Hotel & Catering News Middle East February 2022 Issue

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Three Decades of Homegrown Hospitality UAE-born Rotana intends to further enhance the country’s hospitality industry, with President and CEO Guy Hutchinson in the driver’s seat











Always by your side to offer your guests an extra star Whatever happens the #1 destination for premium entertainment ''en français''







The Lifestyle channel by 100% subtitled in English and Arabic On Arabsat - Badr 4 East - Transponder 19 - Frequency 12072 © Thinkstock

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MARCH 29, 2022 As a celebration of women business leaders across the Middle East and Africa, Mastercard has partnered with Entrepreneur Middle East to present the first ever Women SME Leaders Awards 2022. We are inviting every women SME leader across all walks of lifeindividuals and organizations- to take part. There are no costs for attending or nominating at this event. Good luck to all and let’s celebrate women SMEs together!








THREE DECADES OF HOMEGROWN HOSPITALITY UAE-born Rotana intends to further enhance the country’s hospitality industry, with Guy Hutchinson in the driver’s seat.






The largest annual F&B sourcing event in the world is taking over the industry this month


ELIE SABA, Managing Partner at ADDMIND and Fady Hanna, Executive Chef at WHITE Dubai




DR. HAMAD AL AWAR, Founder, High Joint






FIVE KEY F&B TRENDS EXPECTED IN 2022 A report by Restaurant Secrets Inc.



WALID HAJJ, Co-Founder & CEO of Lavoya






INVESTING IN PLANTS LOUI BLAKE, London-based entrepreneur, speaker, and angel investor in the plant-based hospitality sector








A CUP OF TIME TARIQ AL-ARURI, Chief Empowerment Officer at Tchaba




MARCH 22, 2022

LEADERS Hospitality






AAblend blendofoflifestyle lifestyle&&luxury luxuryinin aatimeless timelesselegant elegantatmosphere atmosphere @slsdubai @slsdubai



Hotel&Catering NEWS Middle East EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Seymone L Moodley

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CEO Wissam Younane DIRECTOR Rabih Najm GROUP COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR Samer Alloush CREATIVE LEAD Odette Kahwagi DESIGN Eliane Elias MARKETING EXECUTIVE Aaron Joshua Sinamban Images used in Hotel & Catering News ME are credited when necessary. Attributed use of copyrighted images with permission.




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Stand S1B11

EXPLORE EUROPEAN DAIRY PRODUCTS AT GULFOOD DUBAI European Dairy products will be on show at GULFOOD Dubai, the world’s largest food exhibition, from February 13-17, 2022. Explore the diversity and quality of UK Dairy products at the Dairy council for Northern Ireland (DCNI) stand, located S1B11.

Milk used for EU dairy products is one of the highest standard. Dairy farms and processing plants in United Kingdom produce high quality milk and milk products – not only participating in internationally recognized quality insurance schemes but in many instances surpassing/exceeding regulatory requirements. The United Kingdom climate is moderate with an abundant rainfall which is ideal for the growth of rich, nutritious grass. Its lush pastures provide the perfect diet for dairy cows, allowing them to graze outdoors for the majority of the year.

United Kingdom is naturally suited to the sustainable production of high quality dairy products. Dairy farms are family owned, passing from one generation to the next. United Kingdom dairy products are produced to the highest European standards for quality, sustainability of supply, animal health and welfare, and environment.

Discover the outstanding programs implemented by European and United Kingdom dairy companies to guarantee the best for consumers, including the utmost respect for the environment .

Dairy products you can trust





Starting Something Delicious


’ve been thinking about entrepreneurship in the Middle East a lot lately. Over the past four months, I have read about, met, interviewed, and watched many entrepreneurs raise funding, talk about their business ideas, and share success stories. Many of these ideas were born during the pandemic, and many are within the F&B sector. Even though it should not surprise me that F&B businesses are on the rise, it does. It surprises me because the restaurant business used to be one of the most gruesome businesses to start and maintain, and by no means am I suggesting that it isn’t tough today but, people hesitated before going into the restaurant business before. Now, anyone with an idea and a Chef is bringing more and more culinary options to the industry. I thought about why this is the case, and I’ve narrowed it down to the environment, the access, and the opportunities. I also note that times have changed, people are more



fearless, and technology has given us more advantage over our customers, competitors, and even our own abilities. The restaurant business isn’t “the restaurant business” anymore it’s no longer feared. It’s welcomed and challenged even. The Middle East has created an environment for F&B seeds to grow. Chefs and entrepreneurs are choosing to start restaurants here or expand here. There is quality access to funding, accelerators, and most important, access to markets here. If you get noticed in Dubai, the whole world wants a piece of you. The opportunities here are rich, and you see that every time you browse the internet and someone has started something delicious - it’s exciting to make plans and go try it out. You wonder what style this new F&B spot will have, what kind of food they will serve, what’s their story, how did they come to be, and you wait to see who they will become. This month major F&B sourcing event, Gulfood, is taking place, where more budding ideas are sure to find their way into the market, we hear from WHITE Dubai as they transformed from night club to supper/club, meet a 26-year-old restauranteur making chaat at one of your favourite neighbourhoods, sit down with Rotana’s CEO, talk to a vegan angel investor from the U.K., make delicious possible with our Nestle Chefs, learn more about the holiday home market, how to launch a street food concept successfully, and more. Time to begin, let’s make the most of these 28 days shall we.


13 −1 7

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we are now open! Overlooking the museum of the future, near dubai international financial centre, 25hours hotel one central boasts 434 rooms and suites in addition to flexible events and co-working spaces. A total of four characterful restaurants and bars take guests on a culinary trip around the world from northern india to the beer gardens of bavaria: this is where urban nomads meet desert flowers, where local heroes meet the well-traveled. Alongside rental of mini cars and schindelhauer bikes the hotel will also feature the extra hour spa, rooftop pool and dubai's first mixed-gender rooftop sauna.


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HCNME OPENINGS & LAUNCHES Accor set to bring French ‘Art De Vivre’ to Cairo Accor, expands its luxury footprint in Egypt with the signing of Sofitel Cairo New Capital Hotel & Residences, a new flagship property for the group that will strengthen the Sofitel brand in Egypt. The new property will be located in the heart of the New Administrative Capital (NAC) of Cairo, a city designed on its own featuring hospitality, residential, entertainment, commercial, retail components and government entities, including the presidential palace, parliament, cabinet, supreme court, all ministries of Egypt and various foreign embassies. The property will introduce two towers, and a podium, in which the first tower will feature 200 hotel keys and 280 branded residences, from one to four bedrooms, while the second tower will include offices and commercial spaces. Once open, Sofitel Cairo New Capital Hotel & Residences is expected to meet

guests and travellers expectations, whether they are looking for a convenient location within the NAC

with luxurious offerings or for longterm accommodation through the branded residences on site.

Celebrate Art & Food at the Newly Opened CHIE Restaurant Chie has opened its doors in the heart of art & culture, at House of Wisdom in Sharjah. The menu is designed by UAE’s most favourite, Chef Akmal Anuar. Well known for creating the best contemporary dining experiences around the world, Chef Akmal has curated an incredible menu for people who are looking for innovative yet sumptuous food in a relaxing ambiance. The restaurant takes its customers on a culinary adventure with its unique presentation and the blend of the best ingredients to create the most spectacular dishes.




Our must-try opening this month is SUCRE

HRH Crown Prince unveils ultra-luxury hospitality brand ‘Boutique Group’

Born out of the ultimate partnership between world-renowned Master chef Fernando Trocca and mixologist Tato Giovannoni, SUCRE has now opened its doors in Dubai’s International Financial Center (DIFC), bringing a distinct Latin American flavour and passion for food to Dubai. Hailed as chef and master of open-fire cooking, Chef Trocca combines traditional open fire techniques from the South American continent with a breadth of global influences that have shaped the contemporary cuisine of his home city. He has built an international reputation for simple, stylish cooking combined with the architectural sensibility of his restaurants. SUCRE’s approach heavily relies on carefully sourced, fresh, high quality ingredients prepared in exciting and unexpected arrangements – blending Italian, Spanish and Latin American influences. When you visit make sure you try the Empanadas and the Smoked Negroni Balestrini, one of many delicious cocktails crafted by the incredible Tato Giovannoni.

His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of the Council for Economic and Development Affairs, and Chairman of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) announced the launch of ‘Boutique Group’, a new hospitality brand that will manage and convert a collection of iconic historic and cultural palaces in Saudi Arabia into ultra-luxury boutique hotels. The company will revive the vibrant

heritage and culture of Saudi Arabia to create a new and unique hospitality experience. The first phase of the project will focus on the development of three historic palaces in cooperation with the private sector, including Al Hamra Palace which will offer 77 keys including 33 luxury palace suites and 44 luxury villas in Jeddah. Tuwaiq Palace will provide 96 keys including 40 luxury palace suites and 56 luxury villas.

Whereas Red Palace will offer 71 keys including 46 luxury suites, and 25 luxury guest rooms. Both Tuwaiq and Red Palace are located in Riyadh. Boutique Group will blend the Kingdom’s culture and heritage with modern amenities to provide an exclusive hospitality experience and a unique service to its guests, growing the Saudi ultra-luxury hospitality sector and contributing to the development of the local economy.

Dubai’s newest Indian Restaurant, The Crossing Dubai Dubai is home to more than two hundred nationalities, a meeting point at the junction of the roads from East to West. This blending of cultures, working and living together, has given birth to a new concept, The Crossing. The Crossing is a celebration of all Indian food, including dishes influenced by immigrants and travellers that have long been a part of Indian culture. The philosophy behind the menu is to give diners an exploration of India via their plates. The Crossing is located on the ground floor of

the H Hotel in a beautiful, modern dining space that will be a stunning backdrop to this sensationally innovative menu.





RAS AL KHAIMAH Ras Al Khaimah to open a multibillion-dollar resort on Marjan Island with Las Vegas hotel operator Wynn Resorts. The resort

will include “gaming” and is said to open in 2026. It will also feature more than 1,000 rooms, worldclass shopping, a state-of-the-art


YAS ISLAND ROTANA Yas Plaza Hotels appoints Mokhtar Mohamed Ekholy as the Cluster Executive Chef at Yas Island Rotana. Ekholy will be leading the kitchens in the Islands’ renowned outlets Choices, Blue Grill, Rangoli, Aquarius and Y Bar in Yas Island Rotana and will oversee future developments of menus, events and offers. Ekholy got the first taste of his culinary career in Egypt, and from here, went on learning and producing magic of food and



meeting and convention facility, an exclusive spa, more than 10 restaurants and lounges, extensive entertainment choices, a gaming area, and other amenities. As it stands gambling is still considered illegal in the UAE and it remains unclear what gaming will include.

service onto plates of international hotels and leading restaurants. His adept knowledge of cuisine can be tasted, felt and seen on the dishes he produces as he continues to inspire brigades of young and experienced chefs in his leadership in the kitchen today. Equipped with a deep knowledge of the ins and outs of commercial dining, a broad understanding of culinary and fundamental kitchen disciplines as well as versatility in hospitality, Ekholy looks to marry his abilities with his determination to produce nothing less than excellent quality in his dishes and his team at Yas Island Rotana.


RADISSON DUBAI DAMAC HILLS INTRODUCES TWO NEW FACES Scott Catling, Director of Sales Scott Catling has been appointed as the Director of Sales for Radisson Dubai DAMAC Hills. He will be leading the growth of the 481 key property with a strategic focus on corporate and group business by offering customers easy access to Expo2020, sporting venues and local business hubs. In his new role, he is responsible for all Commercial activities for the hotel and is look-

ing forward to driving successful results for the newly opened property.

Rajdeep Roy, Director of Revenue Management Rajdeep Roy has been appointed as the Director of Revenue Management for Radisson Dubai DAMAC Hills. In his new role, he is responsible for all Revenue and Commercial activities for the hotel and is looking forward to driving profitable revenue for the owners and shareholders whilst ensuring an efficient revenue management process is in place for the hotel’s goal towards con-

sistently taking the pole position within its competitive set. Rajdeep did his Bachelor Degree in Hospitality Management

from Robert Gordon University and for the last 19 years has gained extensive experience in the hospitality industry.

