated to each job function. We’re also extremely proud to be part of the Hilton family – which this year is celebrating its 100-year anniversary. As one of the longest-standing global hotel companies. Hilton was the first hotel brand to invent the mini bar, and introduce in-room televisions and 24-hour room service. Today, Hilton and Waldorf Astoria are always innovating with their services and technology, which will never stop. At Waldorf Astoria DIFC, our guests will have access to a digital check-in application on their mobile phones to allow them to choose which room to check into. They’ll also have a digital key, allowing them to seamlessly enter their room without the need for a key card. What advice would you offer those who aspire to become general managers in the hotel industry someday? This, for me is simple. You need passion, patience and to be personable. You must be good with people, and always lead by example – practice what you preach. Be open to learning new things every day and take all feedback on board, use it as a gift and a way to always grow.

August 2019

Event preview

Gulfood Manufacturing Food companies willing to run-the-mill with old technologies are waking up. If yesterday’s economy offered room for complacency, today’s is squeezing food operators to find new ways to control their costs – or perish as a result. From research and development executives testing the latest healthy and trending ingredients, to plant operators and engineers looking to increase production, the focus on quality, speed and cost has never been so prevalent. As the entire supply chain continues to upscale through advancements in The Internet of Things (IoT), block chain, robotics and more, the industry is tipping this year’s edition of Gulfood Manufacturing to be one of the biggest and most pivotal in its six-year history. In 2019, providers of supply chain logistics solutions are catering to more specific, higher volume and value shopping lists from food manufacturers. In order to produce food options that are fast, affordable and easily accessible in line with consumer demand, today’s solutions are integrating advanced automation and data analytics for better energy and temperature control, instant product traceability, SKU precision and faster delivery times. Middle market F&B companies are more inclined than ever to implement these innovative changes, while UAE operators in particular are revisiting their business strategies in order to improve their operational efficiencies through 2019 and beyond. According to industry reports, 22% of F&B companies have already installed advanced automation systems, while Artificial Intelligence in F&B is to register an astounding 65.3% CAGR over next five years. According to the Gulfood Outlook Report commissioned to Euromonitor International in 2019, the Middle East and North Africa is where F&B consumption is

at its highest globally, with the region also forecast to lead the health and wellness packaged market thanks to a 9.9% growth rate, set to be worth $31.6 billion by 2023. The report also revealed that of all business segments, food manufacturers are the most optimistic, with two thirds forecasting growth in revenue in the next 12 months and only 5% expecting a drop. Perhaps fittingly, production costs are now confirmed to be the biggest focus for the food industry – highlighting major opportunities for exhibitors at Gulfood Manufacturing, where this year’s drive for next-level innovation is set to raise the benchmark for international trade exhibitions. New exhibitors on board for 2019 include Givaudan, the world’s largest flavour and fragrance company and Firmenich, another major player in flavours and fragrances worldwide. Growing country pavilions include Italy, Germany, France, Spain, UK and USA. High-profile buyers from MEASA will once again be hosted in Dubai as part

of a business traveller tourism drive to increase exhibitor ROI during the show, which takes place on October 29-31, 2019 at the Dubai World Trade Centre. The events’ 36,000 strong global visitor base will include 2000 qualified manufacturers with collective budgets in excess of $2 billion. These influential stakeholders are hand-selected annually before being flown to the emirate to seal deals with the Gulfood Manufacturing community. Networking features include the 2nd Foodtech Summit, Industry Excellence Awards and Manufacturing Advice Centre open to all visitors. This year’s edition of Gulfood Manufacturing will be complemented by its first time colocation with Private Label & Licensing Middle East, the region’s only event of its kind, as well as two finished food events, yummex Middle East covering confectionery and snacks and SEAFEX Middle East covering seafood. Visitors can register for free to attend at Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019

Event Preview: PRIME Expo Dubai

Connecting Private Label Suppliers and Contract Manufacturers At the MENA region’s first exclusive trade show, Private Label and Licensing Middle East, brand elevation will take centre stage with unmatched opportunities for private label suppliers and contract manufacturers to foster new business avenues. Conceived to capitalise on the unprecedented growth, opportunities and market demand for private label and licensing opportunities, the MENA region’s inaugural Private Label and Licensing Middle East exhibition will take place from October 29-31, 2019 at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC). 40

