RAK Hospitality Group, a major asset owner and portfolio manager for the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, is preparing to unveil a new set of American restaurants in the United Arab Emirates.
One such restaurant is Kona Grill, an American grill and sushi bar categorized as “premier casual dining." The chain operates 40 restaurants in 20 U.S. states and the territory of Puerto Rico.
RAK Hospitality Group will develop these restaurants through its subsidiary, Hakaya Collection. A franchise agreement is in hand, and the project will be rolled out over seven years.
“The decision to bring Kona Grill to the UAE was driven by several reasons.” Yannis Anagnostakis, CEO of RAK Hospitality Holding, told the Gulf News Journal recently. “First and foremost, Kona is an established and well managed business with very broad customer appeal, thanks to a rich menu offering and great choice of dining environments under one roof. ... We were impressed with its trading success in very diverse locations such as retail centers, shopping malls, urban and entertainment districts, as well as commercial and residential locations. Food, service and look and feel were consistently impressive across all locations we visited in the U.S., and this consistent quality convinced us that Kona would be a great addition to the UAE’s most competitive dining and entertainment landscape.”
Anagnostakis said RAK’s leadership quickly established common ground with the restaurant management teams and started to approach a shared vision for that restaurant’s operations in the UAE.
Anagnostakis also pointed to Kona Grill’s status as a publicly traded company on the NASDAQ and the strong faith of its shareholders.
As for consumer demand in the area, Anagnostakis hopes the restaurants will appeal to both natives and expatriates.
“Consumer trends indicate that Emirati and expat consumers view dining out as both a convenience and a special occasion.” Anagnostakis said. “The number of people dining out, therefore, has significantly increased in recent years. In terms of demographics, the increase in the number of tourists and the young local population that make up more than half of the overall population in the GCC is also boosting growth of international FSRs (full-service restaurants) in the UAE.”
Anagnostakis pointed to specific dishes representing the restaurant’s wealth of options for those with an adventurous palate, including Macadamia nut chicken with pineapple-papaya marmalade, miso-sake sea bass, and passion fruit creme brulee. For sushi lovers, the restaurants will also feature a wide range of menu options, like salmon wasabi sashimi, with fresh wasabi root and pickled onions, cucumber salad with a yuzu ponzu and specialty rolls such as Checkerboard Roll with tuna, habanero tuna mix and yellowtail-avocado-asparagus and spicy motoyaki sauce.
Anagnostakis said American cuisine isn't the only type of foreign food popular in the UAE. For example, RAK operates an Italian concept restaurant, Pesto Ristorante, at one of the emirate’s prestigious golf courses. That restaurant is currently under construction but will reopen later in May.