ACCOR APPOINTS PHILIP MAHONEY AS VICEPRESIDENT OF FOOD & BEVERAGE Accor, a world-leading augmented hospitality group with over 420 hotels across India, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, has appointed Philip Mahoney as Vice President of Food & Beverage for India, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, with the main responsibility to drive the group’s strategy in the region: making food and drink the heart and soul of each of its hotels. Throughout his 30-year career, Philip has managed hotels in the UK, Croatia and

Mauritius for Malmaison, Lonrho, De Vere Deluxe, Radisson Blu and Regent Hotels, before moving into a regional responsibility for Radisson Blu and Hotel Missoni in the UK and Ireland. He then became

Vice President Food & Drink for the Radisson Hotel Group for Europe, Middle East and Africa, with an overseeing role for the US and Asia Pacific, based in Brussels, Belgium, a position he held for 6 years. HOTELNEWSME.COM | FEBRUARY 2022



Gulfood 2022



f you are an F&B brand looking to get your products seen, held, and tasted by the right people then Gulfood is truly the best place to be. This annual F&B sourcing event takes place at the start of every year at the World Trade Centre and is the biggest event of its kind in the world. Gulfood is known to take things from “agenda to action” and catapult new ideas and concepts into successful F&B businesses. With over 100 countries present, 4000 companies, 150 speakers, 21 halls filled with F&B offerings and 100 award-winning chefs, business leaders and government heads, Gulfood is an opportunity you don’t want to waste. Ymakan is an International F&B Export Development company represent-

ing Food and Beverage brands across the globe who want to either enter the GCC F&B market for the first time or are already established here and are looking to achieve growth. Sarah Motwali, Co-founder and CEO and Vanessa Linney Co-founder and Managing Partner at Ymakan spoke to us about what makes this event so important and how brands can make it a successful experience. Vanessa Linney Co-founder and Managing Partner of Ymakan talks about the path that led to starting a F&B brand representation company. “After working across almost all aspects of the region’s Food and Beverage industry, from distribution and supply chain to product sales it was clear that there were some big gaps in the market. The

From left: Sarah Motwali, Co-founder and CEO, Laith Mukthar and Vanessa Linney Co-founder and Managing Partner at Ymakan



GCC is a diverse market, with a unique set of complexities and whilst there is enormous opportunity it’s also a very competitive market that is heavily focused on relationships and trust. Her partner and CEO of Ymakan Sarah Motwali added, “We saw that time and time again F&B brands would enter the market without a well thought out business plan. This led them into a host of challenges, delays, roadblocks, unnecessary expenses, and a long and bumpy export journey, all of which we passionately believe are unnecessary. We created Ymakan to provide our partners an A-Z export solution to bridge the gap for F&B Brands wanting to export to the high growth markets of the GCC. To achieve that we have created a business model that allows us to work alongside and on behalf of their brands from the very start.” For Ymakan Gulfood is an essential time in the year because it enables them to showcase their service offerings and brand partner’s products across the industry. CEO Sarah says that there are still challenges lurking from the impact that the pandemic had on the industry. “Supply and demand are still a challenge. Some countries are still restricting major export commodities, there are still logistic challenges and an increase in freight and shipping costs. Gulfood is an opportunity for us to meet and understand how other countries and different industry bodies and brands are over coming these and gain an even greater knowledge of how best to adjust, foresee and tackle challenges like these, for the companies that we represent.” Gulfood has highlighted some key trends in the industry over the years. “One of the largest and most consistent trends is Health, Wellness


and Free From products, like the rise in demand for Vegan and Plant based products. Third party stats tell us that amid the COVID-19 crisis, the global market for Plantbased Meat estimated at US$ 13.6 Billion in the year 2020, and is projected to reach a revised size of US$ 35 Billion by 2027. We also see a big rise in the demand for good quality Meat and Seafood with a focus on how its farmed and what it is fed. And one of those high quality and sustainably positive meat producers is, Welsh Lamb. The brand has a hugely positive worldwide reputation for sustainability and livestock farming in Wales is overwhelmingly non-intensive and in tune with the natural environment. And in a region that has so many meat lovers, Gulfood is always a must for the premium quality lamb produces. “We love coming to Gulfood as it is a truly international show, and it provides an excellent show case for Welsh Lamb in a region where there is a high level of lamb consumption and demand for quality food products. It also allows our exporters to meet many of the existing customers of Welsh Lamb but also many potential new customers. It is an excellent opportunity

to find and develop business prospects not only within the Gulf region but also internationally. We are excited to be attending once again in 2022 and highlighting the high quality of Welsh Lamb and its sustainable environmental production credentials to existing and prospective buyers. We are excited to meet people at our stand where we will have a fresh display of the large range of Welsh Lamb cuts available from our exporters and we will be cooking a variety of Welsh Lamb recipes for sampling,” commented Welsh Lamb. If you are looking for top quality lamb, make sure you stop by the Meat Hall at Gulfood hall 3, E3-2. Moving on to other trends, there was also the Covid-led trend that saw more consumers interested in home cooking and baking. Other trends include healthy prepared meals and online E-commerce grocery sites, 5-star quality dishes delivered to your home, and of course cloud kitchens.” Says the Cofounders. The pair also said that we can expect even more visitors and exhibitors at this “post pandemic” Gulfood. “As the Gulf very quickly bounces back from the pandemic, I think we will see the food

service industry challenged to become more cost effective with chefs having to be more creative with their buying styles and menus will have to ensure they can still produce the 5-star dishes the consumer expects. For the retail side we expect a continued focus on sustainability and the environment. Consumers are engaging with food and nutrition differently and understand now why they should be eating clean, protecting the environment, and looking out for packaging details.” According to Ymakan’s sources, the UAE is the most advanced E-commerce market in the Middle East with a growing desire for convenience: 8% of groceries are now purchased online in the UAE. Euromonitor describes this as the ‘phygital’ age (concept of using technology to bridge the digital world with the physical world). OPTIMISE YOUR GULFOOD EXPERIENCE

• Planning and preparing is key. Think about your objectives for the show and plan accordingly. Are you hoping to find a distribution partner, develop business with existing customers or gather insights and fact find?

• If you have meetings planned, do your homework, and plan your pitch, bring samples and stats of successes in your home country. Customers and distributors like to understand your positioning in home markets, how you are tracking, your growth on an annual basis, category ranking etc., be prepared with this information. • If you have a stand, try to bring your product to life – show its diversity e.g. – if it’s a drink, show its mixability, if it’s an ingredient have a local Chef make something. A packaged product, let’s be honest, isn’t very exciting and there will be 10,000 + at the show. Don’t forget to market this beforehand and throughout the show. • Use the show to educate and update by visiting some of the Show Feature events such as ‘E-commerce Powers on’ or their 1st Sustainable edition ‘Gulfood Zero Waste’. “ONE OF THE LARGEST AND MOST CONSISTENT TRENDS IS HEALTH, WELLNESS AND FREE FROM PRODUCTS, LIKE THE RISE IN DEMAND FOR VEGAN AND PLANT BASED PRODUCTS.”





Seafood Scotland’s intense qualifier round with the theme of ‘Around the World’ culinary dishes produced the competition’s top 8 chefs, our culinary stars are now set to take on the live semi-final challenge on 21st March 2022 at The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management. This high-stake semi-final will test the competing chefs’ work organisation and management, food, hygiene, health, and safety skills. The top 4 chefs from the live semi-finals will move on to the finals in May 2022.

Wayne Tapsfield Chairman of judges

Ben Tobitt Managing Director Ben’s Farmhouse Middle East

Howard Ko Executive Chef CÉ LA VI Dubai

Judging the event are the exceptionally talented Wayne Tapsfield, Chairman of judges known across the globe for his experience in various aspects of the culinary scene, healthy living concept mastermind Ben Tobitt, MD of Ben’s Farmhouse ME and Michelin star culinary extraordinaire Howard Ko - Executive Chef at Ce La Vi Restaurant Dubai. Stay glued for updates on and Ymakan social media pages as we unravel the exciting happenings behind Seafood Scotland’s Chef Poissonnier of the Year UAE.






Voted as one of the best burgers in town, High Joint gives us a bite-by-bite experience into their unique burger brand. DR. HAMAD AL AWAR FOUNDER, HIGH JOINT


r. Hamad Al Awar is a passionate and enthusiastic entrepreneur who started his first F&B venture, High Joint, with three partners. After 16 years of travelling across the world, tasting different flavour profiles in various sandwiches and burgers from different countries, he decided to open a burger joint, one that would soon become a strong contender in this burger loving region. Before opening High Joint, Dr. Hamad used to scientifically experiment with every aspect of making burgers. When he managed to settle on the right method, he put his findings to work. He and his partners built the entire company from the ground up and worked in every position from cashier to cook.

Three years in and they have managed to grow High Joint with multiple locations in the city and plans to expand in the region. The taste, feel, and look of a good burger is very important, but what is also very important that Dr. Hamad came to learn is the name of the burger restaurant, “It was initially called ‘Route Exit’ – it was named after the Al Manara exit. But then someone who I admire and respect in the F&B industry, Chef Reif Othman, had a sit down with me and said that names of restaurants should be attractive, simple, and memorable. The word that came up from the beginning was ‘High’, because I think that represents everything we aim and work towards. Everything we do at High Joint is of a very high standard and quality. From the ingredients to the cooking techniques to the level of staff we have. The explosion of flavours when you eat takes you way above the clouds and gives you a sense of excitement which is a High in itself.”







Everyone knows that the key to a successful restaurant in Dubai is all about location, location, location. But Dr. Hamad and his partners wanted to make high quality food accessible to everybody. He wanted it to still feel like he was making burgers for friends and family, and with burgers this juicy it’s safe to say wherever he takes High Joint the crowds will follow. When it comes to burgers you either love them or you don’t. Burgers are fuss-free, they fill you up, are tasty, and you can have as many of your favourite ingredients as you want tucked in between a glorious bun, what’s not to love. “What makes burgers so successful is that they carry everything one needs in a tasty meal and are very easy to eat on the go or sitting down. That’s what makes burgers so appealing – the size, the price, and it reminds us of our child-

hood – we all grew up with memories of certain burger brands. Homegrown burger concepts are trending, and this is a great thing.” adds Dr. Hamad. He went on to say that “We don’t view ourselves as doing something different than others but what we pride ourselves very specifically on is our interaction with society and people. We are there with them, we listen to them, we take feedback from them constantly. From a social media point of view, we are always interacting with our customers and not in a corporate and business tone. We pride ourselves with our High Labs where we continuously research, develop and create recipes that are not just made overnight, they go through a lot of testing. There’s not a single burger on the menu that hasn’t undergone a minimum of 4 weeks of testing and development. Some have gone through

Images courtesy of High Joint

“Burgers are fuss-free, they fill you up, are tasty, and you can have as many of your favourite ingredients as you want tucked in between a glorious bun”

months, and we have had to start from scratch. Every single element is researched and that’s what makes us different. When you bite into any of our burgers, you can feel that a lot of thought, attention and love was put into creating it.” When Dr. Hamad says that a lot of time and effort goes into coming up with great new burgers, he wasn’t kidding. And if you’ve ever visited a High Joint location, you’ll know just what I am talking about. You’ve got The High Jamz burger with bacon jam, crispy fried shallots and American cheese or the Spicy Mango Slaw with deep fried chicken tossed in buffalo sauce, topped with pepper jack cheese, jalapeños, and their infamous sour mango coleslaw to choose from. And if you prefer something a little more traditional, the double beef patty, double American cheese, diced onions and homemade mustardbased sauce with butter toasted potato buns is also on the menu. And when it comes to sides, you can have fries and a cold drink, or you can have a thick and creamy peanut butter shake with Crispy Truffle Fries or the High Fries tossed in a special high vinegar salt.



