Caterer ME Power 50 2017: Independents
The results of Caterer Middle East's 2017 Power List
01. Paul Evans
Managing Director/CEO, Solutions Leisure Group
Evans has built, owned and operated over 32 F&B outlets. In the summer of 2013, the Solutions Leisure Group acquired Karma Kafé in Souk Al Bahar, then went on to open their first home-grown brand, Q43. Evans then launched the group’s second home-grown brand, Asia Asia. The venue is the group’s first franchise of its own brand, with a branch in Iran. Lock, Stock & Barrel opened in February 2016, becoming a household name, followed by another space in Souk Al Bahar - The Atlantic Dubai.
Opening five outlets in three years, Solutions Leisure Group doubled its portfolio in 2017 with four new outlets this year. A bigger Lock, Stock & Barrel and a nightclub concept, Inner City Zoo, have opened at the Rixos Premium Dubai. In addition, the Solutions Leisure Group has been chosen to be the official licensing partner to bring the STK brand to the Middle East – a modern and upscale American steakhouse concept and the company will be opening two venues in Dubai.
Evans credits his team and focussing on the midmarket sector with the company’s success. His key priority for 2018 is to double the size of the group and secure multiple international licences of the company’s existing home-grown brands.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 15
Number of outlets in the Middle East: 07
Coming soon: Two STK venues in Q4 2017 at the Rixos Premium JBR and at The Address Downtown Dubai.
02. Amin Kadrie
Chairman, Skelmore Group
Kadrie has had a storied career spanning diverse business sectors, including automotive, travel, finance, insurance, retail, hospitality, property development, and investments. His passion for F&B, coupled with his entrepreneurial spirit, lead him to formally enter the industry with the launch of Roberto’s (DIFC) in May 2012.
Roberto’s has quickly established itself as one of the leading home-grown F&B concepts in Dubai. Skelmore Group has created a specialty hospitality division, Skelmore Hospitality, which developed and successfully launched Roberto’s Abu Dhabi and two additional concepts Urban Bistro and Mercato in Dubai. Under Kadrie’s guidance and vision, Skelmore Hospitality aspires to continue to grow their established F&B brands while developing new concepts.
Despite a challenging economic climate, three of the brands have experienced strong year-on-year growth. The consolidated hospitality group revenue is roughly 15% up year on year. In 2018, Kadrie seeks to launch licensed, casual concepts – a market segment where he believes he can make a meaningful contribution to the Middle East’s culinary landscape.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 07
Number of outlets in the Middle East: 36
Coming soon: Two concepts, slated to open in Q2 2018 and Q3 2018.
03. Naim Maadad
CEO, Gates Hospitality
Maadad has over 25 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, across various senior management roles. He has launched and operated some of the world’s best hotels, resorts, spas, and F&B outlets. For the past 16 years, Maadad has been based in the Middle East as managing director for both Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas and The Anantara Group, and now as the CEO of Gates Hospitality, a company he established in 2012. Its portfolio includes home-grown brands such as Ultra Brasserie, Reform Social & Grill, Folly by Nick & Scott, Publique, The Black Lion and Bistro Des Arts at The Address Dubai Marina. Gates Hospitality also owns Six Senses Zighy Bay. Coming up in 2018 is the launch of Gates Hospitality’s first international venue –Red Farm at Covent Garden in London.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 25
Number of years working in the Middle East: 16
Coming soon: Red Farm, Covent Garden, London, UK
04. Joey Ghazal
Founder & Managing Partner, The MAINE Oyster Bar & Grill
Ghazal has developed dozens of popular restaurant and bar concepts across two continents. In 2015, the gastropreneur founded the Maine Oyster Bar & Grill at The DoubleTree Hilton JBR. He is now developing more Maine New England brasseries in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, scheduled for 2018. Ghazal’s company FighterBrands launched Barbary Deli + Cocktail Club at TRYP by Wyndham in Barsha Heights, transforming an undesirable location into a landmark dining experience. Ghazal is keen on tipping the market towards mid-sized, affordable home-grown concepts, placing importance on value and detail.
Ghazal wants to encourage hotel owners to create smaller leasable outlets to encourage younger entrepreneurs to open their own F&B ventures.
In 2018, Ghazal looks forward to growing the licensed premium casual brasserie category in the UAE and to tip the regional market towards mid-market and value-driven propositions. He aims to continue encouraging more young entrepreneurs to create home-grown concepts of their own in a market that is currently flooded with high-end international franchises and celebrity chef imports.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 18
Number of years working in the Middle East: 06
Coming soon: The Maine Abu Dhabi opening January 2018, The Maine Brasserie, Business Bay, Dubai in September 2018
05. Natasha Sideris
Managing Executive, Founder and Creative Director, tashas
It wasn’t her intention to become a restaurateur but she soon realised it was her calling. With a love of food, interior design and hospitality, Sideris originally set out to build a small cafe in Johannesburg, South Africa. At the time, she had no idea that the brand would grow to where it is today with a bestselling cookbook and further expansion planned in the Middle East as well as the UK, US and Australia.
There are two tashas cafes in the UAE and the most recent addition to the group, Flamingo Room by tashas, opened this year in Dubai.
