Interview: M Management Company

The founders of Dubai outlets Nola and Mythos discuss their journey

Fay and Alex Economides in one of their venues, Mythos Kouzina & Grill.
Fay and Alex Economides in one of their venues, Mythos Kouzina & Grill.

Last year was an important year for Alex and Fay Economides. Under M Management Company — which Alex founded in 2013 — the siblings added to their two established Dubai-based concepts, Elia and The Music Room, with two new launches that have taken helped turn Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) into an F&B destination.

Situated within metres of each other at the back of JLT’s Armada BlueBay Hotel, Nola Eatery & Social House and Mythos Kouzina & Grill are two seperate concepts that serve completely different cuisines while sharing the same ethos.

“We wanted to bring something more real. People are interested now in going out for a bite, and to drink and socialise, rather than going to a polished, shiny, modern looking kind of place. Dubai has had a lot of that and I think it’s looking for something different," Alex explains.

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Fay agrees, adding: “Dubai has always been five-star heavy with hotels and F&B, but people increasingly want a community and a sense of normalcy.”

Alex says that they sought to deliver authenticity in the “look, feel and ambience” of the outlets, from lighting and décor to uniforms and the way dishes are presented.

“All of that is one major element of making something authentic. Then there is the F&B component and, third, being true to the concept in a consistent way. There are venues out there that have a certain concept but in their day-to-day operations, they sometimes slip away from being true to the concept,” he adds.

He believes that the ‘down to earth’ authentic concepts fit well with the location that he and his sister opted for.

“There were a lot of locations in the market to choose from and we had various opportunities. Souk Al Bahar was one of them but we didn’t feel that area would fit with our concepts or that our concepts would be appreciated there. JLT is a great location as a catchment area with a lot of offices and residents, and the JLT market is quite young and hip, so we felt it would do well for Nola and Mythos,” Alex reveals.

Having lived in Dubai for 12 years, Alex and Fay know the city well and have spent most of their lives in the GCC; although they are Greek, the siblings grew up in Bahrain. The industry is also second nature to them, as prior to launching their own hospitality and F&B management firm, they managed and operated a hotel, developing F&B concepts within it.

Their experiences have taught them that being unwaveringly faithful to your initial concept is key if you want to sustain your outlets in the long-term — “even when it means you have to invest a little more time, money, effort and stress,” Fay comments.

She continues: “It’s not easy being 95% true to the concept versus 60% true to the concept, for example. A lot of operators will, upon hitting the first or second obstacle, say ‘Okay, well let’s do it the easy way’ but that dilutes your identity, and obviously the end result for the consumer is not as authentic.”

Central to establishing authentic concepts is menu creation and Alex says the entire team was involved in this process, rather than solely the chefs, and that with Mythos, the fact that he and Fay are Greek “adds a lot of value”.

Fay concurs: “The Greek part is easy. We’re familiar with what the market wants with regards to Greek food, and we’ve actually been lucky to introduce Greek food properly to Dubai, and observe Greek food growing. A lot of Greek offerings have opened and closed in the last 12 years.”

Alex thinks that some of these closures have been down to improper execution and misrepresentation of Greek cuisine, with Fay noting that there is better representation of the cuisine in the region now.

A few months after the launch of Mythos, Nola opened and for this less familiar cuisine, they flew to New Orleans with the chef and brand consultants.

“It was an interesting trip and we were able to have a true New Orleans experience, which helped us in getting the place to be authentic, from a holistic concept point of view. The menu that we created takes quite a bit from New Orleans but we have made elements healthier,” Alex shares.

In making the southern American dishes healthier, Fay says that they “Mediterranean-ised” them a little and added low-carb options to the menu to cater to the growing health-conscious consumer segment. Broadly speaking, Mediterranean cuisine is well known around the world, although the perception of Greek food in the GCC continues to evolve.

Fay notes: “It’s completely different to 10 years ago — people have become more aware that Greek food is more than the stereotypical souvlaki and moussaka. Greece is only four hours away [from Dubai], and people from the region have been travelling to Mykonos and Santorini in particular, so over the last four years especially I have seen an understanding and appreciation for Greek food growing. I think people were more hesitant when we started with Elia but people’s view of the cuisine has changed and they are more excited for it now. When we started Elia, our chef consultant was Yiannis Baxevanis, who is a celebrity chef in Greece, and our idea was to shine a light on the cuisine, which is finally happening in the region.”

People who have travelled to Greece will note the similarities between Mythos and an authentic Greek taverna, in keeping with its founders aim to provide an authentic Greek experience for guests. It isn’t surprising to learn that a Greek designer delivered the project.

“We actually worked with a Greek designer for both concepts,” Alex reveals, noting that can be challenging to get your own vision implemented, even if the designer is not based abroad.

“To be in line with what we think is authentic Greek or authentic New Orleans, we did have a lot of back and forth, which I think is healthy and critical in order to have a successful outcome,” he summarises.

“And without the back and forth, we wouldn’t have had the outcome,” Fay adds. “Everybody had something to say about it. We. as the clients, had a particular thing in mind and she, as a designer, had her vision, and we also had a brand consultant who had a lot to say about the décor and design. I think it was a perfect storm between us, the designer and the brand consultant, which was Meraki & Modu.”

Team work appears to be at the heart of the concepts’ success, with Fay attributing the smooth running of operations to the “top notch professionals” coming together behind the scenes in all areas, from finance to the kitchen. She and Alex are also fairly hands-on. “Compared to other F&B operators, I think the personal touch is there more with us,” she comments.

While it’s easy to see how switching off from work would be hard when you’re running a family business, the siblings assure Caterer that this isn’t the case at all.One topic of conversation that could keep cropping up, however, is what the pair will be working on next. For now, they remain tight-lipped about the next step, with Fay remarking that it is still early days for M Management Company.

Alex concludes: “There are many big developments with a lot of food and beverage coming up in Dubai and we’re keeping all of our options open. We’ve identified numerous possibilities and we’re in the process of shuffling those, to decide which ones to focus on and which ones are more logical. It’s important to be thoughtful and thorough in every step, and we will take our time deciding our next move.”

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