HCNME CHAIN OF THE MONTH “When executive chefs from around the world enters the small kitchen at Al Manara they are surprised by the quality of ingredients we have and what we put on the burgers. It’s unique. These kinds of ingredients are usually available at very high-end restaurants. For example, at our Khawaneej location we self-dry our beef and we have a dry aged beef burger experience – USDA beef, the highest quality of American beef available in the market. These kinds of experiences are offered in high end places. So, you can tell instantly that the quality of our ingredients and the design and assembly of our burgers are what makes us stand out. We also go back to the basics of what a burger is, it’s a beef patty and for that we look at different cuts of meat, everything from ox tail to neck to brisket to rump, to leg to rib eye to fillet, sirloin and short ribs, we’ve tested every cut individually and we’ve looked at different kinds of mincing levels and we created the formula of what kind of mix makes the beef patty perfect and that’s what makes the flavour stand out,” says Dr. Hamad. Even when you order a basic beef burger at High Joint, you realise that the quality, taste, and balance of flavour in the burger is different from anything you’ve ever tasted before. The brand has also developed its own butchery internally to make sure that the quality of the beef patty used is fresh every day for all branches, delivery, and dine-in requests. High Joint is serious about their burgers. They are also serious about their brand. Social media has played an instrumental role in their success. Dr. Hamad considers High Joint to be a social brand and prioritises customers engagement. He says it’s where the brand gains insights on what people like, what they want to see next and what’s trending. “We always engage with every single person that messages us, we listen to their feedback, their complaints, their praises, and we take everything they say into consideration. This is how we improve constantly and it’s vital to our success.” This kind of attitude towards social media has led to a successful campaign with well-known international footwear company, Puma. The burger joint collaborated with Puma on an influencer campaign for Women’s Day that became one of the brand’s most successful cam-



paigns to date. For some brands expanding into new markets require a new set of rules, but luckily for High Joint “burgers are burgers” like Dr. Hamad says. “We want to still carry the main essence of High Joint wherever we go, and we’ve done our market research and looked at the amazing burger brands that already exist in Riyadh. We realised that everyone shares the same love for good quality meat, cheese, and sauce. But there are certain preferences that go way back to what people grew up eating and liking. There are a lot of well-known brands in Saudi that have been around for years and years. Even here in Dubai we have grown up with restaurants like Chilli’s, Burger King, Hardees, let’s not forget the cafeterias like Ijaza and the likes of them. We all have nostalgic feelings and emotions towards certain restaurants and that exists in Saudi too and we’ve taken that into consideration. As it is with any burger we make, we go through several iterations and testing in our High Labs to discover how we can make a new burger that we believe is going to be a homerun. High Joint lives within the society that’s why you won’t find High Joint in malls or

high streets and that’s all part of our brand strategy, we want to be close and accessible to people so even when we move to Saudi, High Joint must become part of the culture, community, and society there. We want to share their language, flavours, and happiness. When we talk about markets overall, Saudi Arabia has huge potential especially for delivery and dine-in. Cities like Riyadh are booming in the food scene and as an avid visitor to Riyadh I can tell you that the food scene is constantly evolving.” There are many burger spots around and many still to come, but High Joint isn’t worried, their formular has always been about research and development and they will continue finding new ways to reintroduce the much loved burger to us.

“The quality of our ingredients and the design and assembly of our burgers are what makes us stand out.”




How Kitch-In commercialised underutilised hotel kitchens in the UAE using GrubTech’s cloud kitchen management software by KITCH-IN AND GRUBTECH

echnology advancements, changes in lifestyle preferences and the restrictions enforced by the pandemic resulted in a 255% increase in UAE food and beverage online sales in 2020. This prompted the launch of Kitch-In in 2021.

•Restaurants expand their presence cost-effectively, enabling access to new customer segments and geographies. Hotel residents and in-room diners have an increasing number of food options to choose from, beyond the standard club sandwich and penne arrabiata “We are incredibly passionate about food and that drives our commitment to delivering exceptional experiences. There is a great joy in discovering new digital restaurants, cuisines, and dishes. Our goal is to replicate the premium restaurant dining experience for our customers in the comfort of their homes.” Tolga Neftci, Managing Director of Kitch-In.




Tolga Neftci, Managing Director of Kitch-In

Kitch-In’s aim was to capitalise on increasing demand for online food delivery and activating dormant kitchen capacity in hotels. Doing so resulted in: • Hotel kitchens are used to its full potential, allowing the hotel to generate a higher ROI for the kitchen. • Hotels capitalise on a new revenue stream, by serving food not only to hotel residents but also by delivering food to customers within the 15km radius of the hotel. • Restaurant operators don’t need to invest in building a kitchen, or procuring new equipment, but rather focus on leveraging already existing but underused resources, accelerating go-tomarket timelines. 30


High traffic multi-brand single location food delivery operations are complex in nature, therefore true success of such operations requires the operator to: Minimise the time from order to delivery The customer experience for food delivery is driven by the quality, speed and consistency of food delivered. Reducing the time from when an order is placed until it is delivered to the customer demands a seamless handover between the different parties involved in the process - be it an online ordering channel, the kitchen operator, or delivery service provider.

Maximise sales per square meter Maximising return on kitchen assets is done by serving multiple brands from the kitchen, across different hours of the day, and by selecting a brand mix which caters to the needs of the captive audience. Operators must also monitor brand performance closely and stay abreast of market trends to act quickly on creating and/or terminating brands. Focus on operational excellence Automating the order lifecycle is a critical factor minimising overhead costs, expediting order fulfillment and creating food prep efficiencies. Creating synchronisation between different parties involved in order fulfillment requires proper planning, transparent visibility into the process, and impeccable execution, no different to a relay race.


Achieving the above objectives is complicated without the use of technology. So how did Kitch-In solve for this? Kitch-In selected GrubTech to be its strategic growth partner, enabling it to focus on brand creation, cooking and operational excellence, while GrubTech provides the technology required to power it efficiently. GrubTech is an intuitive plug-and-play operating system purpose built for restaurants, cloud kitchens and multi-brand single location operations. GrubTech’s cloud


kitchen management software covers everything from order management and kitchen operations to order dispatching and analytics. Order Management The central menu management capability developed by GrubTech coupled with its bi-directional integrations with food aggregators and online ordering channels, meant that Kitch-In need not hire excess manpower to manage numerous ordering tablets, and can directly and automatically receive multi-brand orders made in the kitchen, and make menu changes and stock updates seamlessly across all channels using one click. Kitchen Operations GrubTech’s multi-brand kitchen management system enables routing of orders across stations within the kitchen based on workflows set by KitchIn, be it by menu, category, or item. The software’s interactivity results in an increase in food prep efficiencies and provides Kitch-In with the ability to track metrics, including time to start, prepare and complete an order. This unparalleled transparency into kitchen operations uncovers operational bottlenecks and helps identify areas of improvement. Order Dispatching While order dispatching is a challenge for high-traffic food delivery operations, GrubTech’s dispatching system simplifies the process by providing visibility

into the status of orders in the kitchen, and associated drivers, reducing probable errors. GrubTech’s integration with last mile or delivery service providers further expands Kitch-In’s geographical reach and provides Kitch-In with ability to execute on aggregator marketplace models or fulfill orders from direct ordering channels without the added stress of manually requesting drivers. Reports and Analytics GrubTech’s reporting module provides Kitch-In with the ability to easily track sales and operations performance, be it by kitchen, by brand, by day/ time, by location, etc. The analytics module is a critical enabler in providing Kitch-In with data-driven insights to identify emerging or decaying trends, and drive improvements in sales and operations.

ers. By using the GrubTech platform we can reinforce our core business. The pace of our growth is a natural consequence of a partnership that allows us to focus on what we do best – delivering happiness through food” said Tolga Neftci, Managing Director of Kitch-In.


Three tips to increase utilisation of existing hotels from Kitch-In: 1. Partner up with content creators to create new brands to be served out of your kitchen or lease

out the space to a multibrand restaurant operator who can commandeer the kitchen and serve their own brands from there in return for a revenue share agreement. 2. Go beyond just serving the hotel customers. List yourself on online ordering channels and food aggregators to serve customers within the 15km radius of the hotel. 3. Implement a plug-andplay kitchen operating system to empower you with the technology required to accelerate brand growth.


27 unique concepts, 65 brand locations within 6 months of operations By using GrubTech’s allin-one kitchen operating system, Kitch-In were able to focus on creating concepts, developing menus, and rapidly scaling their operations. Kitch-In has so far developed 27 unique concepts, expanded across 65 brand locations, and transformed 3 hotel kitchens in the process, within just six months of operations. “GrubTech enables us to have the capacity and technology to build out our operations with a focus on delivering the best possible product to our customHOTELNEWSME.COM | FEBRUARY 2022




‘TRUE’ ITALIAN A new style of modern Italian dining in Dubai ANDREA MUGAVERO EXECUTIVE CHEF AT VERO

Dubai’s new restaurant, Vero, meaning ‘True’ in Italian, opened its doors in the heart of Jumeirah Beach Residence last month with an expansive terrace, iconic views of Ain Dubai and the Arabian Gulf. This venue will bring a new style of modern Italian dining to Dubai, focusing on fresh seafood and flavours of the Italian Coast.

“Once we stop learning is when we stop progressing in life and in the kitchen. ” 32


ward winning Executive Chef Andrea Mugavero will be spearheading the modern restaurant that reflects the casual charm one can expect from the Italian coast. Born and raised in the gorgeous island of Sicily, Chef Andrea Mugavero has over 30 years of culinary experience from around the world and embraces the essence of traditional Italian cuisine. Andrea became the Head Chef at a young age at the beautiful and famous La Saliere Restaurant in Monte Carlo, taking his culinary expertise to the next level. After his success in Monte Carlo, Andrea spent the next few years in Rome, working alongside world-renowned chefs, mastering new techniques, and managing their family Restaurant business. In 1993, Andrea was invited to become The Head Chef at the five-star Cogeta Palace Hotel, one of the top Hotels in Parma, Italy. After two years in Parma, Andrea was headhunted by Bice Group becoming the Executive Chef across several international locations, including Spain, Turkey, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi. In 2010, Andrea joined Roberto’s L.L.C. and spent eight years as Executive Chef and shareholder and has collected many prizes over the years in the Middle East from well-known distinguished Cuisine Experts and Media Publishing Companies. Over the years, Andrea has worked with and created prestigious concept menus all over the world with and for some iconic Chefs such as Heinz Back, Joel Robuchon, Gordoblue Lucio Capannari, and Enrico Bartolini. With his rich Mediterranean background, Andrea brings his charismatic personality and strong expertise to any kitchen he enters, and his philosophy is to create every dish to perfection. Chef’s passion for cooking started in his family’s food production business. “My passion for food started when I was very young, learning how to cook at a family establishment. My mother was the one who introduced me to cooking but it was every chef that I worked for and every chef that I managed who taught me something new. Once we stop learning is when we stop progressing in life and in the kitchen.” When I asked Andrea what the secret to Italian cuisine was, he said that one needs to first read and study the history of Italian cuisine to be able to understand the passion we have for food and cooking itself. “One of the many secrets of Italian cuisine is to always use fresh ingredients and the right cooking methods, depending on the region of Italy in which a particular dish has been originally created. I am from Sicily. It is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. The style of cooking on the island of Sicily shows traces of all cultures that have existed on the island over the last two millenniums. You need to have perfect acquaintances with all the products that go in the dish, and that is the secret that takes years to master. Chef also added that master techniques are actually just simple techniques that one acquires after years and years of


practice and dedication. He advises chefs to focus on the basics of cooking, from the way you cut the ingredients down to the exact cooking time. Andrea has been a Dubai resident since 2000 making him an expert on the taste buds of Dubai restaurant-goers who are always on the lookout for new food trends and the next trendy place to dine in. “I am Mediterranean, so I love being surrounded by people. I love seeing people enjoying my food, I also love getting their feedback and creating dishes based on that. I am a perfectionist when it comes to the quality of each dish that comes out of my kitchen and will not settle for anything average. But that perfection isn’t easy to maintain on a busy day in the kitchen. Chef says, “Assuring that the quality is never compromised by the quantity is not always simple but it’s something that kitchens must strive for every day.” Thanks to the uniqueness of the region Chef has an international customer base, the people that experience his food comes from all over the world. Another unique aspect of working in the Middle East would be the opportunities available to chefs here. “If you love what you do and if you are ready to work hard you will grow really quickly,” he adds.

And when it comes to food trends Chef says that the last two years have been highly challenging and changed how we think about food. It has turned the World’s attention to where our food comes from in terms of sourcing local fresh produce, handmade and homemade ingredients, etc. Other trends that Andrea mentions are restaurant-branded meal kits to go,

plant-based meals, and low waste food. He believes that the culinary forecast predicts a more health-centric future. Andrea created the VERO brand from scratch together with his team and was involved in every aspect of the business. He was excited to rejoin Hilton and adds, “I still remember several of us from the hotel’s team sitting in the meeting room just a few months back and debating what would be a great name for our restaurant, the progress from there, to seeing VERO being open now and welcoming guests was my biggest motivation.” Chef has a highly trained team of 13 people, according to him they are young and hungry to learn and cook, and on a busy evening, they produce approximately 200 dishes at VERO. And his inspiration for the VERO menu was the beautiful, relaxed seacoast of the south of Italy on a long summer day. Vero’s signatures dishes are lobster calamarata, langoustine carpaccio, amberjack carpaccio, tuna tartar and mixed grilled seafood platter. When I asked Chef where he would love to cook next, he said, “Japan, I always found it mysterious in a way. But until I get there, you can find me cooking every Saturday at VERO’s Brunch Di Mare at Hilton Dubai Jumeirah”. HOTELNEWSME.COM | FEBRUARY 2022






LEFT: Guy Hutchinson established multiple world class operations such as Gordon Ramsay’s first international restaurant, Verre in Dubai and Jeffrey Beers square restaurant in Tokyo.

