Caterer Power List 2014: 36-50
Find out who else made this year's Caterer Middle East Power 50 list
36 Ara Nakhnikian
CEO, Chi Hospitality
Since opening the first boutique concept — St Tropez Bistro — in 2000, Chi Hospitality now owns and operates a stable of home-grown restaurant brands, including SoHo Grill, Zucca, Café di Casa, and The Club. The company opened new outlets for SoHo Grill in the DIFC area and SoHo Grill Jumeirah in Wasl Vita.
“The response to the brand across Dubai has been phenomenal, and the growth is a reflection of that. What we’re most passionate about is originality. Dubai has moved on from being a ‘me too’ city, and we’re seeing increased demand and competition in boutique, original concepts,” Nakhnikian says.
Looking forward, he adds: “2015 is about steady growth for the group. The end of Q3 and Q4 of 2014 has been an accelerated growth period for our SoHo Grill concept to meet demand. I see that continuing for Chi in 2015.”
Restaurants under remit: 9
Number of years in the Middle East: 18+
Number of years in the F&B industry: 18+
Size of team: 130
37 Timothy Hocks
General manager, Taqado Mexican Kitchen
Quirky and social seem to be the buzzwords for Timothy Hocks, the general manager of Taqado Mexican Kitchen. Now around for a few years, the brand has blossomed in the last year, with six outlets in operation.
Hocks has impressive plans for the concept, with five more outlets planned — along with a food truck, identifying the niche in the market where he’d like to make his mark.
The brand opened its first outlet in the Mall of the Emirates at the food court, but soon expanded to open its standalone restaurant branches.
Hocks says: “We’ve created some awesome Mexican food, had a good laugh, and pushed the foundations of the next five years of F&B in Dubai.” He is also proud of having contributed to the small, independent home-grown F&B community in the region.
While Hocks remains tight-lipped about the plans for the next 12 months, we can report he is working hard on the drawing board to do things differently.
Restaurants under remit: 6
Size of team: 65
Number of years with the company: 3
Number of years in the Middle East: 6
38 Wouter Lap
Director, More/Intelligent Foods Inc; managing partner More Café and Intelligent Foods LLC
Wouter Lap began his career as a chef in a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Netherlands, before switching to five-star hotels, and was an executive chef by 27. After working at various hotels in Belgium, Australia, Africa, and Dubai, Lap started his own company, Intelligent Foods, with his wife Marijke in 2000.
Intelligent Foods currently supplies a range of products to five-star hotels in the UAE, as well as airlines and restaurants.
In 2002, Lap opened the first More Café, and franchised the concept in 2008. Currently, there are four More Cafés in the UAE, and two in Muscat, and an outlet in Cairo due to open in early 2015.
The Little More concept, introduced in 2012, currently has three stores under franchise in the UAE, and will roll out in the GCC in 2015.
Lap says: “Anyone can bring a franchise from overseas, but to build up new concepts from scratch is far more rewarding.”
Size of team: 120
Restaurants under remit: 9
Number of years in the F&B industry: 30
Number of years in the Middle East: 20
39 Julide Ozbilge Nuss
Manager F&B asset management, Abu Dhabi National Hotels
Julide Ozbilge Nuss is responsible for the restaurant division at ADNH. She is involved in restaurant franchising and operations for free-standing restaurants and bringing world-renowned chefs and concepts to the region.
Currently working on the Venetian Village project at The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Inakaya robata grill and sushi opened its doors two months ago.
Three additional concepts are in the works: Brasserie Flo which will open this month, Todd English’s Olives, scheduled for Q2 2015, and Barfly in Q3 2015.
Nuss set up the restaurant division from scratch and brought international brands and celebrity chef concepts to the Venetian Village. Her aim is to establish the venue as “the dining destination in Abu Dhabi”, with all other restaurant openings scheduled to be completed before October 2015. Nuss adds that the division plans to grow its restaurant portfolio of international brands and celebrity chefs further in the region.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 18
Number of years in the Middle East: 7
Number of years with ADNH: 2
Size of team: 150
40 Mohamad Oliver Zeitoun
Founder and managing partner, Maki Restaurant Group
Mohamad Oliver Zeitoun is a restaurateur who runs six restaurants in the Middle East. These include: Maki (Japanese fusion), Oliversan (contemporary Asian), and Zeebrgr (high-end gourmet burger). Maki is located in Bahrain, while the remainder are in Kuwait.
In the last year, Zeitoun’s efforts have helped cut food costs by 8%, with net profit increasing by 40% from 2013 to 2014. He has made efforts to increase exposure of his brands and collaborated with TV channels to appear on their culinary segments.
Maki Restaurant Group was also the first out-of-hotel establishment to host dinners for the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs in two countries.
Zeitoun plans to take Maki international, establishing restaurants in Europe with two outlets currently on the cards. He is also working on the brand branching out across the Middle East. Eventually, he wants to have a presence in North America.
