Caterer Power List 2014: 11 - 20
The rankings of the 2014 Caterer Middle East Power 50 revealed
11 Gary Rhodes
Chef and restaurateur
Michelin-starred chef, restaurateur, and author Gary Rhodes has enjoyed a 30-year career as an ambassador for British cuisine. Having entered the Middle East market with Rhodes Mezzanine in 2007, and now based out of Dubai, Rhodes is heavily involved in the UAE’s F&B industry.
In September this year, Rhodes opened his new restaurant, Rhodes W1 (previously Rhodes Mezzanine), at the Grosvenor House in Dubai Marina — his third F&B concept in the Middle East, adding to Rhodes Twenty10 at Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa Dubai, and Rhodes in Residence at Grosvenor House, Dubai.
Apart from his restaurants, Rhodes is also keen to pass on his knowledge to the next generation of chefs. He has recently signed up to support the International Centre for Culinary Arts’ scholarship programme, and will teach a few courses at the school.
He also champions better food standards in school meals, and educates students, parents and teachers about eating healthy in schools. To this end, he now works with Dubai-based company Mastercook to provide school meals at Foremark School, using ingredients mainly sourced from local farmers’ markets and the school’s organic gardens.
Rhodes reveals he has a number of cafés in the pipeline, but did not provide more details. He is also working on maintaining consistency at his existing outlets in the UAE, and hopes to train future Michelin-star chefs in his kitchen, saying: “I am proud that the chefs who have cooked under me over the years have also gone on to win Michelin stars in the UK; this is what I want to continue to achieve with the chefs in Dubai, many have already been with me for seven to eight years.”
Restaurants under remit: 3
Number of years in the F&B industry: 35
Number of years in the Middle East: 8
12 Michael Kitts
Director of culinary arts, The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management
Michael Kitts joined the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management (EAHM) in 2001, working his way up the ranks to his current role as director of culinary arts.
Having enjoyed a varied career in sectors such as hotels, banking, restaurants, and teaching, Kitts says he has come to realise that “teamwork is paramount in the development of a successful business and particularly in the career of a good chef”.
Having studied at Thanet Technical College, Kitts believes in the importance of developing basic skills for those seeking a career in the F&B industry. He explains: “I have a forward thinking approach to food, but I am a staunch believer in good fundamental basic skills being in place. It is my belief that once these have been achieved, the rest is down to experience.”
After graduating from Thanet, Kitts began his career at Claridge’s Hotel, and has worked in some of the UK’s leading establishments, including Les Ambassadeurs Club, The Swallow Royal Hotel Bristol, Hotel InterContinental London, and The Ritz Casino.
He has won several awards, including the Prince Philip Special Award in 1996 at the Buckingham Palace, and was runner up for National Chef of the Year in 2000. Kitts has also won more than 60 gold medals — including the time he was part of the gold medal-winning team at the Great Britain Culinary Olympics in 1987, and was the first recipient of the UK Craft Guild of Chefs Competition Chef Award in 1994.
Having watched more than 65 students graduate from EAHM this year, Kitts shows no signs of slowing down. He enthuses: “After many years of experience and my involvement in competition and the training and development of young chefs to-date, I still have plenty of drive and enthusiasm to complement any future ventures that I become involved with.”
Number of years in the F&B industry: 35
Number of years in the Middle East: 14
13 Farah George Farah
General manager — food & beverage, Al Khayyat Investments (AKI)
Looking over a whopping 63 F&B outlets in the region, Farah George Farah has secured franchise rights for brands including BurgerFuel, Lavazza, Guylian Belgian Chocolate Café, Il Caffe di Roma, PingPong DimSum and Fournil de Pierre in the Middle East. These are located across the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Libya.
In the last year, Farah doubled the revenue and successfully launched Fortnum & Mason in Dubai, the only standalone store outside of London. Farah says: “This has secured a substantial profit centre within the group and generates sustainable cash to grow as a standalone division.”
On the horizon are three more concepts: Guylian Belgian Chocolate to open in January 2015, La Pizza Cresci, and an as yet unnamed UK-based restaurant franchise concept. He hopes to successfully launch all three in the next year.
He has also conceived two company-owned and home-grown brands, Nar and Juice Central.
concepts under remit: 7
Size of team: 621
Number of years in the F&B Industry: 20
Number of years in the Middle East: 20
14 Walid Hajj
Chief executive officer, Cravia Inc
Cravia has grown, with American burger brand Five Guys Burgers and Fries, joining its existing franchises Zaatar w Zeit, Cinnabon, Seattle’s Best Coffee, and Carvel, along with home-grown brand The Steak Bar, which now has two outlets.
In 2014, Cravia acquired the franchise rights for the burger brand for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Hajj says: “The choice of Cravia by Five Guys to assign its franchise rights for Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is the biggest example of how strong our reputation has become over years of hard work.”
Cravia’s success has made a case study at Harvard University this year. The University worked with Cravia for over three months and created a 25-page study about Cravia’s achievements which will be taught in classes. He adds: “Our key focus for 2015 will be Saudi Arabia and the expansion of Five Guys and ZwZ there.”
Number of brands under remit: 6
Size of team: 1223
Number of years in the Middle East: 20
Number of years in the F&B industry: 20
Nationality: Saudi Arabian
15 Angus Woodhead
General manager, TDIC Food & Beverage
Angus Woodhead looks after six concepts TDIC Food & Beverage directly owns and manages: Koi Restaurant & Lounge, Boa Steakhouse, Fanr, Saadiyat Beach Club, Safina @ SBC, and De La Costa @ SBC.