Three Decades of


UAE-born Rotana intends to further enhance the country’s hospitality industry, with Guy Hutchinson in the driver’s seat. by SEYMONE L MOODLEY


Early last month Rotana Hotel Group, one of the leading hotel management companies in the region with hotels across the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe, and Turkey visited Expo 2020 Dubai to conduct the gate opening ceremony. An event that solidified the shared vision of the hotel and Expo 2020 Dubai, to create a more sustainable future. Guy Hutchinson, President and CEO of Rotana was in attendance, and we caught up with him to talk about his extensive career in the industry, the group’s stance on sustainability, and what Rotana has in store for the future. Hutchinson is responsible for developing and executing the strategic direction of Rotana and devising and implementing short- and long-term strategies to help the company realise its expansion plans. In addition, he provides executive oversight of all aspects of Rotana’s day-to-day operations. He was promoted to the current role in January 2020 after serving a year as Acting CEO of the company. Under his leadership, Rotana has entrenched its preeminent position in the industry with its keen focus on sustaining revenue growth, expanding market presence in the region and globally, enhancing product offering and strengthening commercial efforts and partnerships. HOTELNEWSME.COM | FEBRUARY 2022



Hutchinson was instrumental in the opening of new properties in 2019 and 2020, including Bosmal Arjaan by Rotana in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital Sarajevo and Johari Rotana in Tanzania’s key commercial city of Dar es Salaam, which marked Rotana’s first foray into the Southeast Europe and East Africa markets, as well as the opening of Centro Corniche Al Khobar by Rotana in Saudi Arabia, the company’s seventh



property in the Kingdom. This is in addition to taking over management of Iraq’s famed Babylon Hotel, now named the Babylon Rotana Baghdad, and the signing of an agreement to operate the iconic Palmeraie Resorts in Morocco’s major economic centre Marrakech. The introduction of a franchise model and a subsequent signing of five franchise agreements, as well as the adoption of innovative technologies to

enhance guest convenience and comfort have been other key achievements of Rotana during Hutchinson’s tenure. The company also implemented a new Central Reservations System (CRS) to improve technical, functional, and service support as well as improved performance and offerings. Spearheading the company’s expansion, Hutchinson led the launch of 29 new hotels across 13 markets and oversaw the opening of new Global Sales offices in Paris, Milan, Amsterdam, and Istanbul to drive business from these key markets. His career began through a fast-track Management Training Programme with Trust House Forte Hotels, and since then he has gained extensive experience in the hospitality industry from markets as diverse as Japan, Australia, China, and India, in addition to a previous stint in the Middle East. The international hotelier’s career is notable for its creative leadership and his success in change management, repositioning, and building high performing teams. Hutchinson has travelled all over the world and learnt many valuable industry lessons, one that stays with him is that the basics never change. “You learn so much when you experience diverse cultures firsthand. However, a key lesson for me has been that although there are certainly cultural and social differences, the fundamentals of great hospitality are the same. Never accept anyone telling you that these are different from location to location.” He describes his last eight years with Rotana as “fascinating” and says the grow has been the best part. “It has certainly been a fascinating journey. I think the most exciting part has been seeing the company grow from a predominantly UAE-based company to a strong regional presence, including more than 30 hotel openings and operations now established in 14 countries, plus a further 14 countries in the pipeline.” Since its inception, Rotana has grown to be the region’s largest hospitality management company, and a brand that is widely recognised and admired. “I joined Rotana as Chief Operating Officer in January 2014 and, in 2019, took the role of President and CEO. During

images courtesy: Rotana



Amman Rotana

my tenure with Rotana, I have seen the hotel group grow from a portfolio of 68 properties to 110 properties, operating and under development, across several territories. With over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry gathered from international markets, including Japan, Australia, China, and India - as well as a previous stint in the Middle East - I am proud to have contributed to strengthening the company’s foothold in the region. We have worked hard to solidify Rotana’s leadership credentials in global markets, to the preeminent position it currently holds within the industry today. This was achieved through driving the company’s quality standards and financial performance, ensuring the scalability of its business model with a view to creating shareholder value. During my tenure, we launched more than 30 new hotels across 14 markets. In the past few years, we have achieved many milestones and expanded our portfolio in the Middle East to 69 operating hotels (accounting for 18,371 rooms) and 12,000 employees, with a further 46 hotels in the pipeline. We’ve also increased our footprint in Southeast Europe and East Africa.” And Hutchinson doesn’t play favourites, he says all the locations are his favourite and that no matter how big or small, all the properties benefit from an individual focus, and the group works hard to keep it this way. Despite the shift in the industry due to COVID-19, Hutchinson is proud to announce that all locations were steady.

“Given the difficult circumstances we have faced and continue to face, it has been very rewarding to see all our hotels, across all regions doing so well. There are of course peaks, for example, Dubai over the EXPO period, but this region we believe is at the forefront of global recovery post-pandemic, and we can see this clearly in the performance of our portfolio.”


First and foremost, we are a hospitality company that exists to make people feel welcome as guests, employees and as business associates. It is this peoplecentric approach, based on mutual respect and loyalty, that differentiates Rotana in the marketplace. We are confident in our capabilities, with our company’s ongoing growth and success

as a testament to our expertise and proficiency, but we are gracious in our business exchanges, taking time to engage with all guests, stakeholders, and employees in an open and meaningful way. Rotana will be completing three decades of its own journey. As a UAE homegrown brand, Rotana is committed to further enhancing and diversifying the hospitality industry in the UAE, in line with the government’s broader economic and tourism objectives. As one of the largest hospitality employers in the wider Middle East, Rotana supports thousands of direct and indirect jobs. Our relentless growth and expansion over the years has contributed immensely to promoting economic growth, diversification, and job creation in countries across the region. Rotana has earned an enviable reputation as a hospitality pioneer over the past 30 years, establishing a presence in sometimes uncharted territory and trailblazing world-class hospitality concepts in new and existing markets. We’re proud to have been the recipients of many accolades across the years; last year at the Business Traveller Awards 2021 (UK), Rotana was awarded the coveted title of ‘Best Business Hotel Brand in the Middle East’. Being the Best Business Hotel Brand is a testament to our commitment to exceeding our customer’s expectations and reflects the high standards across all our

Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas




and services, delivering our brand promise of ‘Treasured Time’ to our guests around the world. Moreover, Rotana has consistently earned top recognition across the most influential entities such as Luxury Travel Guide Awards, International Hotel Awards, Innovation Awards, Dubai Green Tourism Awards, BBC Good Food Awards, CEO Middle East Awards, and many more.


F&B offerings and the services that come with it are some of the most crucial components to the Rotana brand and have a huge impact on the success of the business. Food and Beverage contributes significantly to the overall performance of the

Al Jaddaf Rotana



hotels, and a distinctive outlet can help build up brand reputation for our hotels with the local community. Some great examples of this are Prego’s at both Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi and Media Rotana Dubai, Teatro at Towers Rotana Dubai, Park Rotana Abu Dhabi, Downtown Rotana Bahrain and City Centre Rotana Doha, Turtle Bay at Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas Abu Dhabi, JBs at Amwaj Rotana and many more. As popularity for nutrition and wellness-based diets grew across the world, we spearheaded the growth of the Café 302 brand, at Al Maha Arjaan by Rotana Abu Dhabi and BurJuman Arjaan by Rotana Dubai, ensuring Rotana aligned with global trends and offered

Amwaj Rotana

its customers a wide array of vegan, Jain-friendly and vegetarian dining options. Our introduction of vegan menus as a pilot project across Rotana outlets has been an unwavering success, with the group yielding

positive results. This was followed by his focus on sustainable ingredients from organic and local farms, introducing dishes crafted with guests’ health in mind and the wellbeing of our environment.


Moreover, the superlative restaurants and menus that can be seen across our property portfolio are complete with a team of highly acclaimed leaders in the culinary world who are always striving to deliver new and exciting experiences for our guests. A couple of such examples were our month-long Smoke and Flames campaign organised in the summer of 2021 and the ongoing Sports Hub campaign. Both campaigns were/ are a huge success, bringing together the local community and helping to further cement Rotana’s reputation as a leader in the world of Food and Beverage. There are many exciting developments in our F&B operations, however, one we are excited about currently is our focus on sustainable, locally farmed produce. In the UAE we have introduced already 100% locally farmed core items to our menus in all our destination outlets. This is definitely a trend we look forward to seeing grow even stronger.


When it comes to working with great Food & Beverage brands at our hotels, we ensure our key focus is to provide an outstanding dining experience in line with Rotana’s high standards which, in turn, drives higher customer satisfaction and in most cases a higher percentage of repeated guests to the hotel. This means we consider every area of customer service, customer product and the overall ambience the same way a Rotana guest would expect. Aligning on all these points helps ensure success for both the Food & Beverage brand as well as the hotel. The Food & Beverage offering in our hotels is backed by Rotana Rewards Exclusive programme, which is the region’s first loyalty programme for staying and dining. Rotana Rewards, recognised as one of the world’s most rewarding loyalty programmes, offers leisure and business guests, and most importantly, frequent diners, a plethora of benefits, from reward miles at partner airlines and complimentary room nights and meals to over a thousand gifts. We currently have over 26,000 active members, which frequently use our Food & Beverage outlets, with a 72% renewal ratio.

Rotana Beach Residences


Technology and business agility are the driving forces behind growth and innovation. Being able to pivot and react swiftly in the face of change and excel within times of adversity has kept us at the forefront of this industry for many years. Looking at evolving customer trends and satisfaction for example, our clients are tech-savvy and now more than ever we must leverage digital tools to deliver consumer expectations and create value. An enhanced digital customer journey captures value and adds to an individualised experience. Our ‘Rotana Safe Space’ programme is a good example of how the shift in trends and innovation can drive performance. Following the onset of the pandemic, we knew we had to provide our guests with a personal, contactless, and safe hospitality experience. With no compromise on quality, we swiftly ideated and created the ‘Rotana Safe Space’ programme that encapsulates all the above, complete with enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices certified by global leaders. It is reactions and innovations such as this that maintains and elevates your position within this dynamic and ever-growing industry.




Rotana’s pipeline remains highly active with 46 upcoming projects, including 10 that will deliver more than 3,000 keys to the market in the next three years. We recently announced a new project with Bin Al Sheikh Holding Group in Qatar that includes the management of a 400key Arjaan Hotel Apartments by Rotana and 103-keys under The Residences by Rotana brand. Expected to be completed in Q4 2022, just in time for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the project will add 503 rooms to Rotana’s existing 1,110 rooms in the country. Rotana also signed a hotel management agreement under the Centro Hotels’ brand, with a stylish 350-key property that is set to add a new dimension to Doha’s vibrant hospitality scene by 2023. I believe the hospitality market in the coming year will remain positive with the progress that has been made across the region. HOTELNEWSME.COM | FEBRUARY 2022



“ Rotana Beach Residence


Sustainability lies at the heart of Rotana’s operations. Our legacy is founded on a longstanding

Rotana Beach Residence



commitment to being a responsible and sustainable business with a culture of integrity, transparency and accountability embedded in every aspect of our company. In 2013, we launched the Global Corporate Sustainability Platform, Rotana Earth, a comprehensive framework designed to address environmental, economic, and social sustainability across Rotana’s entire portfolio of new and operating hotels, hotel apartments and resorts. Additionally,

under Rotana Earth, we also focus on reducing waste and energy in all areas of the hotel’s operations, as well as reducing landfill and food waste, with more than 250 sustainable activities per year. In line with this commitment, last year we announced the removal of single-use plastic toiletries across our hotel rooms as part of our larger ongoing commitment to reduce environmental impact and combat plastic pollution as a group. Sustainability in the hospitality industry is not only attainable but vital for the long term. Sustainability has always been a key focus area for us, and over the years we have progressively and consistently adjusted our operating models to work towards a more sustainable platform. From locally farmed produce to the removal of single-use plastics, to introducing water bottling plants in our design guidelines, sustainability is a constant driver of change. For us it is critical that this focus is driven by fundamental, permanent change to the way we operate and interact with local communities.


