LIVE from Caterer ME's Bar & Nightlife Forum 2013

All the latest news and updates from today's event in Dubai

Offering unique experiences to customers was considered extremely important at last year's event.
Offering unique experiences to customers was considered extremely important at last year's event.

Today (October 7, 2013) bar and nightlife professionals from across the Middle East’s hottest nightspots are gathering in Dubai to attend the second annual Caterer Middle East’s Bar & Nightlife Forum.

Hosted at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City, more than 120 bar, operations and outlet managers came together to discuss the opportunities for growth and debate key challenges facing the bar & nightlife industry.

For anyone who isn't able to make today's event, the Caterer Middle East and Hotelier Middle East teams will be keeping you updated on all the interesting news and views as they surface throughout the day in our LIVE blog below, so make sure to stay logged on.

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To find out more about the Caterer Middle East’s Bar & Nightlife Forum make sure to check out our event preview detailing exactly what you can expect to see and hear about today.

To keep in touch during the event you can message us on twitter at @CatererME and use the hashtag #CMEBars13 to join the conversation.

10.30: The day's delegates, sponsors and exhibitors have all arrived at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City Hotel for this year's Caterer Middle East Bar & Nightlife Forum. After taking the opportunity to grab a quick coffee and a chat with their fellow industry experts, the forum attendees will be taking their seats to be welcomed by Caterer Middle East editor Devina Divecha.

10.50: Our first panel discussion is underway with Luke James, director of operations at Media One Hotel leading the discussion on 'Surviving the Evolution of the UAE Nightlife Scene'. Joining Luke on stage will be Nikolas Pazvadis, general manager of the VIP Room and Hayan Abou Assali, operations manager of Whitelabel who will be discussing the competitive nature of the UAE nightlife scene and what it takes for bar and nightclub operators to achieve longevity.

Hayan Assali from Cavalli Club Dubai starts off the debate by asserting that venues in the Middle East "are surviving with consistency of service, quality and entertainment." 

Our moderator Luke James then goes onto assert that "there's too much of the same in Dubai's nightlife scene." Putting the point to the crowd he is met by a chorus of agreement. 

Nikolas Pazvadis, general manager of the VIP Room says that "charging for entry is horrific," with Hayan Assali saying that Cavalli Club's door policy is a useful way of controlling entry into the venue. However, Luke James says that his venues have been known to turn people away who are too "over-dressed."

Luke James, speaking about the future of the region's nightlife venues, believes that the industry will be 'going casual in the next five years.'  

Speaking about the Media One's Level 9, James went on to say that the venue welcomed 16,000 guests over a nine week period, which he attributed to the fact that the market is 'sick' of the same products, that are "raw and fashionable."

11.30: After a quick five minute break, it's time for the day's second panel session which will be entitled 'Building a High Performance Workforce'.

The session is moderated by Naim Maddad, chief executive Officer, Gates Hospitality, who will be joined on stage by 
Angus McGregor, beverage manager, Hakkasan Dubai; Jean Marc Petrus, general manager of The Act Dubai; Dinesh Tewari, outlets manager, Sheraton Mall of the Emirates; and Richard Haddon, operations manager, Cave, Conrad Dubai; 

The panel will be getting its teeth into the idea of venues that seem to mushroom overnight, which ones will have more staying power than others and how do you get that X factor that makes an outlet successful?

Richard haddad from The Conrad Dubai kicks off the debate outlining the hotel's strategy to spend more on more expierienced staff, as most hotels 'hire 10 people on low wages to do one person's job.' The hotel has also flown in bartenders and 'people you would never normally see working in a Dubai hotel' from Europe. 

'You can spend a lot of money on training', says Petrus, general manager of The Act Dubai, 'but you can't replace personality.'

Haddad agrees, and admits that there are people in the industry who 'go far' because they take it so seriously, but they don't have the 'right personality' to get to the top. 

Our moderator Naim declares that Dubai has become too used to having a 'subservient' service culture.

'Human beings are sheep' agrees Jean Marc, and they like to be engeged and led, with the future of service to become more personal, on 'first name terms', with staff making decisions for their guests. 

Angus at Hakkasan Dubai believes that independent venues can 'get rid' of the HR department system and deal with staff at a one on one basis. This has caused staff turnover at the restaurant to fall as staff enjoy the enviroment that they work in. 

Haddad at The Conrad joins in and asserts that since pre-opening the hotel has lost one person out of a staff of 130. However, he predicts that he will eventually lose staff to independent venues who typically spend more on staff than hotels.

Naim goes on to ask when will hotels make the move to match indpendent payscales, and realise 'that you don't need 50 cheap staff but 10 that know their job well.'

That questions brings the panel to a close, with the crowd taking the chance to take a quick break in the foyer to newtwork and share some industry gossip.


The Rosewood Abu Dhabi has taken advantage of everyone's attention being on bars & nightlife to announce the opening of the open-air 'Glo Lounge', which will take advantage of  the hotel's location to offer up to 300 guests views of the city's waterfront. The venue gets it's name from the installation of four 'Globrellas' lighting structures that patrons can admire while leaning on the 42m bar.


12.30 After the morning break it's time for our last session of the day, titled 'Crafting Unique Customer Experiences'.

Moderated by our very own Caterer Middle East editor Devina Divecha, she is joined on stage by Ghazi Azzabi, general manager of Fine Dining Ltd (Ruth Chris’ Steak House); Sacha Daniel, operations manager of Solutions Leisure; and Motorga Heathcliff from 360, JBH; They will be tackling the topic of customer experience as the defining factor of a bar or nightclub. How important is it to offer quality services, products and entertainment in order to attract and retain clientele?

Ghazi Azzabi gets the party started by stating how Ruth's Chris have increased sales at their bar by 40% by introducing a more casual offering and atmosphere.

Sacha Daniel at Solutions Leisure agrees and argues that Dubai is 'too top end' and has todo more to introduce 'middle markets.'

Moving onto drinks, Motorga at 360 describes his venue's cocktail menu as an 'expierience', with using smoke and other showman-like tricks are very popular because 'people like to see a little flame'. However, he also warns other venues that in order to have bar tenders who can create these drinks, 'you have to pay them a little more.'

Dress code and security was the next topic, with each panel member able to recount examples of when big spenders at their venues have come up against security for dress code violations.

"Once we had someone come in and spend 550,000 AED on dinner," told Ghazi at Ruth's Chris, "and he came back the next night wearing flip flops and the doorman didn't let him in. So it just goes to show that door policy can be very critical, and you have to keep an eye on that so it doesn’t affect your clientele."

13.30: And as the final session draws to a close, there is just time for Caterer Middle East editor Devina Divecha to thank the day's delegates and panelists for attending, before the crowd retires for lunch and to share more stories of bar & nightlife adventures in Dubai.

Make sure to tune in tomorrow for Caterer Middle East's Chef and Ingredients Forum where some of the region's best culinary craftsmen will be back at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City to find out what's cooking in Middle East F&B.

For all the latest hospitality news from UAE, Gulf countries and around the world, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page.

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