• The comprehensive 3-day line-up included live stage sessions, networking, discussions, community breakout sessions, and exclusive in-person meetings, featuring leading industry creators, innovators, and mentors.   

Dubai: Renowned for being the world’s leading restaurant investment platform, Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF) came to a close on the 22nd of September following an immensely successful 3-day event, as part of the Arabian & African Hospitality Investment Conference (AHIC) hosted at Madinat Jumeirah.   

The hospitality sector was one of the toughest hit industries during the midst of global lockdowns forcing new ways of working and adaptability on the hospitality front. Since its inception in 2014, GRIF has been a well-respected platform that brings together the most ambitious and creative minds of the global restaurant community. The convening power of GRIF’s community has always attracted exciting and prominent F&B personalities keen to share their knowledge and recipes for success with influential investors and municipalities. Above all, GRIF brings together hospitality leaders, operators and franchisors to, network, rekindle friendships and importantly, do business.  

In the post-covid era, hotels have recognised that food and beverages are a very important part of the industry. Aligned to this thought, GRIF joined hands with AHIC to showcase innovation and best practice.  

Jennifer Pettinger-Haines, Managing Director Middle East, Bench, commented: “As business owners, restaurateurs, and hospitality professionals, we have all faced unprecedented challenges and overcome huge obstacles over the past year; however, we have also shown the strength, resilience, and determination of our community in the face of adversity. Through bringing our GRIF and AHIC communities together, we are looking forward to further developing a culture of collaboration, support, and knowledge exchange across all levels of the hospitality sector, to ensure our industry continues on the right track and goes from strength to strength in the future.” 

Many valuable insights and some noteworthy announcements were shared on the stage at AHIC this year. Serial entrepreneur Ian Ohan, founder and CEO of KRUSH Brands officially announced the launch of Locale, a tribe of likeminded “owners” joined by a powerful belief in why great food matters. Locale helps great restaurants and food brands become more resilient by fully owning their customer relationship with proprietary technology and delivery science, seamlessly integrated with brand and operations. He also announced the launch of ‘Rise Up’, Dubai’s first food accelerator contest. It is a nationwide call, to find the best and brightest culinary talents and entrepreneurial thinkers in the UAE, who believe they have an idea, a product, or a business that needs a little help and the right infrastructure to thrive. The winners will receive coaching, get access to a long list of industry expertise, and operational know-how. 

Stephen Valentino, Founder, The London Project, during his session with David Singleton, announced their plans for expansion in the UAE and internationally, with outlets confirmed to open in Dubai Marina and London's Canary Wharf next year, followed by Miami and Barcelona in 2023. While, Ravi Chandran, Chief Executive Officer, Liwa Minor, during the technology panel about increasing operational efficiency, shared that the onset of the covid-19 pandemic forced him to accelerate the completion of The Coffee Club app. The app not only saved his company from suffering major losses but drove up the spend by 20 percent. 

Alexis Marcoux-Varvatsoulis, Foodservice Consulting Lead, MEA, JLL, led a session on Covid-19 impact on consumer eating habits in the UAE and KSA upon analysing 22,000 restaurants. During his session, he highlighted the importance of putting a marketer in charge of growth, as during the study data revealed that brand and service have ranked higher in terms of decision making as opposed to price and location. While, emphasising on avoiding disproportionate emphasis on delivery, as the restaurant's sector is made up of occasions and occasions have been widely disrupted with the onset of the pandemic.  

Benjamin Calleja, Chief Executive Officer, Livit Design, shed light on some of the key trends emerging from around the globe. In an interesting study conducted by Livit Designs, correlating packaging to consumer preference, he revealed that 27% of the consumers preferred a more attractive packaging, and 80% also shared it on their Instagram pages. In today’s era, where 78% of millennials chose experience, brands should consider packaging as a game-changing element of their marketing strategy.  

Concluding this season of GRIF at AHIC, Emma Banks hosted the closing lunch and launched Hilton’s ‘Growth of the UAE’ initiative in anticipation of the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the UAE. The initiative will accentuate the celebration of the UAE’s food, produce and chefs – at a time when Dubai is setting the stage for EXPO and the dining scene can shine in the run up to the Golden Jubilee.  


  • Antonio Gonzalez, CEO, Sunset Hospitality Group, shared his insights on the importance of diversification and marked the need to diversify as the key to success. In line with the thought, he also announced new openings coming soon in Turkey, Spain, and their re-entry to the UK market. He talked about going back to your roots, know what you’re pushing  
  • Emma Banks, VP, F&B Strategy and Development EMEA, Hilton, discussed a shift in consumer behaviour, with guests preferring to bring in their pets to the hotel. In order to provide the best experience, their pet focussed brand ‘Bone Appetite’ is growing rapidly and designing a specific food menu for dogs as well. 
  • Saurabh Arora, Head Global Channels and Ecosystem, Foodics, announced their partnership with IT Hospitality, which underlines their focus of helping serve F&B operators in Africa to widen their customer base and transition to a digital ecosystem to meet current demands, as well as be ready to scale. 
  • IT Hospitality announced the opening of their Dubai office, their first in the Middle East and sixth globally.  
  • Didier Souillat, Chief Executive Officer, Time Out Market, announced the opening in Prague, Porto, and London after the success of the Time Out Market in Dubai. 


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