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With more than 130 international brands from 50 plus countries exhibiting products and solutions, the show is expected to attract more than 5000 visitors, eager to explore private label and licensing avenues to expand or launch their business. Aimed at a number of verticals and industries associated with Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), the show will connect private label suppliers and contract manufacturers from across the globe with a focus on identifying new products and solutions to drive

increased business opportunities. Key focus areas of the show will explore three specific pillars: • Private Label, which denotes products manufactured or packaged for sale under the name of the retailer, rather than that of the manufacturer. Retail heavyweight Carrefour, the region’s leading private label, is the Retail Excellence Partner for the event and will showcase a wide suite of private label products alongside other key retailers and brands. • Brand Licensing, a process of leasing

August 2019

Event Preview: PRIME Expo Dubai

• Meetings Programme: Private Label & Licensing Middle East will host big retailers and FMCG giants to meet and network. • RFP Portal: Open to all visitors and exhibitors, the Request for Proposal portal will enable buyers to upload purchasing requirements, receive proposals and schedule meetings ahead of the show, in turn allowing potential customers to build profiles and receive connection recommendations based on sourcing needs and sales offerings. • Private Label & Licensing Middle East Summit: High-profile industry experts will share insights, product innovation and the latest market trends to unravel the opportunities lying with private brands. Experts will share experiences, cases and updates ranging from ideation to distribution, helping businesses win and sustain customer loyalty. • Brand Licensing Workshop: The free-to-attend workshop will help manufacturers and retailers understand the importance of product differentiation to help stay ahead of the curve and, ultimately, increase bottom line. • Packaging Masterclass: The custommade workshop, organised by TetraPak, will help companies explore innovative concepts of optimal packaging design to meet ever-increasing consumer demand for trendsetting products.

a renowned brand and using it on a product or a company for a designated time period. The event Category Sponsor for Licensing, Cartoon Network, will present brand licensing opportunities to visitors to leverage their iconic brand characters on product packaging. • Contract Manufacturing, which is the production of goods by one firm, under the label or brand of another firm that helps to produce and sell products without having to invest in heavy machinery or equipment.

Sales of private label in the Middle East and North Africa are increasing as consumers, particularly within the UAE and Saudi Arabia, are becoming more price conscious and their value perception of non-branded products is improving. With companies across the region exploring new avenues to source the rights to leading brands, entertainment trademarks, licensees, product lines and strategic partnerships, Private Label and Licensing Middle East will feature a host of tailor-made programmes and workshops, including:

A new event by Gulfood, Private Label and Licensing Middle East will highlight growing business opportunities for individuals and companies in the region. Among key sponsors and partners of the exhibition are Carrefour as Retail Excellence Partner, TetraPak as Packaging Masterclass Partner, Cartoon Network as Category Sponsor – Licensing, FlavourTech and Al Emlaq as Gold Sponsor. While the focus of Private Label and Licensing Middle East stretches across a plethora of industries, the inaugural exhibition will run alongside Gulfood Manufacturing 2019 to ensure participants can maximise business potential across the food industry supply chain. Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019


Marketplace Dairy

The Non-Dairy Alternative

Slices/Blocks/Grated Violife Blocks can be used on pizza or pasta, and come in two different packs of 200g and 400g in a variety of flavours. They are formulated to optimally melt in professional pizzeria ovens. Violife Slices come in a re-closable pack (200g), and a variety of flavours. The Slices can be used in sandwiches, toasties, bruschetta, wraps and vegan burgers. Violife Grated come in a resealable bag (200g), available in Mild Cheddar and Mozzarella flavours. Creamy/Specials Violife Creamies come in a resealable tub


Hotel & Catering NEWS ME

(200g) and are available in five flavours. Violife Specials comprise a variety of premium offerings, such as Prosociano and Blu wedges, as well as Mediterranean flavour and After-Dinner blocks. Organic Range Violife Organic Slices come in a handy pack (200g), and are available in a variety of flavours including Original, Herbs and Smoked. Violife Organic Blocks come in two different packs of 200g and 400g, in a variety of flavours including Original, Mozzarella, Cheddar flavour and Groovier.

For all the latest News, Visit Follow us on Facebook for up-to-the-minute breaking news Read the latest edition on

Bord Bia David Butler, MD, Middle East and North Africa

What’s your most recent product launch? Ornua’s most important new products are Palatina Mozzarella and Palatina Feta. Already hugely popular, Palatina Mozzarella has a mild, creamy flavour. Texture and cooking quality are excellent, coverage and stretch are easily controlled, and a generous melt gives exceptional consistency. Palatina White Cheese Feta, produced in Ornua KSA, is a big favourite too. This soft, white, brined cheese is smooth and creamy, has a mild to sharp, tangy, salty flavour, and delivers all Palatina’s high standards of taste and performance. What makes this product a breakthrough? Palatina mozzarella is produced using Ornua’s unique TSC™ Pizza Cheese Technology, setting new standards in performance and cost-effectiveness by eliminating clumping or fines, reducing wastage and improving portion control.

