La Serre
La Serre will recreate the concepts that have made it quite a popular fine dining destination in Dubai over the years. Riyadh and London openings will happen first and followed by New York.

Dubai: The conversations in Dubai’s F&B sector are now less about closing down restaurants or cutting costs. Some are thinking expansion. It can only be good news when branches of homegrown Dubai restaurants start to pop up in Riyadh, Cairo, New York and London.

Many restaurants aspire to grow internationally and the global game is no longer just for huge franchises. “Every year we see international restaurant brands flocking to Dubai,” Musbah Haddad, Group Marketing Director of La Serre said. “We are going in the opposite direction and taking our UAE home-grown brand to the global market.”

Homegrown French concept La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie is expanding to London, New York and Riyadh. Riyadh is confirmed to open its doors at King Abdullah Financial District by first quarter next year. London will follow later in the year, with an opening in Knightsbridge, and closely trailed by the New York launch.

“Our aim is to show the world that Dubai’s brands can operate in the most competitive markets,” said Haddad.

Plans for La Serre’s expansion were already in the pipeline when the pandemic hit. And while this did slow down the new opening schedules, the team decided to go ahead as they had found the right locations.

“Saudi Arabia, in particular, is a fast-growing market and we have always had plans to add to our GCC portfolio,” he added. “When we found the right spot in King Abdullah Financial District, we made the decision to open there without hesitation.”

Their plan is to transport the La Serre DNA abroad, so that the offerings will remain the same. “Nevertheless, every new market we enter, we become extremely adaptable to the locality and the business model that works for that market,” said Haddad.

Stock - La Serre
A La Serre serving - Opening in New York will represent the final frontier of sorts for the French bistro. Image Credit: Supplied

No slowing down in the pandemic

Stock - Chef Reif Othman
The pandemic didn't stop Reif, as he expanded his brand both locally and regionally.

“It was always our intention to expand the Reif Japanese Kushiyaki brand regionally and internationally,” said Reif Othman, the chef-owner of Dubai-born Reif Japanese Kushiyaki. “In light of the pandemic, we have been able to negotiate compelling deals with landlords and franchisees, allowing us to take the concept further afield in the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.”

For brands that are thinking about expanding internationally, sometimes it comes down to finding a partner that will give them what they need. Specifically for Egypt, over the last few years, Othman had consulted for Baky Hospitality in Cairo and built a strong relationship with the owner Ayman Baky, a leading restaurateur in Egypt.

“When he approached me to open a franchised Reif Japanese Kushiyaki, I knew this was something worth considering as our first franchised venture – and first international outpost,” said Othman.

Pricing it right

Reif's new location in Cairo is is in the city’s financial district – a little like DIFC.

It helps that there’s a gap in the market for unconventional, optimally priced Japanese food in a licensed venue in Cairo. The location is in the city’s financial district.

The interior designer remains the same, Carolina Rey de Castro, as the Dubai venture. “We retained a similar design, adapted for a larger location with 140 covers,” he added. “The menu has been tweaked to take into account access to premium produce and ingredients.”

Taking advantage of global events

Roberto’s Dubai, which has amassed a loyal following since it opened in 2012, will open venues in Qatar and Oman. The outlets, likely to be located at The St. Regis Marsa Arabia Island in Doha and The St. Regis Al Mouj Muscat, will introduce updated Italian cuisines to these markets.

“Both Qatar and Oman are markets that are rapidly expanding and offer opportunities for brand growth,” said Andrea Sacchi, COO of Skelmore Hospitality and Roberto's. “Qatar will host the FIFA World Cup next year, providing an opportunity to showcase new hospitality experiences to a worldwide audience.”

Together with a partner, The Alfardan Group, they have designed an iteration of the Dubai venue, which is located at DIFC. “In Oman, the venue will be part of another mixed development at the St. Regis Al Mouj, which will redefine the resort experience in Muscat, with direct access to the golf course and beach and other complementing lifestyle brands,” said Sacchi. “Roberto’s will be at the centre of it all.”

It will also be opening in Jordan in 2022 within the newly completed Ritz-Carlton Hotel and Residences Amman. “This strengthens our collaboration with Marriott Hotels, which we consider a key partner in the region and beyond,” said Sacchi. “The core experiences and signature menu items that have made Roberto’s a Dubai favourite will be present. We will develop location-based experiences.”

Clearly, what’s worked in Dubai should pay off as these brands take on a regional and global presence.