Sideris has shown how the tashas brand, a café concept, can be elevated to a new dining experience in Flamingo Room by tashas, exemplifying the elasticity of the brand and growth potential of the business.
Sideris’ vision for the company is to continue expanding in the Middle East, as well as to open in other major international cities such as Los Angeles, Sydney and London, with both the tashas and the Flamingo Room by tashas concepts.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 22
Number of outlets in the Middle East: 03
Coming soon: tashas Al Jalila – March 2018 , tashas Galleria 2 - end of 2018, Avli by tashas – mid 2018
06. Umut Özkanca
Owner, RÜya Restaurant; Partner, d.ream Group
Özkanca’s father, Rasim Özkanca, one of Turkey’s most renowned hospitality pioneers, has been a fundamental influence throughout his career. Together, they dreamt of a concept that would elevate the perception of Turkish cuisine to be on par with French, Italian and Japanese; a dream that is now a reality through the success of their brand, Rüya.
Özkanca is member of the Sele Istanbul Restaurant Group which encompasses more than 10 successful restaurant brands across Turkey, including Borsa Restaurants, Masa Restaurants, Parle, Darphane Restauants and Sele Homemade Meals.
Largely responsible for popularising elevated Turkish cuisine not only on a regional, but also global scale, he has received third party partnership and investment offers to export the brand worldwide.
After a pop-up in Madrid earlier this year, Rüya’s second branch, located in London’s Mayfair, is set to open in early 2018 with a view to expanding the brand globally with more locations in Europe and markets such as America and Asia in the pipeline.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 15
Number of years in the company: 05
Coming soon: Rüya London
07. Thomas Arnel
Managing Director, Bull&Roo
Tom Arnel has worked in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the world and created a food movement within the UAE.
Early in 2010, he moved to Abu Dhabi as the executive chef for an Australian fine food retailer and restaurant.
It was during this role in Dubai that he met Sergio Lopez, whith whom he founded Tom&Serg, in November 2013 in Dubai.
The focus of the café is on serving good, honest, casual food with great coffee in a relaxed space. The outlet has filled a gap within the F&B scene in the city and appeals to both the local community and international visitors alike.
From its success came The Sum Of Us, and Common Grounds, as well as two licensed venues, Brunswick Sports Club and Muchachas Mexican Cantina. These venues are all unique, but built with the common goal of changing the dining scene in Dubai.
As of this year, Lopez is no longer part of the Bull&Roo management team and therefore is not involved in the business other than as a shareholder.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 14
Number of outlets in the Middle East: 06
08. M. Oliver Zeitoun
Founder and Managing Partner, Maki Group
M. Oliver Zeitoun quit a career in advertising to pursue his passion for food. He founded Maki in old Salmiya, Kuwait, a small restaurant that soon gained a large and loyal clientele. In February 2016, Zeitoun opened his first location in London’s Soho. Ten years after founding Maki, Zeitoun now operates two concepts at seven locations in two countries.
Zeitoun saw an opportunity in 2002, to introduce familiar local ingredients mixed with traditional Japanese dishes. The Maki concept has now expanded in the Gulf through franchises, sought after by entrepreneurs seeking to break into F&B, or to diversify their existing business portfolio. Zeitoun is working on opening additional corporate outlets in the West after the one opened in London. His vision is to become a leader in F&B with multiple outlets across Europe and North America.
Number of years in the F&B industry: 30
Number of outlets in the Middle East: 06
09. Alex & Fay Economides
Managing Director and Executive Managing Director, M Management Company
The Economides co-founded M Management Company, a hospitality and F&B firm in Dubai. The company launched with home-grown brands Mythos Kouzina and Grill and Nola Eatery and Social House. Both concepts possess a strong brand identity, delivering a feel-good experience, with personalised and warm service. Talent retention and financial growth in a challenging market have been two of their major achievements over the past year. In May 2017, M Management Company delivered its first turnkey F&B solution for another operator: Miss Wang. They conceived and executed the concept for this restaurant from A-Z, including branding, interior design and menu creation.
The Economides’ priorities for 2018 are to continue on a sustainable growth path and to maintain standards and consistency when it comes to their offering. Their vision is to continue building a portfolio of trendsetting establishments that anticipate and satisfy market desires and needs and to diversify internationally in rapid growing markets that show strong dynamics.
Number of years in this role: 04
Number of years in the F&B industry: 12
10. Kenza and Patrick Jarjour
The Jarjours merged their diverse talents and skills to launch Inked in 2016. Putting food at the centre of storytelling and creating immersive experiences stems from their passion for culinary arts and the desire to continuously create and innovate with no boundaries.
Inked is a new concept in the region and a platform for the community to engage with food in alternative ways while adhering to a no-waste philosophy and environmental responsibility.
In the coming year, the Jarjours plan to hold more pop-up events, widen their portfolio of collaborations with companies and people, and diversify their themed experiences. Their vision is to alter perceptions of Inked so that people don’t just see it as a space, but rather as a team of creators, artists, chefs, party hosts, event designers and curators that develop experiences to remember.
Number of years working in the Middle East: 10
Number of years in the F&B industry: 06