What’s your product’s selling point? As well as consistent performance, Palatina customers benefit from Ornua’s commitment to growth and support across the GCC, with a SAR150m infrastructure investment in KSA, a close proximity to the market, strong distributor support and a bluechip customer focus. What’s in the pipeline for your company and its product offerings? In the Middle East, consumer demand for international food service concepts is growing with the increase in Western-style restaurants and delivery chains. Currently, a new Palatina Culinary Cooking Cream range is in the pipeline. Excellent for pasta coating, with a shiny look and texture, it will be made in KSA and packed in cost-saving 2.5 kg or 5 kg buckets.

August 2019


CNIEL M. Laurent Damiens, Chief Operating Officer, CNIEL

Tell us more about your most recent developments. The French Dairy Interbranch Organization (CNIEL) has had the opportunity to launch three new programmes, co-financed by the European Union and promoting French cheese, cream and butter. We’re expanding our activities in the region as we’ll be targeting not only the UAE, but also Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Lebanon. What makes your product a breakthrough? All French dairy products share common attributes, such as the lands they come from as well as the know-how of local producers, which makes them value-added products. Whether talking about cream and butter which bring out the taste and give pastries and dishes their unique texture, or the amazing 1,200 French cheeses produced in the country, French dairy products have all the essentials for chefs and foodies.

What’s in the pipeline for your company in the region for 2019? The French offering is sometimes very little known. This requires advertising and education – and therefore regular work in the field. The “Made in France” label is appreciated as a synonym for quality. Middle Eastern countries are mature markets that are growing, with genuine opportunities. Furthermore, today we’re seeing the emergence of a category of consumers who are passionate about food, cooking and European gastronomy called “foodies”, and they extend the potential market of French dairy in the region. We’re going to continue to educate consumers about the quality and specificities of French dairy products. Some professional events are planned such as trainings in the UAE and KSA, but also BtoC events in Lebanon and other countries.

Greenhouse UAE Cathia Sader Senior Brand Manager, Dairy category, Asian Food What’s your most recent product launch and what makes it unique? The 10 percent fat sour cream from Naarmann, which is the best alternative for crème fraiche and has a longer shelf life. It’s extremely creamy, has a mild taste, is gelatine-free and is perfect for sauces and dips – no matter whether the dish is hot or cold. Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019

F&B Far and Near


Cuisine Chef Arif Mohammad, chef de cuisine at Little Miss India and Chef Vinu Raveendran, executive chef at Carnival by Trèsind, know all about striking the perfect balance – while still spicing things up

What would you say is the essence of Indian cuisine and how do you ensure that your dishes have the right components? Mohammad: In my opinion, I would attribute the essence of Indian cuisine to be in serving guests with simple quality home-style food using the freshest of ingredients – no modern marketing gimmicks to promote the food, the taste should speak for itself. We definitely take this into consideration at Little Miss India. After doing extensive research, we realised that guests are sure to come back for simple, wholesome food. I also tend to be attentive to guests’ needs, and this is often reflected in the food I serve my guests. The recipes used at Little Miss India are minutely itemised and codified – contrary to standard methods followed in other Indian restaurants today.


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Restaurants in Dubai are hardly consistent. At most Indian restaurants, a lot depend on the hand of the chef at the stove – every time you go, you may have a different experience. To avoid that at our restaurant, all spices and ingredients have been weighed and every dish follows a precise method. All the restaurant’s spices are sourced from Delhi, and are mixed according to my own recipes, whether it’s the go-to garam masala or individual mixes for biryani, kebabs and curries. Raveendran: If I have to explain the essence of Indian cuisine in one word, it would be “diversity”. Diversity in Indian food is a result of multiple factors, including the country’s size. If you travel from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, you’ll experience a completely different cuisine altogether, because the climate, language – and cooking style – are different in every

August 2019

F&B Far and Near

Restaurants in Dubai are hardly consistent. At most Indian restaurants, a lot depend on the hand of the chef at the stove – every time you go, you may have a different experience.

Red hot chili pepper

region and largely depend on culture. For example, in Bengal, they use mustard oil for cooking. If you go further down to Kerala, they use coconut oil: these small changes make the food look and taste completely different. Dubai is an amalgamation of different cultures, so I never have any difficulty sourcing the right ingredients. High quality seasonal produce comes to the emirate from all around the world. However, I have to be always in touch with the suppliers and periodical visit markets to understand the changes in seasons globally. For example, we get mangoes around the year in Dubai, when mango season hits in India, I can see the best of the best filling up shelves here in Dubai.