Five key

F&B trends expected in 2022 by RESTAURANT SECRETS INC.

UAE restaurant firm, Restaurant Secrets Inc. has released its outlook on F&B trends to be expected in Dubai this year, including increased openings of deliveryonly brands, the launch of more community-driven outlets in new neighbourhoods and licensed restaurants in residential areas, as well as the continued export of homegrown brands to international markets and the increased demand for health-conscious concepts and plant-based products.

1. Rise of deliveryonly brands

Delivery brands will find better representation and standardisation of aggregator fees at negotiated industry standards this year, as we see the launch of more delivery-only concepts. As the landscape of how we dine at home and work changes positively, the delivery business is seeing a renaissance in the quality and variety of offerings available. We forecast the shift to a fourand-a-half-day work week and emphasis on life/

work balance to be a game changer to how people invest their leisure hours. With more time and disposable income, couples, singles and families will order in more than ever. It’s the best time to launch high quality delivery brands.

2. More non-licensed standalone brands in new neighbourhoods

New neighbourhood locations will become prime options for non-licensed standalone brands in 2022

as the city expands and demand for suburban living rises, bringing with it an audience looking for accessibly priced, familyfriendly restaurants close to their homes.

3. Further openings of licensed venues in residential areas

More licensed restaurants in prime neighborhoods with licensed pavilions will emerge in 2022, as Dubai residents living in communities around the city seek to enjoy a quality F&B offering without having to travel too far from their place of residence.

4. Continued international export of Dubai homegrown brands As more and more quality,

original concepts are born and successfully operated in Dubai, we will witness the continued export of homegrown brands to international markets – particularly to KSA, London and other major destinations.

5. A demand for healthdriven concepts and plant-based products

2022 will bring a heightened look at health-driven dining experiences, with high demand for immunity booster juices, nutritious menu items, as well as plant-based products, as consumers become increasingly educated on what they are putting in their bodies, as well as being more mindful about food nutrition because of health risks from viruses like Covid-19. HOTELNEWSME.COM | FEBRUARY 2022


HCNME MAKING DELICIOUS POSSIBLE “Some versions of the recipe also include chocolate, coffee, or both.” aroma of these spices. There are also so many different varieties of biryani. What are you cooking up today? Tell us more about the dish. Banoffee pie, an English dessert pie made from bananas, cream and a thick caramel sauce (made from boiled condensed milk, or dulce de leche), combined either on a buttery biscuit base or one made from crumbled biscuits and butter. Some versions of the recipe also include chocolate, coffee, or both. As a chef, what are the top ingredients and products you’re using these days? Demi-glace powder, cooking cream, fresh meat and seafood, butter for croissant, and fresh vegetables and fruits.


SRI LANKAN NATIONAL, RODRIGO HAS 16 YEARS OF CULINARY EXPERIENCE, THIRTEEN OF WHICH ARE IN THE UAE. Can you give us a glimpse of your career journey so far? I started my career in 2005 at a culinary school In Sri Lanka. After I finished my studies, I moved to holiday Inn Hotel Colombo as a training cook in 2006 and in 2009 I moved to Dubai 42


and joined Habtoor Grand as a Commi 3. What’s your favorite dish to eat and why? Biryani, because I like our organic Asian spices and the

What are some of the most recent important food trends you can tell us about? Most guests are looking for organic food items and vegan products. While veganism and vegetarianism are hardly a “trend,” the influx of people joining the lifestyle is on the rise. Increasing concerns over mental and physical wellbeing, not to mention the environmental impact, has led many to reconsider their meat-centered diets. Many are giving up animal products completely in effort to live a healthier, more ecofriendly life. What would you advise suppliers and foodservice professionals who are looking to offer their best to the market and meet demand? Supply quality products for a reasonable price.


BANOFFEE PIE • 1 pcs Tart shell • 150 g Nestlé® Dulce De Leche • 200 g Bananas • 200 ml Nestlé® Cream

• 60 g Powdered sugar • 20 ml Vanilla extract • 80 ml Nestlé® Sweetened Condensed Milk • 40 g MAGGI® Coconut Milk Powder





What’s your favourite dish to eat and why? There are so many dishes that it’s hard to choose between, but I really like my mum’s special dish, stuffed vine leaves and baby marrow with lamb chops. We ate this at family gatherings and she is one of the best cooks I know, she is where I got my passion for cooking from. What are you cooking up today? tell us more about the dish. Today I’ll make something special, an Italian and Mediterranean combination called chicken spinach cream sauce with black rice. Fun fact black rice is good for your health because it’s rich in fiber and it has plant base protein.


LEBANESE NATIONAL, SAAD HAS 27 YEARS OF CULINARY EXPERIENCE, FOUR OF WHICH ARE IN THE UAE. Can you give us a glimpse of your career journey so far? I have 27 years of experience in the food industry. I graduated in 1994 from Hospitality School in Lebanon (Dekwaneh) then I started my first day at work in Al Bustan Hotel, (5 star hotel in Lebanon) at Al Gardinio Restaurant (Italian Cuisine) where I learned so many things like how to prepare fresh pasta and fresh pizza dough. My passion for the kitchen started from this and from there I went to Phoenicia Hotel Intercontinental 44


Beirut and then I came to Dubai and worked at Dubai Marine Beach Hotel for 4 years. During this time, I went to Lebanon to open Buddha Bar in 2003 until 2009. After this I landed in Byblos where I created the first style of Lebanese fusion food: a mix between east and west, after 11 years I went to my next challenge as Executive Chef for Ocean Blue Resort seafood restaurant and now I’m the Executive Chef for Amanos Restaurant & Café in Dubai Jumeirah.

As a chef, what are the top ingredients and products you’re using these days? Whether you are working with functional ingredients, lipidbased ingredients, natural products or other general ingredients one must have the knowledge and expertise to achieve product success. For me Nestlé products have so many varieties which helps chefs create their dishes. What are some of the most recent important food trends you can tell us about? Street food because it’s easy and not complicated, it’s also easy to work and serve to customers. Like shawarmas, they’re my favourite. What would you advise suppliers and foodservice professionals who are looking to offer their best to the market and meet demand? The food industry right now is huge and so many competitors keep it up with good quality products and high levels of service.


CHICKEN BREAST WITH SPINACH CREAM SAUCE AND BLACK RICE • 300 g Chicken breast • 400 g Nestlé® Cream • 50 g Red onion chopped • 10 g Garlic chopped • 35 g Sun dried tomatoes • 65 g Baby spinach • 100 g Wild rice • 70 g Baby beetroot

• 50 g Red bell pepper • 7 g Cumin powder • 6 g Paprika • 100 ml Olive oil • 17 g MAGGI® Chicken Stock Powder • 27 g Parmesan powder • 1 pc Rosemary leaves





WHITE Dubai one of the most popular night clubs in the world responsible for the world’s most expensive mixed drink, hosting the who’s who of Hollywood and the region’s most talented artists has transformed their spectacular venue for more. When they made the switch late last year from just a club experience to a fine-dining ultra-lounge with mind-blowing entertainment, an entirely new menu to suit and complement the brand’s new position was in order.



Dinner by night super-club by midnight, WHITE Dubai redefines the concept of a “supper club”. ELIE SABA MANAGING PARTNER AT ADDMIND AND FADY HANNA, EXECUTIVE CHEF AT WHITE DUBAI.



lie Saba Managing Partner at ADDMIND spoke to us about what spurred this new concept and how it’s been received thus far. “The outbreak of coronavirus is significantly impacting industries across the world, with the music and entertainment industry being no exception. It’s been such a rocky road even after the lockdowns were lifted, the call for social distancing became a norm – so we had to adapt to the new restrictions and think about how we could innovate and still stay connected with our clients. It has been a very challenging period for all of us, and we came up with the idea to reinvent WHITE into a dinner showplace with artists performing and still be able to provide the clubbing vibes after midnight. I think being present in the market for this long and having an amazing team driving the brand really helped to turn the new concept into a real success. I think it’s even safe to say better than WHITE the nightclub. We are now open 7 days a week from 8 pm till 3 am and our customers are very pleased to still enjoy a wider experience, from amazing food and entertainment to a clubbing experience after midnight.” So how do fans of the establishment define WHITE today? Well, according to Elie it’s a chic and elegant ultralounge showplace that transforms into a club after midnight. “The whole concept is to provide our clients with a “360-degree experience” from our fine-dining menu to world-class shows. We have a dedicated team constantly on the hunt for the best talents around the world, we are committed to the success and the quality of our service, and I believe this is what’s been driving our brand regionally and globally. We have different events during the week to the clubbing scene after midnight and we offer a spectacular broadcast of artistic performances,” he adds. In the past WHITE was taken on the road, from Beirut to Monaco, which got the club at the time ranked to the 15th best club in the world. Their price range is higher than their neighbours and that’s because their clientele and their entertainment is different to their neighbours. And to stand out even further in the industry and contin-


ue their success, they had to paint their new fine-dining experience with the same striking brush they used for the rest of their experiences. Chef Fady Hanna, Executive Chef at WHITE Dubai, is a Lebanese native and has been with the group since WHITE’s opening in Beirut in 2006 and grew with them as they expanded and added new venues to their portfolio. He is known to have an imposing figure in the kitchen, even when he is not holding a knife. He was introduced at a young age to the world of culinary arts and began his professional life at an early age working at one of the best restaurants in Lebanon. After graduating from culinary school, Fady left the bright lights of the lively city of Beirut where we worked at a wide variety of restaurants and ventured out to Saudi

Arabia to work at a finedining French restaurant called, Al Kazar in Jeddah. Shortly after, Fady found his way back to his homeland where he worked at a variety of restaurants gaining experience in different cuisines from French to Italian before calling Dubai home. “I started with WHITE since the very beginning in Beirut and it’s been a great journey. Following years of success as a club, the transition was a challenge. How to make the new concept of fine dining even better than the nightclub concept was hard. We developed our existing menu and turned it into a refined fine-dining menu which can still be shared and enjoyed by groups of people as this is part of our brand,” added Chef Fady. And even though this idea was born out of the impact from the pandemic,

Fady Hanna, Executive Chef at WHITE Dubai

Fady welcomed the transition. “Due to the pandemic every industry suffered, as a group we had to come up with a different approach to

"Finer caviar and finer cuts, a global taste that pairs well with the shows you get to see, which can get dizzying on an empty stomach." manage the current situation. I personally loved the challenge that came with the transition, and I think it really proved and showed the strength and expertise of the team behind WHITE, who are able to maintain the success the brand achieved over the years”. A new fine-dining concept, especially one that these guys had in mind had to come with a superior finedining kitchen. Chef Fady explains how they enhanced their kitchen and operations in preparation for the new WHITE experience. “When you are in an industry such HOTELNEWSME.COM | FEBRUARY 2022



as hospitality which is constantly changing and evolving, the ability to adapt is key to your success. The transition came with many layers, not only changing a menu. To manage the expectations of a fine dining concept, a whole new kitchen needed to be redone and to be equipped to operate and serve such a huge venue, we also had to train the team in the kitchen and those serving guests on the ground”. Despite all the challenges Chef Fady and the team rose to the occasion and recreated an entire menu that combines international flavours with fan-favourites all in one experience. Their menu, according to their website is made up of “finer caviar and finer cuts, a global taste that pairs well with the shows you get to see, which can get dizzying on an empty stomach.” From yellowtail carpaccio to taramasalata with smoked salmon, the entertainment is no longer the only stars of the night. Amongst the menu there is also a caviar selec48


tion and an oyster tray that has been freshly fished for guests. “The inspiration behind the menu was mainly being in a cosmopolitan city like Dubai. We are fortunate to be exposed to so many different cultures and our goal is to cater to everyone whether through flavours or experiences,” says Chef Fady. Comprising such a comprehensive menu is tricky, Fady highlights his experience, “I wish I can say it was easy, it was challenging – from identifying international dishes that people love to putting a spin on it to represent WHITE. For us it is very important to offer our guests a seamless and unforgettable experience to make them come back. All these factors played a major role in recreating the menu which I’m glad to say we succeeded at”. Chef Fady adds, “I think WHITE represents the true glamorous Dubai experience everyone looks for when visiting. From world-class entertainment, uninterrupted views of Dubai’s skyline and Burj Khalifa to an extensive fine-dining food

menu and weekly programs offering different themes from French night to our famous URBN night.” WHITE Dubai has and does it all, whether you come for the food, drinks, entertainment, or uninterrupted views you will always leave enthralled, fascinated, energised, and well fed.



