Mohamad Zeitoun, founder of Japanese-fusion concept Maki, talks earthquakes, iPads and expansion in an exclusive interview with Caterer Middle East
In 2002, Mohamad Zeitoun’s passion for good food drove him to launch the Maki brand – a Japanese fusion cuisine fine dining restaurant placed in a casual location – which unbeknown to him at the time, would take the Middle East by storm.
Since the launch of its first outlet in Kuwait, Maki has added a further three outlets to its Kuwait portfolio as well as expanding into Lebanon, and more recently Bahrain.
But the journey has been far from easy, Zeitoun, tells Caterer Middle East, particularly in Kuwait, one of the region’s lowest crop-producing countries and one that – according to a report by Blominvest – has seen food production fall by US$1.3 million in the last decade.
This naturally has seen Kuwait become a country heavily reliant on imports. But saying that, the F&B market has flourished.
“Many international food experts are unaware of the magnitude and the extent of advancement that the Kuwait F&B market has attained in recent years. Back in the 90s a couple of casual, yet fancy American chain restaurants opening in Kuwait made headline news.
Fast-forward to the year 2012, and you have got yourself a colossal array of local and international restaurants that range from American, to Persian, to Lebanese, to Chinese and Japanese restaurants, and so on and so forth,” says Zeitoun.
Competition quickly grew fierce, with restaurants becoming more sophisticated in their offerings to cater to the rapidly adapting palates of the Kuwaiti residents.
“You could expect to pay an average cheque that ranges from KD6.000 (US $21) to KD10.000 (US $35) at most casual and upper casual restaurants,” says Zeitoun, with $35 being the most customers would pay at outlets like this.
OVERVIEW: Five ‘need to know’ facts about Mohamad Zeitoun
Previous job: Prior to 2002 I worked in the advertising industry.
Best career move: Leaving my 9-5 corporate job to start Maki.
Most feared scenario: To be restricted on ingredients, or even have to close down because of force majeure.
Worst meal: There were a few of them, so I cannot name one...
One thing your team doesn’t know about you: That I am a kid at heart. It does not take a lot to make me smile, or make me happy.
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