Chef Vinu Raveendran, executive chef at Carnival by Trèsind

How do you view the Indian cuisine dining scene in the UAE and the region, and what would you say is missing or needs improvement in terms of F&B offerings? Mohammad: Dubai’s food market is burgeoning with new Indian restaurants, both casual and fine dining. Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019

F&B Far and Near

Dubai is an amalgamation of different cultures, so I never have any difficulty sourcing the right ingredients. However, most of these have jumped on the molecular gastronomy bandwagon like their predecessors, thereby making the concept mundane, if not obsolete, to say the least. Hence, we’ve tried to keep authentic Awadhi cuisine as is, so diners are sure to find good quality North Indian food at Little Miss India. We’ve tried to be sustainable with our menu, made with freshly sourced ingredients. Diners nowadays looking for the classic Indian 46

Hotel & Catering NEWS ME

Chef Arif Mohammad, chef de cuisine at Little Miss India

August 2019

F&B Far and Near

dishes. Our Awadhi-inspired menu is, therefore, heavy on the sort of rich, buttery fare associated with northern India: there’s butter chicken, dal makhani, tandoori raan with dry fruit, roghan josh, different types of biryani, paneer kofta and kebabs for all comers. Even the few items from the other parts of India are what you’d expect — Goan shrimp and Malabar pomfret curry, shrimp stir-fried Chettinadstyle and more. Raveendran: India and the UAE have a history of spice trade, and a huge Indian community resides here bringing lots of demand for Indian food. The industry has boomed dramatically in the past few years, and there are choices available everywhere, from street food and very affordable eateries to home delivery and high-end, fine dining restaurants. Little Miss India

What are your newest concepts and dishes, and what can your diners expect in the upcoming months – and even next year? Mohammad: We’ve tried to be consistent with our menu, with the occasional addon of Chef ’s Special for the day, so guests are sure to find the same quality food when they visit every time. We aim to make Little Miss India the go-to place for guests to dine at least twice a week, rather than a fine dining place that they can only go to during special occasions. Raveendran: Carnival is a restaurant which changes its menu very often. We’re running our sixth “season” now, which is mainly about books. Every dish has a story attached to it, so expect more surprises for season seven. What’s the secret ingredient at Carnival? Mohammad: That’s a secret! You’d have to visit Little Miss India and dine with us in order to know it.

Carnival by Trèsind

Raveendran: Well, it’s no longer a secret since we’re telling Hotel & Catering News ME about it: The secret at Carnival is Kaizen (改善). Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019

The Experienced

Wood-Fired Passion 800PIZZA Founder Alessandro D’Ubaldo opened the Italian restaurant’s first outlet in 2007, and now operates six across the UAE. We explore the main ingredients to the entrepreneur’s recipe for success You’ve started the business 12 years ago; tell us more about how it all began. Initially, my wife and I were running a very profitable real estate business in Dubai and all was going well, but then realised that there was something missing. We were yet to find great wood-fired pizza in the city – something that we loved to eat. At the end of the day, we believe that it’s the simple things that matter the most, and so we decided that we’d like to dive into the pizza-making business. This is how 800PIZZA was born. 48

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How has the market changed over the years, and how has demand evolved? In my opinion, changes in the market weren’t that drastic. Consumer trends come and go, but a good pizza is a good pizza. We’ve remained authentic and true to both our recipe and menu for 12 years now, giving our customers pizza that we enjoy eating too – and the response has been positive so far. We’ve conducted a lot of trial-and-error experiments with our pizza and topping combinations – some have stuck, while others didn’t work out, and that’s OK. We’d

like to continue to offer our customers the best pizza we can, which means we have to remain consistent with our quality, while being innovative at the same time. Most of our business comes from loyal customers who love 800PIZZA, and we want to show more people in the region and beyond what we have to offer. Tell us more about the type of customer who visits 800PIZZA, have you noticed any changes in preferences and special requests? In the past few years, we’ve focused

August 2019

The Experienced

We clocked in an admirable 8% growth in sales and 20% in profits in Q1 2019, and we’re excited to see what the next two quarters of 2019 as well as 2020 hold for us.

