International restaurant concepts bring a lot to the table, mainly the full might of a big brand name. Many major hotels in the region have international franchises among their F&B options — Nobu and Bread Street Kitchen in Atlantis, Hakkasan at Jumeirah Emirates Towers and Wagamama at Crowne Plaza, to name a few.
According to RMAL Hospitality operations manager Dani-Jan Gicquel Billington, one of the biggest advantages of franchising is building a brand on a regional or international basis that could already have value in the eyes of customers that the hotel is trying to attract. Overall, working with existing brands rather than growing your own greatly reduces the risk of failure.
Atlantis the Palm vice president culinary, Sascha Triemer, believes that as Dubai is such a melting pot of nationalities in terms of both tourists and residents, an established and well-known F&B brand is also much more likely immediately to resonate with guests from across the markets, ensuring they know what to expect and increasing the chance of the establishment’s success.
“It’s a tough F&B market in Dubai and an established brand has a proven track record that some hotels will find much more desirable than taking a chance on opening their own home-grown concept,” added Triemer.
Selecting a restaurant concept in a hotel is no easy feat. One of the main reasons why hotels look to open franchised restaurants, according to Gates Hospitality chief executive Naim Maadad, is the struggle to stay relevant.
He told Hotelier Middle East: “A hotel project usually takes about four to five years from the concept design board to opening, and this timeframe presents a risk for an F&B brand to remain relevant until the hotel launch.
“To overcome this challenge hotel operators often seek well-established brands. If their own brand is decided, then there is the risk that the concept may not be what the market needs when the hotel project is completed — sustaining the relevance of brand [through pre-opening] is a vital challenge to face. Going with a well-established brand ensures popularity as well as building the vibe around the venue.”
Maadad added that if a brand can take over the existing fit-out and create the restaurant facility with the existing infrastructure in place this will inevitably reduce the time to launch.
But it’s not just about practical considerations. “Hotels also need to consider the type of outlet, what market segment they are aimed at, local demographic of the location, style and brand values. And what function should the restaurant offer within the property?” said Billington, who has worked in his present role with MPW Steakhouse Grill, Frankies, Wheelers of St James, Trader Vics and Wagamama.
New York City’s Black Tap, a brand that is known for its burgers and milkshakes, recently opened its doors at the Jumeirah Al Naseem Hotel in Madinat Jumeirah. And it plans on opening more franchises in the region.
Sunset Group CEO Antonio Gonzalez said: “The essence of Black Tap is its authenticity —this is real food, real messy, for real people and we have been looking forward to opening our doors to the people of the Middle East. Dubai is just the beginning for this brand, as we have ambitious expansion plans across the region.”
“We currently have a number of different outlets within our portfolio across the city, in great hotels such Four Seasons, Hyatt, Westin, Rotana, etc, and it is always helpful to partner with successful hotels, since their guests provide a solid starting point to build clientele. In the case of Black Tap, we have plans in other locations both in and outside hotels. Black Tap is a bit special since it’s a concept that can work both licensed and non-licensed. It is about having the right concept, at the right place, at the right price,” Gonzalez added.