What does it take to run a successful restaurant in the UAE?
Experts thrash out the common misconceptions surrounding restaurant concepts and design, and provide their insight into the latest trends and what makes or breaks a restaurant. Here's their top tips...
Find a strong partner
Celebrity chef Todd English, who leads the opening of Olives at the Venetian Village in Abu Dhabi, said it starts with finding the right business partner. "The most important 'do' is to find a strong partner," he said.
Michelin chef Heinz Beck shares the same view, and then some. "Select the right partner to enter in business with, determine the most suitable location, have concepts and a menu that can be liked and patronised by consumers, get the right investment in construction and equipment, synergise beauty with functionality."
Have some balance
"To succeed, any restaurant must strike a balance between what the chef or the restaurateur believes in, wants to cook and to serve and what the customers want to eat and pay for. Sticking to what you believe is most appropriate and yet bowing, ever so gently, to the tastes of the market is critical—whatever the style of food that is being served," said Nick Lander, Financial Times restaurant critic and author.
"The most important factor to remember about restaurants is that it is a business without secrets: everybody knows the selling prices, the rent, the labour cost so there is no excuse for not finding out all the essential information before you open," Lander said.
Most restaurateurs are extremely friendly so make a point of asking the right questions to the right people, he said. "Most restaurateurs will be the first to admit that they were only set on the right road to success because several people were kind enough to sit down with them over a coffee and answer their questions," he said.
Get the right people
Finding the right people is the key to success, said Christian Gradnitzer, Director of Culinary, Jumeirah Restaurant Group Dubai. "You need passion as well as talent. The aim is to exceed expectations, for every guest, every time," he said.
Michelin star chef Beck said a successful restaurateur knows how to “combine good food, good service and good ambience with a well-trained staff”.
Provide a quality experience
The whole dining package must be enjoyable, said Henk Bruggeman, Director of Business Development, Jumeirah Restaurant Group Dubai. "Quality of the food is, of course, a must but it’s also about the entire experience; the interior and design, the staff and service, the music and ambience. You need to provide a complete journey so customers return time and time again," he said.
Twenty years ago, celebrity chef Greg Malouf dreamt of introducing a greater range of Middle Eastern food to Australian diners. "And I did it with food that was less constrained by tradition, which was lighter, more layered and contemporary," he said.
His advice to running a successful restaurant? "Encourage local diners to be a little less bound by tradition, and to realise that you can modernise dishes without destroying their authenticity. I don’t think there could be any better place in the region to do this than Dubai!"