JW Marriott Marquis Dubai's outlets uncovered
F&B and culinary directors reveal exclusive details of hotel's outlets
F&B director Anthony Tuttle and director of culinary Thomas Rebler say its taken a fusion of cultures to develop the world class offering at JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai
After much anticipation, the new JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Dubai has opened its doors to the public.
Being crowned the tallest hotel building in the world at 355 metres, just 26 metres short of the Empire State Building, and which will feature 1,608 rooms once the second tower opens, the Sheikh Zayed Road situated hotel comprises 14 F&B concepts.
It goes without saying the hotel has certainly set its sights high with the challenge of filling 2,500 seats for dinner each night.
“We don’t want easy, we want the best,” asserts Thomas Rebler, director of culinary, adding that a big challenge was finding the right staff for the six lounges and eight restaurants. Roots are crucial, says the Austrian native, and convincing people of the greatness of the outlets through their authenticity was the number one priority.
At a glance
A list of outlets at the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai
Aqua Lounge – Poolside diner
VIP Room – Live entertainment venue
Izakaya – Japanese restaurant
Kitchen 6 – all day dining room
Kork – Wine bar
La Farine – the French bakery
Levant - Middle Eastern restaurant
Positano – Italian restaurant
Prime 68 - boutique steakhouse
Rang Mahal – by Atul Kochhar
The Lounge – Lobby bar
The Vault – Cocktail bar
Tong Thai – Thai restaurant
Velocity – Sports & Entertainment bar
Keeping it real
“It is critically important to have someone who has grown up with the food. In a Chinese restaurant you have a Chinese chef – who understands not just the ingredients, but the culture.
It was very important for us to have the right talent in the right restaurants and to source the right products. We were very thorough, and this took time.”
In total 800 F&B staff work across the hotel. American-born F&B director, Anthony Tuttle says with the competition growing in Dubai, it was essential to have a wide number of diverse F&B outlets, but he says while the “hardware” is spot-on with most hotels, the food is often “hit and miss”. This is something he and Rebler focused on tackling with teams during pre-opening.
“With having so many rooms when we open the second tower, and that it is such a competitive market, it’s almost expected to have that number of outlets in such a large hotel. What we wanted to do is provide the whole package in our outlets and have spent a lot of time with the concepts trying to implement that.”
While Thai, Japanese and a steakhouse all feature on the extensive list of restaurants, none are yet setting tongues wagging as much as the Indian restaurant, Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar, which JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai partnered with renowned chef Atul Kochhar for. Rebler says Kochhar’s values proved “the perfect alignment” for JWMM and meant he was the obvious choice when it came to partnering with a celeb chef.
“As a chef, chefs want to be control of everything. As an operator we recognised it is critically important in Dubai to have on board extremely talented and recognised chefs. Atul Kochhar is a great example of this but again you could say Grosvenor House and Gary Rhodes. Atul Kochhar I dare to say stands for what we as a company stand for, crafted food, authentic food and he instills the same pride into his cooks that we do with our cooks. There are probably plenty of chefs that wouldn’t fit into our brand but they fit into other ones but we think it’s important to have professional apprentice, have the names on those outlets as well.”
It’s an ambitious move, believes Caterer, slightly concerned that the other 13 outlets may be overshadowed by the success, demand and footfall Rang Mahal by Atul Kochhar will potentially receive. On the contrary, believes Rebler – it means the other outlets are going to have to up their game.
The game plan
“The chefs in each of the restaurants have worked on a marketing plan for each outlet – we’ve tried to attract different people to the different outlets. There’s going to have to be some healthy competition between the restaurants because we can’t have them all leaning on the same customers.”
Tuttle agrees, adding that one of the most important considerations that was made when planning the outlets was to “create a story” for each – something allowing the guest to remember his/her experience.
An example he gives of this is for in-house guests that dine at Prime 68, the boutique steakhouse – which, again in the name of authenticity is headed by an American chef – who on retiring to their rooms for the night will receive a personally hand-written thank you card with a caricature of the team on one side.
“A “warm-fuzzy” is what we call it, because they think “wow, they walked all the way up to my room and slid it under the door, instead of just saying thank you as I walked out.” So we create these two or three things in every outlet to make those lasting memories,” Tuttle says.