The company also has three additional concepts as investments it helped bring to Abu Dhabi: Flooka, Caramel Restaurant & Lounge and People by Crystal Abu Dhabi. Woodhead is currently looking to expand Koi, Boa and Fanr.
Woodhead has overseen the opening of two retail destinations — Eastern Mangroves Promenade, which has 11 restaurants and boutiques, and The Collection, with 27 eateries and high-end retail outlets.
Under his guidance, the former Monte Carlo Beach Club has been re-branded and re-launched as Saadiyat Beach Club.
Looking to the future, Woodhead will be heading up F&B at the Louvre Abu Dhabi project, which is set to open in 2015.
Restaurants under remit: 6
Size of team: 285
Number of years in the F&B industry: 20
Number of years in the Middle East: 4
16 Sami Daud
Executive chairman, Gourmet Gulf
Omani national Sami Daud is at the helm of one of the major F&B operators in the Middle East, with Gourmet Gulf currently holding the exclusive development and franchise rights to brands including California Pizza Kitchen, Morelli’s Gelato, YO! Sushi and Hummingbird Bakery.
This year, the firm has stepped up its Middle East expansion pace with four new F&B brands: two franchises from the US, Texas De Brazil, a fine dining Brazilian steakhouse featuring southern Brazilian cuisine; and Panda Express, the fast casual Asian restaurant chain. In addition, Gourmet Gulf signed Dalloyau, a high-end Parisian café concept dating back to 1682. The fourth franchise is Azkadenya, a restaurant founded and grown in Jordan.
This is part of Daud’s strategy to see more than 100 outlets in operation by 2020. The company is also focusing on the UAE and KSA expansion, and is targeting a further 18 outlets in 2015.
Size of team: 1000+ Brands under remit: 8 Number of years in the F&B industry: 8 Nationality: Omani
17 Mark Napier
Exhibition director, Gulfood and Gulfood Manufacturing, Dubai World Trade Centre
As show director for Gulfood — the world’s largest annual food and hospitality show — Mark Napier oversees a team of 22, and has been instrumental in the show’s growth.
DWTC will host the 20th edition of the annual event in 2015. This year, the event was sold out and had a huge waiting list despite additional event space added. More than 4500 exhibitors were present.
In 2014, we saw the introduction of Gulfood Manufacturing, which brought together regional food manufacturing, processing and packaging players with international machinery and equipment providers.
Napier clearly sees potential for the event and is already planning bigger things next year: “Having launched the show, we will not be resting on our laurels. We believe the show has a role to play in realising Dubai’s Islamic economy vision and driving inward investment in the Emirate — we look forward to growing the event year-on-year.”
Size of team: 22
Number of years in the Middle East: 7
18 Jihad El Eit
Founder & CEO, Man’oushe Street
Home-grown concepts that have made it beyond the Middle East include Man’oushe Street. Established five years ago, the brand already has 15 locations in this region in the UAE, Egypt, Qatar and Kuwait.
In the last year, El Eit has led the brand towards significant success and popularity. He invested AED 6 million (US $1.63 million) towards the expansion and improvement of its central kitchen facilities, signed its first batch of master franchise agreements that will see the opening of 90 new branches across five markets — covering Europe, Egypt and UAE, and rebranded the concept in line with international standards.
Man’oushe Street’s kitchen facilities are HACCP-certified and are now in the process of getting an ISO 22000 certification. Moreover, it has opened a 24/7 call centre and installed a fully efficient ERP program to assist the company’s 100-strong workforce.
He says: “We see Man’oushe Street on every street corner of the world.”
Restaurants in the Middle East: 15
Size of team: 280
Number of years in the F&B Industry: 5
Number of years in the Middle East: 13
19 Mohamad Bitar
Founding partner and managing director, Just Falafel
Founding partner and managing director of Just Falafel, Mohamad Bitar, took over the brand’s day-to-day operations in August 2014 when its inaugural CEO Fadi Malas left to pursue new opportunities in the SME sector. In his expanded role, Bitar is maintaining the company’s service standards and fulfilling current growth objectives.
Not a week goes by where we do not hear of expansion plans and deals being signed for the brand across the globe. In the last year, it opened restaurants in Kuwait, Egypt the UK, India, Australia, Canada, and the US, and planned
for expansion across the world. Just Falafel is also looking at overhauling its menu.
Over the last 15 years, Bitar has led marketing and business development teams of several large companies in Beirut, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and has been accountable for implementing the strategy across the MENA and GCC regions.
Number of years with the company: 7
Restaurants under remit: 48
20 Joy Ghossoub
Head of business development, Jas Hospitality
Joy Ghoussoub is working on some of the most talked about concepts in the UAE right now — think Qbara and Fümé.
The former is contemporary Arabic fusion, while the latter is a casual dining neighbourhood eatery. Both of these concepts opened within the last year, and have caught the industry’s eye — including Gordon Ramsay, who tweeted about Qbara’s “fantastic food” early this year.
Jas Hospitality is working on many new concepts, one of which is said to be in the space right next to Qbara at Wafi. Time will tell.
The group has previously expressed interest in expanding its portfolio, and is keen to encourage the expansion of home-grown concepts internationally.
Ghossoub holds a BA in marketing from the Lebanese American University and a certificate in real estate from the University of Toronto. He was nominated as one of the future top 30 most influential Arabs in the world by sister title Arabian Business.
Size of team: 200 Restaurants under remit: 2 Number of years in the F&B industry: 8 Number of years in the Middle East: 10 Nationality: Lebanese