The management team at Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa Dubai has invested extra resources into its F&B offerings in an attempt to boost revenue.
The resort started offering spa and activity packages one year ago, and then opened its restaurant to walk-in diners at the end of 2011.
Complex general manager, Patrick Antaki, commented: “F&B has given us a big challenge,” he said. “It was good, but it was not top-end, it needed to be better.
“Now we have consolidated the team, upped the service, given more training and improved quality of the food.”
Antaki said that Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa relies on 30% of its revenue from repeat custom, and that it is a growing area to tap into.
He also commented he would not invest in a “designer chef like Gary Rhodes”, but instead strengthened infrastructure by bringing in a new executive chef.
David Miras, executive chef and F&B manager, has overhauled staff training, and spearheaded menu changes.
“When I arrived it used to be buffet for lunch,” he revealed. “We changed that quickly – it’s been a year now on a la carte and the response has been great. We are now listed at the number one Dubai restaurant on TripAdvisor.
Miras now spends one hour a day in staff training, with an emphasis on going back to basics.
“When I started, the team were talented, but they were told to do everything," he said.
"The menus were on the wall, and pictures of the dishes, so I tore everything down and I thought, now you are going to have to use your heads.
“We pay chefs, not to follow a recipe because in my opinion, if you’re just going to follow a recipe by the letter, you might as well rent a monkey.
“They have to use their own sense of taste, or their own experience”
Miras is also offering elocution training: “How to stand, walk, and pronounce certain dishes,” Antaki said.
At the end of 2010 Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide took over management of Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa from Emirates Hotels and Resorts.
The resort sits within the 225-square kilometre Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR), one of the largest formally protected conservation reserves in the Gulf.