on honing our home delivery service to make it faster and more efficient, so that customers receive our pizza the way it’s supposed to be savoured – hot, fresh and cheesy. However, we’re beginning to see the emergence and rise of a niche lifestyle of veganism. Some of our customers are vegan, which is a bit of a shift; two years ago, it was all about being gluten-free, while five years ago, it was all about being organic and using whole wheat. People’s interests and lifestyles constantly change, and we need to be able to adapt to

suit their needs. Once we realised that there was a growing number of vegan customers, we introduced the vegan pizza, made using Italian 100% vegan cheese. What were some of the most unexpected challenges you’ve faced? Honestly, when we started this new venture, we didn’t expect it to take off and resonate with people so quickly. We needed to expand internally, which meant a lot of focus was placed on hiring new staff and providing proper training in order to maximise potential and

maintain consistency. Essentially, we needed to cater to increasing demand in the market. The rate at which we were growing was quite astonishing and exciting, so getting a jump-start on things as quickly as possible was vital. However, I suppose all of these efforts have paid off and, thankfully, we’ve enjoyed some great success over the past decade. I’ve always believed that customers would keep coming back if we had a quality offering, and we proved it time and time again by taking care of customers’ taste Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019

The experienced

Some of our customers are vegan, which is a bit of a shift; two years ago, it was all about being gluten-free, while five years ago, it was all about being organic and using whole wheat. buds, resulting in robust recent quarter performances. It’s been a great journey up until now and we can’t wait to see what the future holds. What are your bestselling dishes and what makes them unique? I think that what stands out on our menu is definitely our range of pizzas, which are made to perfection. They’re divine because we make them thin, light and crispy – so people don’t feel “heavy” or too bloated after eating them. Our pizzas are definitely what make 800PIZZA stand out, and that’s always been the case. It has made our business what it is today. When it comes to our dessert menu, our tiramisu is the highlight. We respect its Italian roots and make it that way with proper ingredients, which will never change. Our customers thoroughly enjoy it, which makes us happy. How are you finding the experience of dealing with suppliers and sourcing ingredients? It’s been very smooth. Over the years, 50

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we’ve built an excellent relationship with our suppliers, and enjoy mutual trust. Everyone works well together and it helps get things done. We always settle our invoices within 30 days, and without any delays. We’re very particular and systematic in the way we do things, ensuring that no one faces unnecessary tension or issues. What do you think is the key to leading an F&B business to success in the region? There’s no “key” as such, but my advice would be to watch your rent, which can have a major impact on your revenue. Remaining authentic and giving customers good quality products is the only way to maintain a regular inflow, and keep them coming back for more. I believe that consistency and quality go a long way. At the end of the day, the customer is King in our industry. I also believe that, in present day, having a variety of dishes on the menu is crucial because there are people with different lifestyle choices, so catering to them and making them feel included is very important. What’s next for 800PIZZA? We aim to expand throughout the region and go beyond as well. We’re slowly achieving our goal since successfully opening six branches in the last twelve years. I’m even more excited for what awaits the F&B industry, especially with Expo 2020 around the corner. We’re geared up and ready to take on new challenges and experiences. We clocked in an admirable 8 percent growth in sales and 20 percent in profits in Q1 2019, and we’re excited to see what the next two quarters of 2019 as well as 2020 hold for us. We’re looking to build and expand our portfolio by partnering with investors who are a strategic fit and are open to franchising and investment opportunities.

August 2019

The Experienced

Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019

What's Cooking


Hotel & Catering NEWS ME

August 2019

What's cooking

Stellar Cuisine Zero Gravity Executive Chef Dwarika Bhatt’s cooking may be out of this world, but it’s his down-toearth approach to the kitchen that’s got everyone talking Please share bits and pieces of your career journey and background with us. I was born and raised in the Himalayan Valley and received my Hotel Management degree from IHM Pusa New Delhi, where I was selected to be part of the pre-opening team at Madinat Jumeirah Dubai. I worked at fine dining restaurant Napa, and the chefs there have taught me so much. Moving on, I got another learning opportunity at the Shangri-La Muscat, in their fine dining restaurant Sultanah, where I really got to experiment. Then, I came back to Dubai and started working for Le Méridien Mina Seyahi’s all-day dining restaurant Waves and the seafood-focused The Dhow. After Le Méridien, one of my chefs recommended me to Grand Hyatt Muscat as a Sous Chef in Mokha Café. In 2010, they called me to join fine dining seafood restaurant Pier Chic in Madinat Jumeirah. The year after, I began handling Pisces, which was then recognised as Best Seafood Restaurant by Time Out Dubai. A year later, I got the opportunity to handle multiple outlets at Souk Madinat Jumeirah. In 2013, I was asked to become part of Zero Gravity and I’ve been with them ever since, always trying to put a smile on diners’ faces. What’s your cooking style and how do you incorporate food trends into the mix? My cooking style is modern, always keeping authentic flavours in mind. I prefer the freshness and simplicity of the dish, while adding some modern

