As Dubai booms, experts weigh in on launching a restaurant

It seems like every time you turn around, there's a new restaurant going into a neighborhood in Dubai. 

As this cosmopolitan city continues to reinvent itself, all sorts of chains and independent restaurants are targeting customers in the area, from Jumeirah Beach to Business Bay and all around the city, with renowned chefs and established restaurateurs sinking a lot of money and effort into serving customers.

But how do these restaurants get their start? How do investors decide whether to make a go of a new bistro or high-end ethnic restaurant in a neighborhood?

In a July article on Zawya, a local consultant has weighed in on the process by which restaurants make these moves.

“It is all about managing the expectations,” Abdul Kader Saadi, managing director at Glee Hospitality Solutions, a company that helps to develop restaurant concepts in the Middle East, said. “By trying to understand the customers well - be it the objectives, the vision, the mission and the needs of the client or the investor. It is important to know what kind of concept the market is seeking, whether the client aims to have one outlet or multiple outlets within the time frame. Also, it is very vital to understand what kind of outlet the client prefers.”

Saadi explained the process of looking at data in the market, and doing profound market research on a restaurant concept, type of cuisine and a location and target market.

“Designing a space for the customer and consultant along with our designer is an extremely personal and exhilarating part.” Saadi said of the restaurant design process. “Designs create the ambience that customers at times come to experience along with food.”

All the way down to the menu, Saadi said, there is a deliberate plan to make sure a restaurant business is built on solid ground.

“Owners, investors and bankers want to know you have a proactive plan to grow your business," Saadi said. "You can't rely on instant popularity and simple word-of-mouth marketing. While passionate belief in the concept is the driving force that can turn a dream into reality, this passion must be balanced with reality when it comes to creating a sound business plan.”

According to Ken Spahn, president of Restaurant Placement Group, a Boca Raton, Florida restaurant and hospitality recruiting and consulting firm, much of the process of site selection is intuitive, although there are general business formulas, as well as local laws and regulations.

Spahn has worked in-house and consulted for numerous restaurant and hospitality operators, real estate developers and national restaurant tenants. He has also published hundreds of restaurant articles, four nationally recognized Law Review articles, and numerous industry articles.

“A lot of the process is feeling it out by the market,” Spahn told the Gulf News Journal, “Where is there a missing niche? Is there a demand for (a certain concept) right now? Can we introduce a new concept to the market, and create a demand for something previously unknown? Is the market already saturated?”

Calling restaurant site selection “the $10 million question,” Spahn said the site selection process involves numerous parameters, including local demographics, competitive structure, vehicle traffic counts, pedestrian traffic counts, accessibility, visibility, parking, exclusivity, and of course, rent or acquisition costs - as well as research on nearby amenities and population counts. But in the end, it often comes down to a passion for the business.

In foreign markets, Spahn said, there is usually a local partner who has knowledge of the immediate area and local connections and who wants to get into the restaurant business, while the corporate franchisor provides its already-proven business formula, systems, and SOPs (standard operating procedures), as well as guidance and resources.

Also, Spahn said, restaurants that already have a concept might choose to enter markets based on matching information on the local area with their experience and what they've done in the past.

As Spahn notes, overall, a restaurant that has the right concept and delivers the right level of quality and service can compete well in a range of locations, “be it Dubuque or Dubai.”

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Glee Hospitality Solutions

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