Restaurants under remit: 6
Size of team: 180
Number of years in the F&B Industry: 12
Number of years in the Middle East: 24
41 Ahmed Khalid Al Bader
Founder, Epicure Group
On the Power List last year as well, Ahmed Khalid Al Bader was just riding high on the opening of Pintxos and Pickles and is now working on the launch of more branches of these outlets.
Other brands under his command include Prime and Toast, Pizzetta, and Butcher’s Den. Additionally, Epicure runs retail offerings Waistline Home and Wasabi Go and Al Bader is focusing on franchising the in-house concepts. His wanted to offer upscale dining concepts that he felt Kuwait lacked, and launched the Epicure Group in 2009, which is the culinary division of The Sultan Group in Kuwait. He attended Suffolk University with a degree in BSc Finance.
He said to Caterer in a previous interview: “My strength in Epicure is to innovate with fresh new ideas. My objective is to strive to offer exceptional cuisine in a memorable atmosphere while delivering exquisite dining value and creating a sensation of tastes and textures that are amalgamated with the modern day.”
Size of team: 1000
Number of years in the F&B industry: 14
Number of years in the Middle East: 37
42 Jad Lahoud
Pragma Group board member — lifestyle director
Jad Lahoud joined the Pragma Group in 2007. The company’s lifestyle business has witnessed exponential growth in the last few years and the business has grown revenues from US $21 million in 2009 to $52 million in 2013 and is projected to grow to $193mn in 2016.
It is now exploring different markets such as Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, China, Dubai, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and USA for new venues for the group’s landmark Cavalli brands. The company is also anticipating the launch of a new luxury hotel.
Pragma aims to open 12 Cavalli Caffé's in the region over the next couple of years. Lahoud says: “Building on the success of the Cavalli Club in Dubai, we are planning to announce the opening of new clubs in tourist destinations across the world. Our immediate plan is to announce a club in Moscow, followed by openings in Morocco and São Paulo.”
Size of team: 400
Number of years in the F&B industry: 13
Number of years in the Middle East: 13
43 Aline Kamakian
Owner and CEO, Mayrig Boulevard Restaurant LLC
Aline Kamakian is the CEO and owner of the Mayrig restaurants, open across Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
In May 2003, Mayrig Beirut was opened, followed by The Kitchen, M Catering, Mayrig Jeddah, Batchig by Mayrig, and Mayrig Boulevard Restaurant, Dubai.
Mayrig has not only held up the challenge of being the first Armenian restaurant in Lebanon, but also took it to Jeddah in 2011 and Dubai in 2013. The name of the restaurant translates to ‘little mother’ in Armenian and is a tribute to their grandmother, Manouchag.
The Dubai restaurant experienced tremendous growth and posted solid gains with impress growth in January 2014 for revenue compared to the first month of operation. The increase in profitability was mainly due to the opening of the terrace area, the restaurant service and high quality of food served. The financial projections show a high return on investment in the coming few years.
Kamakian was highly commended in this year’s Caterer Middle East Awards for Restaurateur of the Year.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 10
Restaurants under remit: 3
Nationality: Lebanese Armenian
44 Tahir Shah
Founder and managing director, Moti Roti
Tahir Shah has risen quickly in a very short period of time. After setting up Moti Roti in 2012, he now runs three pop-up shops of the brand, and was even shortlisted in the inaugural Caterer Middle East Restaurateur of the Year Award, when judges this year tipped him to be the “next Just Falafel”.
And it looks like Shah is on his way to doing just that. Just last month, he signed up with an investor and is now working on launching Moti Roti’s flagship store. The outlet will feature a larger menu in bid to promote gourmet fast food culture.
In addition, Shah uses social media and his networking clout — during Ramadan this year, Shah paired up with a few restaurateurs and launched the ‘Filling the Blues’ campaign. Under this initiative, they arranged for quality food for labourers to break their fast with. They were overwhelmed by the support of donors and media, and managed a whole month of free food for Dubai’s hard-working men in blue.
pop-ups under remit: 3 Size of team: 5 Number of years in the F&B Industry: 2.5 Number of years in the Middle East: 8 Nationality: British
45 Dirk Haltenhof
Executive chef, The Oberoi Dubai
The Oberoi Dubai has been open for just over a year now, and in that time Dirk Haltenhof has made a name for himself in the UAE. Working on seven outlets in the hotel, Haltenhof is proud of the fact that there has been only a 5% turnover in the team, compared to the 35% average in the emirate. One of the ways in which he keeps his team motivated is by creating a newsletter that shares information about members of his team, and their tips and tricks.
Haltenhof is also working on the opening of The Oberoi in Ajman and Marrakech in the next year, with Doha on the cards within the next 18 months and Abu Dhabi the year after.
In the last few months, Haltenhof has been responsible for spearheading the hotel’s ‘sustainability logo’ concept, which will officially launch in January 2015. Under this programme, the hotel’s F&B can confirm all goods have been sustainably sourced.