techniques to prepare it. I study new trends, particularly those that contribute to overall health, and incorporate them into my menus. Are you more of a cookbook chef or do you enjoy experimenting more? I enjoy experimenting on a daily basis. Of course, I also try to stay up to date through books, social media and feedback from guests and colleagues. What are the hottest dishes on your menu right now? Bluefin tuna carpaccio with Atlantic crab and lobster tian and our ever-popular Wagyu beef burger. How has Zero Gravity’s location helped you with inspiration and what type of diners do you cook for? I’m lucky to have joined join Zero Gravity, as it has helped me a lot in terms of learning and experimenting. It’s

not just a restaurant, but also a beach club and nightlife venue, and offers many sub-brands with different themes, which is reflected on cuisine. During peak seasons, we can serve over 1,000 a la carte covers every day at our restaurant, terrace, garden, pool and beach. We have many residents and tourists visiting the venue day to night. Our hugely popular pool and beach brunches on Fridays and Saturdays serve up to 2,000 guests and, for international DJ events, we set up a food village with live cooking counters. It’s very important to me that – despite these big numbers – there’s no compromise on food quality, consistency, presentation and service. What can we expect from Chef Bhatt in the coming year? You can expect a more nutritious, healthoriented menu balancing authentic flavours and organic ingredients. Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019

Supplier watch

The doors to luxury:

Hörmann Middle East

Supplying the market with aesthetically designed doors, Hörmann is behind some of The Bvlgari Resort Dubai’s newest sets. Darius Khanloo, director, Middle East and Africa at Hörmann, explains what goes into making an entrance

Please tell us more about Hörmann Doors. We, as part of the Hörmann Group, established our subsidiary in the UAE and are responsible for the entire Middle East and Africa region. Starting in 1935, the company rapidly expanded geographically. All doors and operator components are developed and manufactured by Hörmann as per the highest standards. Thanks to excellent technical solutions and uncompromising quality assurance, our customers receive a ten-year warranty on all of our products. What makes your products a good fit for luxury resorts such at The Bvlgari Resort Dubai? Today, hotels are looking for individuality and the highest standards of safety. Not only are our doors known for their aesthetics, but they’re also top of the range when it comes to fire safety. These features make our products perfect for luxury hotels. We provided The Bvlgari Resort Dubai with modern and elegant high-quality doors, in addition to ET 500 garage doors for mansions and residences. We also supplied SPU F42 industrial sectional doors for penthouse parking, loading bay entrances and buildings. 54

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How do you maintain individuality without sacrificing on quality and standards? The best way to maintain individuality without affecting quality and standards is optimising the company’s production through industrial modernisation. Having the best available technology is clearly a necessity to successfully compete in today’s market. Today’s resorts seek individuality in designs, energy efficiency, safety and security. To provide our products to a luxury chain like The Bvlgari Resort Dubai, which offers the ultimate experience in opulent living, is a significant achievement. What’s in the pipeline for Hörmann? The Middle East and Africa is a key market for us, and we’re committed to expanding our presence. Last year, we celebrated the company’s ten years of operations in the

Middle East with the opening of a new 4,800 square metre production line in the Jebel Ali Free Zone. With a capacity to produce 35,000 doors a year, the new facility will redefine Hörmann’s operations in the region. It enables us to customise doors for regional customers promptly. On the product front, we’re focused on innovation and sustainability. Therefore, the company has obtained over 70 percent of its required energy from green sources and will continue to increase this percentage. We also offer products for sustainable construction and are investing in a clean future with innovative combined heating and power stations at many Hörmann factories. These measures substantially help reduce our carbon dioxide emissions and increase environmental awareness.

August 2019

Supplier watch

Success is no mystery:


Chanel Venter, Magnify’s managing director and founder, talks about her company’s modern approach to mystery shopping and how it can help hotels and F&B businesses stay relevant in today’s competitive market.

What’s Magnify and what services do you offer? Magnify is a UAE-based company specialising in the hospitality sector, offering tailored mystery shopping services to restaurants, cafés, bars and hotels. We help you measure your customer experience in a proactive manner, ensuring you’re able to create consistently superior experiences through intentional feedback and improvement. Our aim is to help you stay in touch with today’s modern spenders’ evolving expectations, in order to adapt and thrive in a market with increasing competition. Why is this service so important for the hospitality and F&B industries? We all know that competition is on the rise in the UAE, and especially Dubai, with the city quickly becoming the largest conglomerate of luxury hotels in the world. This means that the pressure to ensure that every person who walks through your door has the best experience possible has increased – otherwise, they could just go next door. Mystery shopping enables you to be proactive in assessing your customers’ experience, highlighting areas of improvement so that you can take action before your real customer arrives. It enables you to get a sense of what your average customer might go through and any reoccurring shortfalls you may have, hence helping you achieve consistent service delivery. Consistency is key, you have to get it right every single time and be able to deliver for your customers no matter what.

