Head to Head: Shawafel

The outlet manager and executive oriental head chef talk about the new venue

Khaled El Dada, outlet manager
Khaled El Dada, outlet manager
Ali El Bourji, executive oriental head chef
Ali El Bourji, executive oriental head chef

Shawafel at Atlantis, The Palm, combines Middle Eastern staples - shawarma and falafel - to create an Arabic street food experience in a casual setup

What is unique about Shawafel?

Khaled El Dada, outlet manager, says its upbeat and fast paced surroundings. It has an unwavering focus on the quality of food, and ensures that the prices are affordable. Also, we have a fantastic location — close to a waterpark and a bustling retail avenue — in a five-star hotel.

Ali El Bourji, executive oriental head chef, says the quality of food is unparalleled to anything currently available in the market. We use superior quality of meat, and have a secret technique for its marination. Also, our high quality saj bread is made fresh every day.

How do front-of-house and back-of-house support each other?

El Dada: "Having a small place has its advantages; it adds to our guests’ experience as the environment is intimate, and allows conversation and a good time. It also tests the level of teamwork, and I think our team has done a great job of supporting each other."

El Bourji: "When chefs are taking the order from guests directly and making recommendations, it creates an experience that is different from your average fast food outlet. The open-style kitchen gets both teams working simultaneously to serve the large numbers of guests that come in each day."

How is the pricing strategy justified?

El Dada: "I would say that we are competitively priced, considering the quality of produce and ingredients we use. Also, the outlet welcomes everyone, so we ensure that we remain affordable."

El Bourji: "Our prices are justified because you get great value for money with the quality of food you are served. Also, we set ourselves apart with the quality of saj bread we use, and our meat and its marination process."

How do you ensure the outlet is profitable?

El Dada: "We have cost control measures in place, but we also remain firm on not cutting corners when it comes to the quality of food and ingredients. Our focus is on building our existing clientele and also attracting new customers, ensuring that each guest who comes in becomes an advocate of our offerings."

El Bourji: "By doing everything in-house: we make our own garlic sauce, saj bread and marinate the meat ourselves. This allows us to control our costs. Also, being a part of the Atlantis F&B team allows us to access quality products at affordable prices."

What are the biggest challenges you face?

El Dada: "Dubai is a tough market; there are new restaurants opening everywhere and guests have too many options to choose from. So our challenge is to make sure that we are on top of the competition — old and new — and manage to stand apart from the crowd."

El Bourji: "There will always be challenges when you open up a new restaurant, but we have managed rather well as we hired a great team. We were fortunate to have great people, both in front-of-house and back-of-house, who consistently deliver a high quality product."

What does the future of the outlet look like?

El Dada: "Very bright! We have been in operation for little more than two months and have received some great feedback and have increasing revenues. It is an indication that we are going in the right direction."

El Bourji: "We see improvements implemented every day in the outlet. Every day is better than the previous one. Moreover, the team recently scored its highest marks to date in the mystery shopper tests. For us, that says it all."

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