Revenue Management


If you’re running restaurants, bars, or cafes for a living, you might have looked at the headline and thought “Oh right, here’s something for hoteliers only!”, but hang on a second and do not flick or click onward just yet, because COVID has turned revenue management from a “hotel thing” to a necessity for restaurants and F&B-centric hotels. The pandemic has been a game changer for businesses from all industries, but restaurants, cafes, and hotels were arguably most affected and lockdowns and social distancing forced many of them to elevate their online ordering and delivery game. No, this isn’t going to be another rant about the high commission rates charged by online ordering platforms or

the seemingly bottomless and never-ending discount culture, but two things are important to understand: • Online food ordering and delivery and dark / cloud kitchens aren’t just a fad. They’re here to stay and, whether you like it or not, will grow bigger. • Most F&B operators cannot “out-advertise” delivery aggregators, just like most hotels cannot outspend the likes of,, or Expedia. Across the GCC, online ordering already enjoyed considerable popularity pre-COVID, but has surged over the past two years, while in other markets, e.g. Europe, the pandemic has kicked things up more than a few notches. Restaurants, which, pre-pandemic, relied on steady dine-in trade and

didn’t bother overly much with the intricacies of online ordering and delivery suddenly found themselves in somewhat of a pickle. F&B-centric hotels were even worse off and, often abruptly, faced empty breakfast rooms and restaurants and shiny, but idle kitchens. Dark and cloud kitchen operators and delivery aggregators were quick to take advantage of the rising online ordering movement and launched new brands and offers backed up by, seemingly, ceaseless online advertising. Here’s another truth that many will find painful: Do you know where delivery aggregators get all the money from they spend on online adverts? Why, obviously from the commission they charge you! Aggregators spend millions on making sure they’re everpresent, top of mind, with consumers, so the question isn’t “Should I use an online food aggregator?”, but “How can I make online food delivery platforms and cloud kitchens part of my business mix and increase my sales and grow my profits?”. The answer to this question is “Revenue Management”. Previously virtually exclusively the domain of (often slightly nerdy) revenue specialists working for hotels and airlines, revenue management is now a necessity for F&B operators, regardless whether they run stand-alone, single outlet, or large, multi-brand, multi-location, operations. The back-offices of popular delivery platforms like Talabat, Deliveroo, or Foodora now have almost as many buttons, bells, and whistles as the back-offices of common travel booking platforms. You can push individual dishes or entire brands, permanently or just for a few hours or days. You can use a variety of tools to drive orders and make sure

the platforms prioritise your dishes over your competitors’ dishes. You can also create location or time-specific offers for either your entire menu or just your bestselling dishes. Knowing what’s possible is one thing, though. Knowing what’s effective and profitable is often an entirely different thing. It is probably time you start to get a bit nerdy and begin bothering with numbers that, so far, only very few F&B operators look at regularly: seat / platform turnover, RevPash (revenue per available seat hour), TrevPash (total revenue per available seat hour), and GopPash (gross operating profit per available channel / platform). The goal is to maximise all available space, but also all available channels and to do that by focusing on the right channel at the right time and with the right offers. The goal isn’t to discount endlessly, but to push the right offers, at the right time, to the right people, on the right channel, which you can only do if you use data intelligently, forecast accurately, and know your distribution costs as every hotelier will tell you. We all know that hotel rooms fluctuate widely in price, whereas a pizza at your favourite pizza joint virtually always costs the same. Will the price of burgers, pizzas, and other dishes vary more in the future? Personally, I’m still waiting for hotel-like dynamic pricing from pizza restaurants, so I can order a pizza at a fraction of the price during off peak times like early on a weekday morning. While this may or may not become reality, F&B revenue management and control over your platform / channel sales and offers is already reality and if you haven’t bothered with it yet, maybe take a closer look at it over a discounted pizza or shawarma. HOTELNEWSME.COM | FEBRUARY 2022



The man behind the brands

A conversation with an F&B heavyweight WALID HAJJ CO-FOUNDER & CEO OF LAVOYA


visionary and awardwinning entrepreneur, Walid Hajj has defined his unique imprint in the food and beverage industry by creating innovative concepts that have disrupted the industry and established his credentials as a pioneer in F&B concepts that integrate advanced technology with exceptional service. With more than two decades of hands-on expertise in food services and related businesses, Walid co-founded Kitch in 2020, further revolutionising the ‘kitchen-in-thecloud’ concept. A hybrid deliveryfocused cloud kitchen and premium store-front operator, Kitch today takes digitisation and fast execution of F&B concepts to a new level. Walid demonstrated his entrepreneurial acumen with the founding of Cravia, one of the region’s leading food and hospitality groups that brought world-class franchises to the Middle 50


East, including Zaatar W Zeit, Five Guys, Cinnabon and Seattle’s Best Coffee. Walid tells us how to land a successful F&B concept and shares all the details on his latest street food offering in the region. Ordinally from Saudi Arabia Walid moved to Dubai 18 years ago to start Cravia, his most precious venture, and has been here ever since. “My first job was running the Head & Shoulders brand with Procter & Gamble in Jeddah, which was a huge learning experience on how to build brands and grow them. I then moved to my family company in food trading and manufacturing before going on to establish Cravia. I grew up around my father’s food business. He founded his first company when I was 6 years old, and I used to go with him to the office on weekends and fell in love with both his entrepreneurship and the food business. As I grew with my dad’s business, I realised that this was something I

wanted to do myself so, I branched out a little and setup Cravia, the restaurant business in Dubai. I am shaped and influenced a great deal by my father and his love of the industry. At 90+ years of age his eyes still light up when you talk about a new food venture.” Walid went on to say that it was tough when he started out in the F&B business, but it was also unbelievably enjoyable. “The challenge of having to convince landlords or franchisors to work with you while you have ZERO track record was very interesting. It was not easy. I needed a break, and when I got the opportunity, I jumped at it. Once you get the chance and you prove yourself, the sky is the limit. Not just in this sector but everywhere. I must also say that I was lucky to have the right people around me, from family members who supported me and were behind me every step of the way, to the team I worked with at Cravia and now at Lavoya.” (The idea behind Lavoya Restaurants Group came from a deep desire to enrich the casual dining scene in the region. Walid and his partner, Fahad AlHokair felt there were lots of gaps to be filled. With Fahad’s real estate and entrepreneurial abilities and Walid’s experience building brands a successful business was born). He describes the industry as “stagnant” for most of his career. There were very little changes if any until a few years ago when technology disrupted everything, according to Walid, “The convenience of delivery and the vast information that is now available changed the food business like never before. It has been so exciting to see this evolve – it has and continues to create so many new opportunities for everyone. The biggest winner in all this is the end consumer. Of course, there will always be challenges associated with change. You need to embrace and evolve to survive. Also, as delivery grows and becomes an essential part of the business, the question becomes, how do you make the economic model work, i.e., how do you make money despite the heavy fees from delivery companies. Having said all that, I am a strong believer in the continuous


growth and opportunity on the brick-and-mortar side of the business. This is especially true as the pandemic fades away (inshallah) and people have this hunger to be out and back to normal life.” With every industry there are aspects that you can describe in full detail and then there are parts that no one will ever understand until they go through it for themselves. “It is a very tough business to be in. Extremely tough and much harder than it looks from the outside. Also, people look at the success stories and think every concept in the food business will work, while the actual statistic is that 8 out of 10 new concepts fail within their first 3 years of operation. The ability to understand what the customer wants and maybe at times tell the customers what they want is not easy.

Also, getting the execution right consistently over time is a very tough task,” says Walid. He adds that the only way to get there is by “trial and error”. “It is not totally a random process, but for the most part even if you do your homework and think you got the concept right, it may not go anywhere. Success in this business is a function of 100 things at the same time. I personally believe, though, that the number one factor on top of this list is people. Hiring the right team and ensuring they are all aligned with the same goal is a big step towards success.” Barbar is a new street food concept that launched in Dubai last year during September, since its launch over 35 000 dine-in guests have been served and over 25 000 take away orders have been placed.

In October 2021 alone, over 10 000 of the chain’s famous Barbar Francisco sandwiches have been prepared. Walid is a big believer in simplicity and a back-to-basics approach, especially when it comes to casual dining. He believes that over-thinking and over-complicating a concept isn’t helpful, and instead one should focus on and address the mass market. Couple that with excellent execution, good value pricing, and more importantly a one-of-akind experience and you have a winner. According to Walid, Barbar is a legendary brand with an enormous following. “I love this industry and I love to create and build brands. I get a total kick out of that, it’s what keeps me excited and always has me on the lookout for growth. Also, the beauty of a start-up is unmatched


in my view. The chaos of starting something from scratch is really something - especially when you reap the benefits and see the growth down the road. Barbar is one of the most iconic brands in the region. It has history, and a track record with a huge number of fans, not only in Lebanon but for anyone who has been to Beirut and tried Barbar. Also, I think very highly of the current generation running the brand (the sons of the founder) who have decided it is time to grow it internationally. They are hard workers and know their brand well and know food extremely well. Partnerships like the one we are forming with Barbar is like a marriage and it has to have compatibility to be able to succeed.” Overwhelmed and humbled by the response Barbar has received, Walid is enjoying the positive reception the brand is having so far and says that “if anything, this puts an additional layer of responsibility on our shoulders to ensure we continue to maintain our quality and grow the brand to the level it deserves.” Walid has a few more stores in the pipeline for Dubai, and will be launching in Riyadh and in an additional location in the region. “As we grow, we want to also maintain our standards and ensure we meet the expectations of our clients, and for that, our growth is going to be based on a studied plan and built on a foundation that allows us to have many locations in our markets very soon”. HOTELNEWSME.COM | FEBRUARY 2022





IN PLANTS How Loui Blake went from running a football academy to becoming a successful vegan entrepreneur and angel investor. LOUI BLAKE LONDON-BASED ENTREPRENEUR, SPEAKER, AND ANGEL INVESTOR IN THE PLANT-BASED HOSPITALITY SECTOR. 52


he region’s first Vegan Food Festival at Expo 2020 last month brought a host of new and exciting vegan brands to try. Among these brands were: Chuck Chick, a vegan burger brand inspired by 50s Americana, Chuck Chick combines the youthful creativity of diner classics with the modern need for a greener planet. They make vegan classic cheeseburgers, southern-fried chick burgers, classic dogs and loaded fries. Erpingham House, a U.K. plant-based restaurant made its Dubai debut serving tacos, baos (steamed buns), burgers and salads at the festival. And Vegan Dough Co, created in London with locations across the U.K., was on a mission to show the region how delicious vegan pizza can be, with its innovative and indulgent food designed to help people fall in love with plantbased cuisine. What do all three of these brands have in common, well they are all the brainchild of Loui Blake, a vegan entrepreneur who is passionate about sharing healthy, delicious food and drinks that are as good for the planet as they taste. We caught up with Loui while he was in town attending the festival to talk about his role as a vegan entrepreneur and angel investor in the plant-based hospitality sector. Around 8 years ago Loui suffered from chronic fatigue and burn out and wanted to get to the cause of this, so he did some investigating on how to feel better, and all information pointed to a more natural diet. “I saw a lot of information online championing the benefits of a wholefood, plant-based diet for increased energy and better sleep, so I decided to give it a go for a month. After a month I felt amazing and so I decided to continue. Since then, I’ve studied the health and environmental benefits to understand why a plant-based diet is so good for health, and why veganism is so good for the environment, and it changed my whole lifestyle (including my job) to focus on this space,” he adds. Fun fact about Loui, before becoming a plantbased angel investor he was in the Football industry. “I used to run a football academy for children and an events company specialising in nightlife. I’ve previously owned and operated 2 nightclubs, so this was a good base from which to open a restaurant. I loved the health and wellness aspects of football, building confidence and physical health, and


nightlife taught me about marketing, brand building and hospitality.” His first vegan venture was founded by accident and went on to become the biggest vegan restaurant in the U.K., not bad for an accident. “When I first became vegan, I found it difficult to find places that I could take my family and friends out to eat. There were some cafes and fast-food places, but very few restaurants where you could go for a full dining experience. It was entirely an accident that the first Erpingham House was the largest vegan restaurant in the U.K, in fact in my naivety I didn’t fully appreciate how difficult it would be to run and maintain such a big space, but almost 4 years and a pandemic later, it’s going from strength to strength.” And his inspiration behind this and his other vegan brands almost always comes from problem-solving. “I try to solve problems. Each time we’ve created a brand, it’s been in response to a need we see in the market. With Vegan Dough co, it was because we were finding it impossible to get delicious vegan pizza in the New York style, that used natural ingredients. With Chuck Chick, during lockdown I was seeing these huge queues for KFC, and I thought there must be a more sustainable and ethical way to meet this obvious demand for chicken.” Loui says that Dubai is a forward-thinking place and has the best of the best in all disciplines, and with veganism growing

here it seemed like the perfect time to introduce the Vegan Food Festival, Eat at Expo to celebrate a diverse range of cuisine types and brands. “Expo 2020 Dubai is an incredible spectacle, so to be involved in such an event is a dream come true. We would love to open permanent locations here in Dubai soon.” Loui seems to be in the habit of falling into success by accident, becoming an angel investor was also something that just happened, “I always invest in my own concepts, but I became especially interested

in alternative proteins after attending a conference in Amsterdam a few years ago. Since then, I’ve invested in several alternative protein companies, including a U.K. tempeh brand “Club Cultured”, pet food brand “The Pack” and alternative protein brand “Miami Burger.” These businesses are helping people (and pets) transition to meat alternative products which are more sustainable and better for the environment. I’m looking for brands that are helping to end industrial animal agriculture.” Loui’s idea of a positive impact through food is quite simple, “Eat more plants” he says, build a conscious relationship with food and help end industrial animal agriculture. “Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and is responsible for more emissions than all transport combined. It’s never been more important for us to come together collectively and make a change, but this starts with each of us individually.”