This creates value, which in turn creates trust – and this creates loyalty. What sets you apart from your competitors? At Magnify, all we do is mystery shopping within the hospitality industry in specific, and so we’re the experts. Our services and reporting are 100 percent customisable to suit your needs, with targeted assessors and action-orientated reporting that helps you focus on what matters. We have a team of high-quality, modern Assessors that represent a range of demographics to ensure diverse perspectives and represent a big portion of the modern spender. We have experienced hoteliers, culinary and restaurant professionals, as well as your actual customers.

Additionally, our reports are created with operations in mind: easy to understand and action-orientated, highlighting key takeaways and areas for improvement to have the biggest impact on guest experience and your bottom line. We have unique features such as the Impact Score and Emotional Metre to ensure a holistic approach with valuable insights to drive results. How long has Magnify been operational in the UAE for? Magnify is fairly new to the market, having been officially established at the beginning of 2019. Being a small team enables us to be dynamic and really create sustainable relationships with all of our clients where we can add maximum value. Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


July 2019


Future Leaders

A monthly column by Martin Kubler, CEO, chief cook, and bottle washer of sps:affinity Strategic Partnership Solutions Summer in Dubai, heat and humidity aside, means summer camps and schools for kids. For me, it usually means a slightly slower pace as business takes somewhat of a summer break. This year, however, I managed to combine both – camps and the business slow-down, because I was asked by a Dubai-based university with a sizeable footprint in our industry to facilitate summer school for students. I do, of course, regularly teach at universities (just one of the many hats I wear), but usually undergraduate and post-graduate students – I never really saw myself as a school teacher. Summer school ran for five days and it was all about “getting ready for work life.” In other words, career planning, interview skills, the job search, etc. The 25-student group was made up of 10th, 11th, and 12th graders from different schools in Dubai. I know what I was like as a high school student, so I approached the first day of summer school with some trepidation – I needn’t have worried, though – because the students were awesome and, I felt, much more well-behaved than I was back then. Everyone, including myself, had a great time. It wasn’t only the students that learned new things, but I, too, took away many interesting new insights about “future leaders”. It’s one thing to attend events and conferences, and listen to speakers (usually 40 years old and up) talk about “Generation Z”, but it’s an entirely different story to learn directly from youth. What did I learn? Firstly, they’re motivated and want to achieve. Secondly, they want to do so on their own terms. Most of the students were expats, but virtually all of them were born in Dubai and grew up here. They expect to start their careers here, too. Not all of them 56

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planned to attend university – a fair few of them were keen to go straight into the industry and “learn their way up”, but were unsure as to how to go about it. They all seemed unbothered by work/ life balance, but were keen on flexible working arrangements and “real” results. Digitally native, they all knew that the future for virtually any career would be heavily influenced by everything online and, of course, data. I think it’s time that we, as an industry, started looking at home-grown talent and gave some thought to apprenticeship-style working and learning arrangements. We have the hotels and restaurants as well as the education providers, so it’s time to bring both sides together. I spent the first two and a half years of my career as an apprentice in a luxury

hotel back home, attending school one or two days per week while working. I learned a lot and enjoyed seeing practice and theory coming together. Dubai’s expat population is no longer as transient as it used to be and, at the same time, more and more Emiratis are considering the private sector for careers. As my father always used to say: “there’s no need for everyone to go to university straight after school” (though I did end up going to university after my apprenticeship). It’ll be great to see home-grown talent starting their careers in Dubai, then going on to work in hotels across the globe. Many of the students I had the pleasure of teaching over the week-long course certainly had the skills and eagerness to do just that.

July 2019


A Mid-Segment Surge

Bruno Trenchard, senior manager and Vaughan Sears, senior consultant, strategic advisory at Hotels & Hospitality believe that Dubai’s growing mid-market hotel segment will prove crucial to the emirate’s tourism ambitions The UAE remains as a prime destination, not only regionally, but also internationally, for an increasingly diverse pool of travellers. Home to some of the most opulent properties in the world, Dubai was, until recently, synonymous with luxury travel. However, the Government has been working hard to diversify its tourism sector to ensure that the country has something to offer every single traveller – regardless of budget. Currently, the sector contributes over AED 161 billion to the national GDP. With an everevolving offering of unique attractions in Dubai and other emirates, driven by a strategic approach to tourism, the emirate continues to adapt and overcome global economic challenges. Even though Dubai still excels with its well-known seaside luxury properties, the country can now add cultural and adrenaline-fueled experiences to its repertoire of touristic offerings. Additionally, as the country continues to develop into a global business hub, the UAE is quickly establishing itself as a home to some of the most prestigious events globally; the arrival of Expo 2020 will further cement this reputation. The UAE’s pipeline of new hotels, whether it’s luxury, mid-market or budget, is testament to the Government’s efforts to create a world-class travel destination that’s open to everyone. The number of hotel rooms in Dubai rose to 118,039 (including hotel apartments) in the first quarter of 2019, according to the latest data released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, which is an increase of 8 percent compared to the same period last year. The share of hotels in the mid-scale

