Interview: Zuma

On the eve of its 10th anniversary, Caterer speaks to three long-serving Zuma employees to find out why it continues to draw the crowds

Adrien Callier.
Adrien Callier.
Nadira Alybaeva.
Nadira Alybaeva.
Sajid Iqbal.
Sajid Iqbal.

Adrien Callier: Group Music Director

What initially attracted you to the role at Zuma?

Everyone had heard that Zuma was coming to Dubai but I hadn’t really thought about joining the company at that time. I then met the operations director for Zuma Middle East and after three minutes of discussion, I knew that it would become a success. I’ve since moved to the role of group music director as part of the Zuma global team and have been involved with opening six new restaurants.

Has anything changed at Zuma over the years?

Zuma does not change, it evolves. The food, service, drink, music, atmosphere has to evolve through the years to stay in-line with global market trends, but we prefer to be two steps ahead. The music we played couple of years ago is not the same as it is today and it won’t be the same tomorrow; however it keeps on reflecting the identity of the brand and its local inspirations.

The other main evolution is our team. Having people growing internally and moving between the different locations, I now have friends and colleagues around the world — that is how you feel part of a global family!

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?

My biggest challenge was initially to establish a music identity for Zuma Dubai. We wanted to be different from all other venues and not commercial. It is important that you won’t hear a similar set in Dubai.

Travelling with my job is also a big challenge, but it’s very exciting. It has made me a sharp enthusiast of the restaurant and nightlife scene in global cities such as Hong Kong, New York and Istanbul to name a few. Despite travelling on a regular basis, I remain based in Dubai and the biggest challenge for me here is to maintain the music reputation of Zuma Dubai.

What sets Zuma apart from its competitors?

As Zuma co-founder Rainer Becker says, ‘Details, details and details.’ The people are behind the details. Our team definitely sets Zuma apart from its competitors. We have fantastic leaders both globally and locally which gives us the self-confidence and the right environment to feel involved. Everyone has an opportunity to grow professionally within Zuma and contribute to its success.

Nadira Alybaeva: Restaurant Assistant Manager

What initially attracted you to the role at Zuma?

I heard about Zuma opening from my colleagues, they said it would be a game changer. I was skeptical about leaving my role at a leading restaurant in Abu Dhabi, but after a chance meeting with the Zuma general manager I learned more about this exciting concept and decided to go for it. This was a life changing decision and I haven’t looked back since.

Has anything changed at Zuma over the years?

Yes of course — it still surprises me how we always manage to adapt with new and innovative ways to improve our world class dining experience. Although since 2008, we have had many new colleagues join us, we’ve always managed to maintain our consistency.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face?

I’m the kind of person who likes pressure and challenges, that’s the beauty of my job, I like a bit of spice!  I really enjoy when we’re fully booked and I have to deliver the ultimate guest experience whilst keeping tabs on the macro challenges in the restaurant. I love the micro details with guests but we always also need to be mindful of the bigger picture.

What sets Zuma apart from its competitors?

Everything and every person working here — the food, quality, freshness, consistency, team, management, design, location and the love we share. It’s been a fantastic journey to be here from the beginning, and to be part of nine years of going from strength to strength. Zuma is a Dubai icon and I’m extremely proud to be part of the team and excited to see what the next nine years hold.

Sajid Iqbal: Purchasing Officer

What initially attracted you to the role at Zuma?

In August 2008, I heard about a new restaurant opening in DIFC. I applied for a role and spoke to a friend who knew Zuma London very well. He told me it was a fantastic opportunity and that Zuma was an exciting group to join. Once offered the job, I was extremely excited and accepted on the spot.

Has anything changed at Zuma over the years?

Even if over the years many great people have come and gone, Zuma’s spirit has remained as solid as the first day or even stronger. With that said, everyone added a bit of their best, making Zuma Dubai a greater place to work in. The company takes a great care of its employees, making people happy and loyal to the brand.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face?

I have faced many challenges in my time at Zuma, such as developing my communication skills. Thankfully with my commitment and the support of senior management I have been able to grow throughout the last nine years. I aim to embody the key values of Zuma such as honesty, loyalty and dedication and have been awarded ‘Employee of the Month’ on several occasions.

What sets Zuma apart from its competitors?

I believe that Zuma has the best team and this is shown through our passion in all aspects of operations, both front- and back-of-house. I believe the guest sees this through our high service standards and outstanding food quality, and it’s nice to know that the back-of-house team also contributes to this success.

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