Supporting the next generation of hospitality leaders The value of mentorship in the industry by Rikhsibay Tursunov, Operations Director at Crowne Plaza Dubai Marina


fter years and years of accumulated experience, I believe that everyone should support the young generation if they are able to. This could be done by offering advice, answering questions, and sharing personal experiences that helps build character and career paths. By sharing our own knowledge and experience we can inspire and even encourage the youth to keep going even when times get tough. I initially decided to start my mentorship program and select five students after being a guest speaker at the International Hotel and Tourism Management Institute (HTMI Switzerland Dubai). The hospitality industry mentorship program I started last year in October lasts for one year and is usually held during my time off so that it does not interfere with working hours. At the beginning I talk to each individual mentee so that we can set three to five goals that they want to work on and achieve by the end of the program. Each month we have a one-on-one session so that we can evaluate how far they have progressed, and we also meet as a group to discuss various topics. I also invite other industry leaders and experts so they can network and learn about industries that are outside of their academic focus. 54


One of the mentees, Alina Dzebisova, commented: “Mr. Rikhsibay provides the support, guidance and his valuable experiences, all of which are so important for us as students. The mentorship program has given me an opportunity to broaden my horizon and knowledge. It made me aware of my strengths and the areas of improvement which I needed to work on.” This program is free of charge and for anyone who is interested in learning more about the hospitality industry outside of their classroom. The three main areas that I have been offering my support in are related to: emotional intelligence, the importance of networking, and personalised decisionmaking advice. Miriam Ferrulli, a mentee, explains that despite the program being fresh and only

starting a few months ago, she feels that she has been given tremendous support in taking important decisions regarding her career path. Miriam says: “My mentor has given me an idea of how to visualise my goals and make them easily achievable. Thanks to our periodical meeting, I have a clear idea of the hospitality world. The program is helping me smoothen my pathway, give my best and receive the most from this wonderful field.” Giving advice and shedding light over the pros and cons of working in different hotels is important to decision making. Especially when the students are receiving their initial training. It is common for multiple students in any field around the world to be inclined to join the biggest brand names or most popular hotels. However, when mentoring


students, I always make it a point to share the benefits of working at less well-known hotels. Choosing a smaller and less well-known hotel can help students progress and grow at accelerated pace. This is mainly because they are given more responsibilities and they take on multiple roles since they are only a few staff members. Through this process they will become quick problem solvers as tackling problems is part of everyone’s responsibility no matter the level. Anika Ahmed, one of the mentees, has benefitted from the different people I was able to introduce her to. She said: “As an international student who is not connected to anyone in the hospitality sector in Dubai, having Mr. Rikhsibay as a mentor was truly Godsend. He has an amazing energy and outlook towards life, and at the same time he is incredibly knowledgable and humble. When I am confused or nervous about a career move, I know I can turn to him. After only a short call, I can move forward with confidence and my doubts are cleared.” Another focus of the mentorship program is focused on learning how to build relations within the workplace and making a lasting impact. While working in a hotel, a beautiful part of it is meeting people from different parts of the world. This exposes individuals to different cultures and diverse backgrounds. During this time, it is important to be able to get along with colleagues so that guests receive a memorable experience. Building a strong professional relationship

with colleagues helps create a healthier working environment where peers motivate each other and work closely together to help one another. I always say that you might meet people you previously worked with again sometime in the future or you might even work with them again. That is why it is important to leave a positive and good impression. People may forget what others have done but they will always remember how they were made to feel, and the experience you delivered. Yash Patil, one of the mentees, that was able to improve his professional relationships said: “The mentorship program helped me develop my self-confidence, selfawareness, listening skills, my ability to support other people and grow my personal network. I am happy that our mentor is Mr. Rikhsibay and I don’t think I could ever find a better mentor who cares and motivates his students.”

Being in this industry for more than 25 years has really pushed me to share my knowledge with the youth. This is simply because when I was growing up, I did not have anyone to turn to for advice or for support. I had to figure it out on my own and it was tough during the beginning. That is why presently I love to offer my advice, guidance,

and support to anyone who is looking to grow and learn. “Being in this industry for more than 25 years has really pushed me to share my knowledge with the youth. This is simply because when I was growing up, I did not have anyone to turn to for advice or for support.”




One signature cocktail at a time ZLATO KIHLER, BARTENDER AT SOLA JAZZ LOUNGE, RAFFLES THE PALM DUBAI SOLA Jazz lounge, the intimate setting on the Palm livening up the jazz scene in Dubai is made up of great drinks, a great culinary team, a burst of positive energy, and an award-winning bartender named Zlato Kihler. Zlato has been pursuing his passion for bartending since 2008, his ambition is to instate SOLA as



an elevated culinary and crafted experience, reflected in the innovative cocktails made from noteworthy methods. Zlato believes in traditional hand-crafted techniques that indulge the guests in an unforgettable dining affair, and his aim to be recognised as a world class lounge is underway, one signature cocktail at a time.

How did you get into bartending? It sounds cliche but the movie “Cocktails” had a serious influence on me. Back in the day when I saw Tom Cruise, I thought the coolest thing any man could do is be behind the bar and thank God I did it. The benefits you get from this job is amazing. You get to show creativity, be exposed to new worlds, and meet all kinds of people.


"Many of my ideas come from my dreams, literally." the world. But I look at it as motivation to explore the market more and create unique opportunities.

Tell us about your achievements? My first big win was while I was beginning my bartending career in “Diyafa” Qatar. I was a beginner who didn’t stand a chance next to my long-standing professional peers, I signed up anyway without telling anyone at my workplace and that same day I arrived to work late but with the 3rd place trophy in my hand. That award is most important to me, even more than my bigger wins. That same year I won the Red Bull Flairtending competition and the following year I won a competition organised by IBA in Dubai. What makes your bartending style unique? My mixology for sure, I like to push borders and experiment. Just recently we were doing an infusion of a spirit and Wagyu with A9 marbling. We focused on molecular mixology and combined gastronomy with our beverage. Myself and my team go out of the box every day, we follow trends and explore the market. Luckily we work in a property where these things are valued and we have a big playground to practice our ideas. Many of my ideas come from my dreams, literally. I dream up all these creations from time to time. So, I learnt to sleep with a pen and paper next to my bed, write down the idea and the next day it’s in motion. How competitive is the industry in this region? The most competitive in the world for sure. We are surrounded by the best brands and most versatile hotel offers in

Where do you want to take your bartending career? It would be a pleasure to represent some of my preferred spirits as an Ambassador, something probably most bartenders dream about. I would also love to meet, teach, and learn from aspiring bartenders. How did you land at SOLA Jazz Lounge? I met someone in the hospitality industry and they made me an offer that changed my life plans. When I came to the Middle East I was planning to do a contract, get experience and go back to Europe. Then I joined the Raffles brand and realised that I had to stay here. Our model is built on quality, even during the pandemic we didn’t compromise and I was blown away. I got lucky, I work with professional and supportive leaders who made me the leader I am today. What do you recommend when visiting SOLA? Most of our drinks are named after famous Jazz artists, songs or something related to Jazz. Our signature drink right now is Raffles The Palm Sling. Combining the traditions of the Singapore Sling with the heritage behind the Raffles property I was honoured to create this signature drink for SOLA and add my name next to 17 other talented creators in the Raffles’ history. What are your aspirations for SOLA Jazz Lounge? My team and myself started something very unique in the UAE and we strive to deliver the best service and products. We aim to be recognised as a bar without artificial products, where everything is made by hand like our grandmas used to do it back in the day. We are aiming for world-class recognition and we will get there for sure. HOTELNEWSME.COM | FEBRUARY 2022




CHAT OVER CHAATS Twenty six year old Hersh Suri has created the perfect place in the neighbour to hang out with friends and ‘Chat Over Chaats’ HERSH SURI, OWNER OF ROOBARU 58


t the tender age of 26, Hersh Suri is the leader behind Freestyle Indian and Chai Room in Downtown Dubai, Roobaru. Hersh leads this venture with full time dedication, and looks at Indian cuisine with a different, but cherished perspective, pushing the envelope towards a fresher outlook. Roobaru is a COVID baby, the venture had plans to begin construction in late 2019 but with a few delays and the pandemic, Hersh and his dad delayed the project for a year and began construction in April 2021, opening in the first week of November that same year. “I studied Business Management and Marketing at the University of Durham and LSE respectively. Subconsciously, this is all I ever wanted, and opening Roobaru was a privilege, not coming from a family of restauranteurs, it was just an actualisation of something I dreamt of when I was 16 in boarding school, and I am very lucky to have done so. I was 25 when we started construction, 26 when we opened. I’ve always wanted to work in hospitality, I worked in various restaurants and bars as I studied in London, picking up odd shifts here and there. People often remark at how young I am, I don’t really consider age to be a factor, I work twice as hard to compensate for any lack of experience.” Hersh says that construction in Dubai is a complex maze of a variety of authority approvals and where he felt most inexperienced and overwhelmed. But thanks to great contractors he was guided through the process. His biggest strength is his team, just like the owner the staff is made up of young people. He says that the flip side of inexperience is creativity, freshness, and bravery. “We truly believe we are doing something different to what is available in the market and that’s what makes Roobaru a special place to work,” he adds. Hersh learned how to cook as a way of dealing with his reserved nature. “I’m not the biggest extrovert, when I was younger, I often found it hard to just make conversation, go out and make friends. As a kid I’d stay at home watching cooking reality shows on the BBC and I just fell in love with cooking. That translated into me learning how to cook and cooking is kind of what helped me develop, I would love to have friends over for food and drinks, I’d bake for my friends and soon realised eating and sharing a meal together is so intimate and I just wanted to replicate those feelings for hundreds and hundreds of people”. The name Roobaru translates to ‘face-to-face’ and Hersh admits the name didn’t come easy. “We struggled for a name, it took ages and then on a zoom call we were just listening to some Hindi music and


the song, Roobaroo by A.R Rahman came on and one of the consultants on the project, Avi, suggested Roobaru and that was that. It fit like a glove, Roobaru means face to face it represents community, which is what we stand for and we all just loved the name.” The décor is designed to give patrons two unique experiences, in the day the floor to ceiling glass windows let in natural light creating a breezy environment where you can work, grab a chai and a bite. In the evening, Roobaru transforms itself into something more intimate. The lights goes down, the pace of the music picks up and the mood is more romantic. Hersh explains how he created a “Freestyle” menu, “We describe the food at Roobaru as Freestyle Indian. That isn’t to say that it is rustic, we call it freestyle to reflect our creativity, we cook food from any region of India may that be the North, South or East and combine it with different cooking techniques, our custom-made perilla grill is a central element in the food and we love adding touches of smoke in the most unexpected dishes”. Chef Gaurav Yadav runs the kitchen at Roobaru, he has over 10 years’ experience working at some of the best kitchens in India and the GCC and has currently just finished long stints at the famous Bombay Canteen in Mumbai and Comorin in Gurgaon. “Our menu is separated into small and big plates. We have such a wide menu mix, it’s hard to pinpoint the most popular dishes. In our small plates section, our Aslam’s Chicken is very popular. It takes inspiration from a café in Delhi which we’ve brought to life on our grill. Similarly, our manga ceviche, is our own take on an Indian ceviche where the Leche De Tigre is inspired from the Keralan manga curry. Oh, and people love Butter Chicken, but you already know that, we updated ours with a touch of black garlic and smoked butter”. Hersh doesn’t see his age as a challenge, in fact he attributes it to his success. “We’re such a young organisation, nobody really expects the output we deliver, from such a young group. The fact that we’re so young makes us fearless in a sense, we’re not really bound by tradition and heritage, we cook what we want, and we understand the quality our guests expect from us and never let our standards drop”. When it comes to expanding Hersh is a bit of a romantic and loves the idea of having one Roobaru, but he isn’t ruling out expanding with different brands. He describes Roobaru as being unpretentious, and that has a lot to do with price. “Price is key for us; we price each dish at the merit of the ingredients used. That’s not to say some dishes are cheap and others aren’t but some ingredients cost less than others. I often find when restaurants branch out and explore more creativity, they price moves up accordingly. Roobaru offers great quality ingredients, sophisticated cooking techniques at very reasonable prices making it your go to spot for the weekend”. And when I asked him how he responds to the naysayers he said, “It used to bother me a lot, I felt this need to prove