Bruno Trenchard, senior manager, Hotels & Hospitality

Vaughan Sears, senior consultant, strategic advisory at Hotels & Hospitality

segment remains relatively constant, yet the portion of internationally branded mid-scale properties is increasing, adding to the quality of the offering and visibility of the segment for international travellers. This trend is evident across other markets too, as millennial travellers place an increased focus on experiences over excessive spending. Dubai is certainly capitalising on

evolving consumer patterns by investing heavily in its mid-market segment – recognising the importance of combining quality assurance with value for money - in addition to its growing leisure and entertainment infrastructure. This means that the emirate is now experiencing an influx of new travellers, either from new markets such as East Asia, or different backgrounds from traditional source markets such as Europe. This is not to say that Dubai has abandoned its luxury segment – far from it. The emirate’s ability to ensure consistently high tourism figures is testament to its adaptability and forward thinking. Luxury hotels continue to maintain a strong position in the market with high occupancy rates. Meanwhile, the city is also cementing its position as one of the world’s leading MICE destinations, with Dubai World Trade Centre figures revealing that the hub hosted 3.43 million delegates – a new record in its history – with a visitation growth of 4 percent year-on-year in 2018 thanks to 363 MICE and business events taking place. Due to its accessible location and growing importance as a regional business hub, an increasing number of travellers are visiting Dubai for business purposes. The development of the mid-market offering in the emirate comes as a positive trend as companies from the region become more conscious of their travel budgets. The UAE’s strength lies in its ability to continue to diversify in line with changing market conditions and evolving consumer trends. Ongoing efforts by the Government to attract first-time and repeat visitors by investing heavily in the nation’s leisure and entertainment infrastructure are proof to this commitment. Hotel & Catering NEWS ME


August 2019


Quick Look: Rational’s VarioCookingCenter When it’s rush hour in the kitchen, everything has to move quickly – including cleaning. As soon as the casserole is done, a quick interim clean is due, and then it’s onto the production of dessert. On the menu today: rice pudding. It’s of great benefit if nothing sticks to the pan and everything is clean again in just a few minutes. Milk dishes are considered favourites, especially for younger guests, but that’s not the case for the kitchen staff. First, they need to make sure that nothings sticks or boils over, and then it’s the matter of cleaning the pot or boiler. This is where multifunctional cooking appliances such as the Rational VarioCookingCenter show their strength. “To understand the benefits of the technology, you need to take a look inside the appliance,” says Adrien Masson, operative product management VarioCookingCenter director, EMEA. “The patented VarioBoost heating system quickly distributes heat over the pan base and evenly onto the food. On the command of the built-in cooking intelligence, the system withdraws the heat at the appropriate time to prevent sticking and boiling over, which in turn means the pan remains much cleaner,” he adds. According to Rational Middle East, the consumption of water and chemicals is up to

15 times lower as a result, in comparison to conventional appliances such as tilting fryers or boiling pans. Back to the rice pudding example. Here too, Masson explains: “In our VarioCookingCenter 311, you can cook 120 litres of rice pudding with no supervision. Then, for the clean, you need ten litres of

water, around ten millilitres of rinsing agent and four minutes of your working time.” In addition to saving on resources, Rational also guarantees simpler handling as the VarioCookingCenter has an integrated water drain, and so the dirty water goes directly into the drains. There’s no need for a floor drain.

BIN EID EXECUTIVE SEARCH (Specialised in 5* Hotel Sector) Since 1995

Celebrating 23 years in Executive Search (Hotels & other Hospitality segment) We thank our Clients, Candidates, well-wishers who directly and indirectly helped us in our wonderful & blissful journey. We also thank the Almighty, Bin Eid team members, ex-employees, associates and numerous unseen souls who supported us to navigate in our 23 years of spectacular journey. Thank you for the trust and confidence placed on us.

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Hotel & Catering News ME - August 2019  

Hotel & Catering News ME - August 2019