While fine-dining in its truest sense of three – to – four hour meal sessions with silver and tablecloths has been excluded from the F&B concepts at the JWMM and there has been a big push towards more casual concepts, Tuttle says there is no reason you can’t have a bit of both.
“It’s all about how we deliver casual according to our guest expectations. You’ve got your casual – then you’ve got Prime 68 that is still casual in a way but it’s not pretentious where people feel out of place if they are in jeans. That’s the difference.”
Rebler agrees, adding that the casual sector is one that is very important to JWMM.
“I think casual is outweighing fine dining nine – to – one. I think the world is going for more casual, more approachable food, but that doesn’t mean it is pedestrian food – casual doesn’t mean average, or cheap or bad – there’s fun casual, luxury casual.
Pretty much you can show up to any restaurant in Dubai with jeans on, it could be designer jeans, how can you exclude that? There’s some jeans out there that cost more than a suit! I think we’ll live through a majority of those casual restaurants Velocity, La Farine – the casual bakery. Our banquets – we will have royal weddings – we have everything for that, but we also have the casual.
As a brand we are approachable luxury, we are not everything table cloth and everything silver.”
And while consumers opting for casual options has changed the way hotels offer food, so too has the rapidly emerging stand-alone restaurant market. Tuttle believes that this sector is now the biggest competition faced by hotel F&B outlets.
“Hotels that open now in Dubai have to look at it a little differently than they would have, even say three years ago, because you do have the Okkus and Zumas opening that are our competition.
That’s who we look at as our competition, we don’t look at other hotels as our competition because more and more of the Roberto’s of the world are out there and they are grabbing a certain amount of the market share – we have to look at the pricing strategy they use as they have a much more different pricing strategy than they do in a hotel,” says Tuttle.
Rebler says the way stand-alones are changing the market is phenomenal and believes hotels must converge to this trend to keep hold of their customers.
“I do think Dubai is the F&B hub of the Middle East. I had a meal last week and it could’ve been anywhere – New York, London – it could’ve been anywhere because it was so cosmopolitan.
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is a pole where F&B is really happening. We want to be a solution like DIFC where you have lots of different meal options.
We don’t want you to think of our outlets as hotel restaurants, they just happen to be in a hotel but we really have independent hats on when it comes to our restaurants.
Atul Kochhar’s restaurant is based in the hotel but it could just as easily be based in DIFC. There are many more freestanding restaurants now to compete against and I don’t think we look necessarily at every competitor being in a hotel – that’s just not how it works. Freestanding restaurants notch up the expectation in Dubai.”
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No second chances
But in order to grab that share of the competition, it is essential to get it right from the word go – there are no second chances, believes Rebler, particularly on Sheikh Zayed Road for a hotel that is not necessarily the most straightforward of places to get to.
“People will come to begin with because we are new. If you don’t get it right the first time, you are yesterday’s news,” he says.
One key factor he believes will see them through is the attitude of the outlet towards its people and its customers. While all restaurants in the UAE have great “hardware” he says, it’s the food, service and the “welcome” people get that will keep them coming back.
“One thing we have is the Marriott culture – the caring culture. We’ve done a fantastic job hiring and training. Our culture – that we take care of our associates and they take care of the guests – is something that we intend, and I think will, carry on.”
Tuttle adds that alongside that culture is the ability to keep it simple – and that comes back down to having the right talent in each of the right outlets to “pull through that authenticity”.
“Dubai is now full of restaurants; new outlets tend to over think it. They think you need to create something new and exciting whereas we are taking the approach – the Italian restaurant, let’s just make great Italian food – not an Italian Thai fusion.
Everybody thinks they have to have a celeb chef; it’s important to have one or two to get people in but really we want to just source great products, serve great food – this is going to speak for itself. Everyone really over thinks this industry too much.”
Overall, there is a feeling of confidence oozing through the walls of the new JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, with every single member of staff stopping to smile and going above and beyond what you’d normally expect to welcome you. But this is defining – says Tuttle, who by this time next year, wants JWMM to be the “talk of the town.”
“We want to compete for ‘best of’ in each category,” says Rebler. “Our ambition is no less than anybody else’s. We want to be the best in what we do – we want people to rave about the experience here. Nothing less than that will satisfy us. We think the pie in Dubai is big enough for everybody to be successful, we just want to be successful,” he concludes.
- 800 Staff on F&B team
- 72 Floors across the hotel
- 2500 Seats across F&B outlets