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|09 April, 2018

Fine-dining takes a backseat in value-driven UAE market

Value for money and innovation in preparation, layout, service and convenience are the keys to success for new food concepts

Image used for illustrative purpose. A family sits together at the table to share traditional food in a special occasion in this illustrative image.

Image used for illustrative purpose. A family sits together at the table to share traditional food in a special occasion in this illustrative image.

Getty Images/Tempura

New food and beverage (F&B) concepts arriving in the UAE must focus on bringing ‘value for money’ to the table to achieve success in the over-saturated market, according to CEO of a new hospitality business.

Youssef El Habbal, CEO of Serenity Hospitality in Abu Dhabi, believes the key to success for new food concepts in the UAE is understanding the gaps in the market as well as what matters to modern customers, such as value for money and innovation in preparation, layout, service and convenience.

Serenity Hospitality aims to conceptualise, launch, and manage brands to the lucrative F&B market across the GCC. It launched its first homegrown brand, Meshwari in September last year and has seen it gain real traction in the market through its innovative service style along with the quality of its food.

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Prior to taking the helm at Serenity Hospitality, El Habbal has enjoyed a long and successful career in the hospitality industry. He started with Dunkin Donuts in 1997 in Lebanon, where he was part of a team that was instrumental in introducing a new food trend to the country. He then transitioned to developing casual and fast casual restaurant concepts, working in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC, launching successful, scalable and sustainable concepts.

He strongly believes in sharing the lessons he has learnt from working in the industry with budding F&B and hospitality hopefuls to supplant their theoretical knowledge. 

El Habbal, who has close to a decade’s experience in C-suite roles at Al Mathaaq Hospitality (Saudi Arabia) and Treats Holding (Mena), advises new F&B concepts arriving in the UAE to move away from fine dining and instead urges them to pursue the fast-casual segment.

He said: “Many F&B operators will have to reconsider their business models, cost structures and strategies if they want to stay relevant and continue to achieve success as the market has changed so much.

“Some of the new home-grown concepts that have cropped up in the recent years have benefitted from tailoring their product to the new market and they are therefore gaining popularity. All brands including successful international chains planning to venture into the region must tweak their concepts to fit with this market if they wish to achieve success.”

Serenity Hospitality launched Meshwari, a Middle Eastern Eatery after recognising that consumers are seeking fast, casual and value for money dining options that can also boast high quality of food product.

They recently launched their fourth outlet at the Al Bahar beachfront on the Abu Dhabi Corniche. Within seven months, the restaurant, which offers high quality authentic Arabic food has gained acceptance from foodies in Abu Dhabi. The hospitality group expects to open more branches by the end of 2018 in the UAE.

El Habbal added: “With Meshwari we wanted to bring shawarma, the iconic street food of the region, to the global audience in a hygienic and elegant setting and yet offer affordable pricing. We meticulously researched and refined traditional recipes and use locally sourced ingredients for preparation.

Youssef and his expert team at Serenity possess the local market knowledge and industry experience which enables them to conceptualize, launch, and manage brands efficiently. They have the capabilities to help international brands and franchises to launch in the region by offering services such as real estate identification, concept development and menu tweaking for the regional market. 

Serenity Hospitality has also recently partnered with a leading international barbecue chain to bring their Texas-style smoked meat restaurants to the Middle East starting with UAE.

With over 20 years of expertise in hospitality consulting, concept development and franchise operations in the Middle East, Youssef leads Serenity Hospitality which can help local and international F&B brands to gain success in today’s rough market conditions.

“We plan to develop innovative home-grown concepts and bring in leading international franchises to the region in the coming years,” Youssef said. - TradeArabia News Service

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