“Roobaru means face to face it represents community, which is what we stand for and we all just loved the name.” people wrong, and kind of prove to myself that I deserve to be successful. I know how hard I work and have worked since the start of the project and if people still think I’m too young to succeed then after all, they are entitled to their opinion”. For other young restaurateurs looking to do what Hersh has done, his advice is to offer something different to succeed, that difference can be based on anything; price, taste, service, ambience etc. “When we opened Roobaru, we were a bit restrained, a bit scared of taking risks and as customers came in and they loved the food, a sense of courage was instilled in us. On the 2nd of Jan 2022 we updated our menu, and the dishes became more Roobaru, we cooked without fear, we flipped the concept of a chai room starting to serve Indian inspired Boba/Bubble tea and tea based mocktails. So, my advice would be just do you, there are hundreds of restaurants out there that aren’t brave to try something new, I feel like it’s the ones that do, that become something special”. HOTELNEWSME.COM | FEBRUARY 2022



“Luxury Explorers’ Collection have the kind of properties that match their lifestyle.”



“Traditional hotels tend to have less privacy, smaller spaces and they offer less value, “it’s more of a cookie-cutter approach, so less personalisation compared to what we can do.” 60


Dubai has become proficient at adopting and customising global hospitality and F&B concepts for local markets that boost its tourism. Since 2018 holiday homes have gained popularity in the city and it continues to move towards the traditional hotel market more and more. Mohammed Sultan, CEO of Luxury Explorers’ Collection has capitalised on this opportunity with 20 holiday homes in prime locations in Dubai. In addition to these mansions and big villas, he has five properties in Mecca (KSA) and one in Abu Dhabi. And what sets these homes apart from the rest is the luxury upgrade of high-end assets. Luxury Explorers’ Collection has been active since June 2020. It began when the business’ travel agency division, Luxury


Explorers, that specialises in high-end travel and event arrangements took a significant leap during the pandemic, by venturing into a premium holiday homes business. Luxury Explorers’ Collection is an extension of their existing competencies. “The idea started in 2018 when we found out some of our VIP clients working with our travel agency (Luxury Explorers) were keen to spend their holidays in luxury vacation homes and villas when they travel around the world. That time, Dubai didn’t have such a level of premium holiday rentals that the same clients experience in Southern France, Italy, and Los Angeles, regions which are more developed in terms of short stay lettings. It was then we decided to set our sights on pioneering the local

market’s evolution,” adds Mohammed. During the pandemic wealthy businessmen flew to Dubai to take advantage of the excellent pandemic management in the Emirates. “One of the benefits we got from this is their willingness to stay longer in Dubai. Luxury Explorers’ Collection have the kind of properties that match their lifestyle,” says Mohammed. Mohammed went on to say that traditional hotels tend to have less privacy, smaller spaces and they offer less value, “it’s more of a cookie-cutter approach, so less personalisation compared to what we can do. Compared to hotels, our properties also offer enhanced safety in terms of the health and hygiene protocols we have in place. Luxury holiday homes are capitalising on

the service of traditional hotels. We leverage on their strengths by taking it a notch higher by pushing one-of-a-kind properties over cookie-cutter rooms. There is greater leeway for personalisation in terms of services from holiday

“ONE THAT WILL MAKE THEM FEEL AT HOME EVEN IF THEY’RE THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY.” homes and this allows us to elevate the guest’s experience.” Luxury holiday homes have more privacy and security according to Mohammed. “For us at Luxury Explorers’ Collection, we make it a point that we engage our guests by providing ample exclusive perks that leave lasting impressions. Our properties are not only visually stunning, but we can also provide our guests bespoke concierge services that fit their needs, so it will be a fresher experience for them, one that will make them feel at home even if they’re thousands of miles away.” HOTELNEWSME.COM | FEBRUARY 2022



A Cup of TIME

Disrupting the tea industry one cup at a time


offee gives us our daily boost to go, go, go. If you are anything like me, I need at least two cups of coffee in the morning before I am ready for the world. But, when I turn on the kettle in the afternoon for my daily dose of green tea, I am preparing myself for a soothing experience. What I have not thought about is what is inside my little teabag. Businessman and tea drinker Tariq Al-Aruri always thought he’d be running his own BMW dealership in Palestine. But when he had to leave the country due to political reasons, he joined the world of advertising, a step that would later bring him closer to his passion for a premium, healthy tea. On a trip to Marrakech, Morocco, in 2005, Tariq accompanied a friend to buy some white tea for his father. Tariq describes his first encounter with ‘real’ tea, “we walked into the tea shop, I meet the owner of the shop, and then he starts explaining everything he knows about tea. I saw about three hundred types of different teas and thought to myself, how can you have so many distinct types of tea? I mean tea, is tea. While he explains the difference between real tea and the tea we drink every day, the only thing that popped into my mind was my mum. Growing up in Oman, we would all gather and have tea with biscuits and fresh cakes, and this is an experience that I treasure very much. Till this day, we continue this tradition.” It was then when Tariq realised that all this time, he like, everyone else was being



Tariq Al-Aruri, Chief Empowerment Officer at Tchaba

tricked into thinking that what they were drinking was something good and healthy when, they were consuming dust mixed with artificial flavour in a bleached bag. This realisation was the beginning of Tariq’s mission to disrupt the tea drinking habits of millions and bring quality products to the much-loved tea traditions in Arabia. “Arabia is known for its tea traditions, even more so than coffee, so I said I know what I

want to do in life. I want to change the way people drink tea. Starting with my mum.” Using his branding experience, Tariq set out to create a tea brand that was modern and classy. He was determined to move away from the conventional associations that everyone was accustomed to when it came to tea. He wanted to create a lifestyle brand. After all, most moments in our lives start or end with a cup in hand.


“You drink tea when you sick, heartbroken, and I had to make tea more interactive. I wanted tea drinkers to make a statement about how they choose to live life and how conscious they are about what they consume. Full leaf tea requires 3-5 minutes to infuse, and we want to educate people that real tea is different, and Tchaba, through its array of Arabian and internationally inspired flavours will help them rediscover their cup of tea. It is not instant, it is indulgent. It is all about taking time. It is an escape. Initially, I wanted to go to supermarkets, and everyone suggested I build credibility for Tchaba first and what better way to build a brand’s credibility than to have it associated with the world’s most prestigious hotel brands, and there was no shortage of those in Dubai. So, I said OK, from there we went to the big hotels in Dubai however, hotels never heard of Tchaba, and were not prepared to take a chance on a newcomer with no track record. At this point, Tariq knew that he needed to do something that answered the question of who Tchaba was and was going to be. He created a tea blend called Emirates Spice and took it to Gulfoods in 2006. In perfect timing, the F&B Manager of Ritz-Carlton Jumeriah at the time walked by his stall and tried Emirates Spice, and the rest, as they say, is history. “He tried the tea and said, I want this tea in my hotel, and that was the start of Tchaba going into the hotel industry.” Once Tchaba was in RitzCarlton Jumeriah, doors of other big hotels in the region started opening. Soon, they were situated in Marriott hotels, Kempinski Hotels, and Etihad Airways First and Business Class. Everything

was going well, except for one thing. “The food service business was booming, and, in my rush, I had forgotten about my true purpose for launching Tchaba, my mum and many drinkers like her who deserved to experience real tea. You cannot experience this only in 5-star hotels. So, I opened shops in Dubai, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, and Bahrain. Soon some of our hotel partners approached us to offer our retail range to their guests who were enjoying Tchaba in their lobby lounges and various venues across their property. And that is when we decided to take this concept a step further and work with hotels to convert their lounges into a destination for an unforgettable tea experience. “ This idea was a win-win for both the hotels and Tchaba. Tariq’s idea to turn hotel lobbies into Tchaba Tea Stops gave the end-user that ideal

tea experience. A blend of high-quality, premium tea that is healthy for you and that gives you a moment of peace and escape before your next appointment. And according to Tariq, this model has immense potential to grow across the region. When COVID-19 hit the hospitality industry hard, Tariq decided to invest heavily in eCommerce. A move that he is grateful for today. “Covid was a blessing in disguise, we had to pivot very quickly, and that’s when we went extremely aggressive on our eCommerce platform. Today, we offer second day delivery across the GCC, Jordan, and Morocco. This helped us get closer to our end user, collect feedback, and understand and correct any misconceptions they might have had about tea.” What gives Tchaba this edge and advantage is its unique flavours. “European manufactures don’t make tea for the

Asian and Arabic palate; our taste profiles are different. We tailor-make our oils and spices to match the palate of the local drinkers.” Today, Tchaba’s eCommerce platform continues to thrive, it can now also be found in Saudia Airlines First and Business Class, their corporate gifting line is doing great, and they are planning to enter premium supermarkets. The brand is also brewing up something exciting set to hit the shelves very soon - they are expanding their premium beverage offerings. When Tariq discovered real tea in Marrakech all those years ago, he quite literally put it in a Tea Sachet and brought it back for everyone to experience. His dream of creating a better tea experience for all is being realised. And if you are looking for him in the afternoon, be sure to check the time because when he is home everybody knows, 4 pm is mama’s teatime.

“He tried the tea and said, I want this tea in my hotel, and that was the start of Tchaba going into the hotel industry.”




A TRIP to the lighthouse On a Thursday evening, I strolled into The Lighthouse Restaurant with a good friend to have dinner at their new Palm location. With the weather chilly but the staff incredibly warm, we sat outside at a table surrounded by greenery. The atmosphere inside this cosy joint feels like visiting your favourite relative, you know, the ones that make you feel at home in their home. Seated and ready to eat, a cheerful and attentive waiter named George Muchero started us off with some warm homemade bread and a creamy hummus dish, of which we could not get enough. The menu is divided into breakfast, lunch & dinner, vegan, and desserts. To start, we ordered a round of grilled calamari and a recommended vegan starter, then out comes this unexpected plate of layered deliciousness surrounded by edible flowers called the Potato Terrine. It was a delight; I have eaten many potato dishes in my life but had never tried anything quite like this before. We wiped our starters clean and got another basket full of homemade bread to try, each with a unique shape, colour, and taste. And just when life couldn’t get any better, out comes a fresh bowl of perfectly seasoned and cooked Penne Arrabiata garnished with parmesan and a Grilled Salmon Fillet with green beans and okra in a cherry tomato sauce. Before the lights went out, this homey



restaurant inside a Luxury Shopping Mall on the Palm offered to pack us some freshly baked goods on our way out, because when has your favourite relative ever let you leave without a parcel of goodies to take home. The Palm Jumeirah restaurant at Nakheel Mall seats 136 covers and offers indoor and outdoor terrace seating. It has a casual, family-friendly vibe with a terrace overlooking the park. And for the first time at The Lighthouse, you can enjoy a dedicated plant-based vegan menu with unusual dishes like a beet tartare, capsicum carpaccio, and Tarte Tatin with spiced caramel and vegan vanilla ice cream. All restaurants are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, whilst Yas Bay Waterfront also hosts a weekly Saturday brunch with a set menu of signature dishes served at the table, alongside a beverage package, and accompanied by a live DJ. Thank you to restaurant manager Kirvin Kamhungira and his team for the pleasant experience.













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