London-based restaurateur Alan Yau’s Thai concept, Busaba Eathai, is opening its first international restaurant in Dubai, UAE this month, with Ikram Group, the foodservices arm of Al Mana Group, as the local partner.
Busaba Eathai CEO Jason Myers, who is well-known in this region as former managing director of Jumeirah Restaurants, moved to London in July 2014, and said the business was looking at the Middle East even before he took on the role at the company.
After spotting genuine interest in the market, Busaba Eathai chose to work with Ikram Group. Myers said: “We like our partner a lot. It wasn’t just about a normal franchise arrangement, it was much more about a partnership and working with them. Wissam [Al Mana] who heads the business has got great local connections. He’s good to work with, and we like what they’re trying to achieve with the company in the region.”
Myers added that the two firms had “shared values” and ultimately felt the partnership was a good fit.
He continued: “We like their ambition. They really add the right recipe to make this work. Working through this process with them over the last year has been a really positive thing.”
The restaurant is opening at The Beach, JBR this month and Myers said: “It’s one of Dubai’s most fantastic exciting developments. It’s the only beachfront development where you can walk along the front and enjoy F&B. It’s been hugely successful, it’s high profile and we’re very excited about it.”
At 5000 square feet, Myers explained the venue has been designed to be busy. “The market will like it and we know that within Dubai, particularly, and the region, there is a following for good, fast-casual Asian dining concepts and we certainly look to take advantage of that.”
While the overall brand feel in Busaba Dubai will mirror the original venues in London, Myers revealed the companies have adapted the business to suit the local market and the environment. This includes minor tweaks with seating arrangements, some menu items, and products used. Myers added: “It’s been a lot of planning done into not just saying: ‘this is a London brand’. We’ve come out the other way saying that we love Dubai, we love the Middle East, we respect the cultural differences. Now how can we best fit Busaba to the region, rather than the region having to take it as-is.”
Busaba Eathai has signed a 10-site agreement in the UAE with Al Mana Group, with these to be rolled out over the next three years. “We’re predominantly looking at the UAE right now, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t go into the GCC or even MENA — we’re definitely open to growing and developing if it’s as well received as we think it’s going to be.” Asserting the brand is in the Middle East for the long-term, Myers said some of its full-time team has been working on the Dubai flagship venue.
He also revealed the brand is looking at India, Istanbul and China. However, he pointed out that a “massive global roll-out” was not on the cards. He said: “Our focus is our restaurants in the UK and supporting our partners to expand.”