Restaurants under remit: 7
Size of team: 190
Number of years in the F&B industry: 15
Number of years in the Middle East: 2
46 Henk Bruggeman
Vice president business development and managing director, the noodle house
Henk Bruggeman moved from being director operations Middle East and China of Hakkasan to Jumeirah Group’s home-grown The Noodle House this year, working on the refreshment of the brand and leading its global growth strategy.
Bruggeman will also be working on supporting the opening of a number of new restaurants in 2015, with Jumeirah’s restaurants and bars business. He is responsible for the development of the restaurants run in partnership between Jumeirah Group and Caprice Holdings — The Ivy at Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Rivington Grill Souk Al Bahar and Rivington Bar and Grill at Souk Madinat Jumeirah.
Bruggeman says: “We have approximately 10 restaurant concepts in the pipeline for 2015. Some are existing concepts ready for expansion; some are entirely new... it is an exciting time for us.”
Restaurants under remit: 20
Size of team: 400
Number of years in the F&B industry: 25
Number of years in the Middle East: 15
47 Roaya Saleh
Owner and managing director, Villa Mamas
Roaya Saleh launched her flagship restaurant Villa Mamas in 2011 in Bahrain, and after three years, is ready to take the plunge into expansion. In addition to Villa Mamas in Bahrain, she has three concepts on the cards: Mama Gourmet Bahrain, Villa Mamas Dubai, and Mama Gourmet Dubai. She wants to expand beyond the GCC, ideally to London, New York and Istanbul.
Another achievement in the last year include her launching the first cooking show on The Food Channel about Khaleeji and Bahraini cuisine.
Saleh is also very particular about her ingredients, and grows some of them herself. She alters her menu according to the season, and says “if it’s not fresh, I’m not going to serve it to you”. For quality ingredients that are not available in the region, she often travels to Turkey, Cyprus and Athens to get them. As a socially responsible entity, she uses eco-friendly take-away containers and recycled goods.
Restaurants under remit: 1
Size of team: 40
Number of years in the F&B Industry: 3
Number of years in the Middle East: 24
48 Francisco Hector Araya
School director and head chef instructor, School of Culinary and Finishing Arts
Francisco Araya has been going strong at the School of Culinary and Finishing Arts Dubai, where, over the last year, the school has opened its second branch in Jumeirah, partnering with Carrefour to develop its training facilities. It features a retail cooking studio, with classes lasting between 45-90 minutes.
The instructors rotate between the JLT outlet and Al Wasl. Araya reveals that the brand plans to expand locally and internationally over the next year — a move we are looking forward to with interest, as training and education is always a key concern in the region.
Also in the last year, Araya teamed up with Sofitel to launch an apprentice programme, which allows SCAFA students to get on-the-job training at the brand’s properties. He believe that the skills developed will open the doors for better career options.
Concepts under remit: 3
Size of team: 15
Number of years in the F&B Industry: 25
Number of years in the Middle East: 2.5
49 Yasser Jad
President, Saudi Arabian Chef Association and catering director, Saudi Arabian Airlines
Yasser Jad has had a long career with the in-flight catering unit of King Abdul Aziz International Airport, and is the catering director for Saudi Arabian Airlines. He is president of the Saudi Arabian Chefs Association, which he launched in 2009.
This year, Jad started hosting two salon culinary competitions for SARCA instead of the customary one. He told Caterer Middle East: “We have quite a good membership in Saudi Arabia now. Every year we get an educational partner. We want to push young Saudis and encourage them, because we cannot leave them to do this without support.”
The rest of the year, Jad is involved in training sessions where chefs part of SARCA meet monthly. At these meetings, workshops are held. He adds: “Training young chefs is my objective. Professional chefs have to be trained to get high scores and avoid making mistakes.”
Number of years in the F&B industry: 26
Nationality: Saudi Arabian
Number of people in the chefs association: 200
50 Kieran Mallon
Chief operating officer food and beverage, Foodmark (part of Landmark Hospitality)
Kieran Mallon is the COO food and beverage at Landmark Hospitality’s food business Foodmark, and has been expanding its portfolio throughout the GCC. Key brands such as Carluccio’s, Max Chicken and Zafran are being expanded in the UAE and other geographies.
Mallon has been involved in over 50 restaurant openings in the Middle East and over 250 restaurants in his career. Having graduated with a doctorate in organic chemical synthesis from Manchester University, he started his career with Unilever in a variety of marketing roles in their food service division.
He has worked in the region for more than seven years and is credited with the formation of MH Alshaya’s food business as VP casual dining, where he was instrumental in signing and launching a variety of successful restaurants such as PF Changs, Texas Roadhouse, Potbelly, Pinkberry and Shakeshack.
Number of years in the Middle East: 7
Number of years in the F&B industry: 23