HN spoke to Angela Lester, executive vice president of business development for Hakkasan Group to highlight their operations in Saudi Arabia, and the new business ventures in their pipelines, following their latest outlet in the kingdom.
How do you describe KSA’s F&B scenery, and what opportunities are you seeking in that specific area?
We believe the KSA is really a burgeoning market. With Saudi Vision 2030 and all the recent progressiveness happening in the country, it really is the right moment to become part of the fabric of change in the country and really add to its culinary scene. The population is very well travelled and really understand and appreciate what we do and offer. There has been a great deal of positive feedback and excitement about Yauatcha opening Riyadh in February, some from patrons who are familiar with the brand from our other global locations and others who are incredibly enthusiastic about being able to have this experience in their home country for the first time. We believe it will be very successful and sought after within our target markets in the Kingdom and we will, of course, continue to deliver the signature excellence we’ve become known for. Right now, we are just very focused on bringing this extraordinary experiential and immersive concept to Riyadh – everything from signature Dim Sum creations, to unique patisseries and an authentic tea house experience. We have a very niche concept within the fine dining arena and are really fortunate to be able to expand this brand into the Middle East for the first time, and Riyadh really is the perfect place to start that journey for Yauatcha.
Do you believe KSA is a test market or a market that could release trends in the region?
We believe that KSA really is and will become a trend setting region. Mostly because so many fine dining venues have been testing the market in the UAE and other GCC countries for decades, and Saudi Arabia has been watching and laterally offering a quiet sophistication for years, but now it’s really in a position to leap forward and show itself to the world as being entirely more cosmopolitan and innovative than it often gets credit for. There is a great deal of untapped talent and innovation happening in the country, and has been for years, but now the outside world can finally come in and experience it firsthand. They have been absorbing the best practices and creativity from across the globe to collectively provide a completely different market atmosphere than the rest of the world. It’s really an exciting space to be in and we are very fortunate to be on the ground and at the forefront of this new pioneering time – both through our own cuisine and the Kingdom around us.
What other concepts are you looking to debut in the KSA? when and why?
As you know, there are several brands under the Hakkasan Group and we are looking at which ones we believe will really fit in with what’s happening here in Saudi Arabia – making sure that we are delivering on truly unique culinary experiences in line with local culture and the enormous growth we see taking place – not only in the F&B sector but across all markets. You will have to continue watching this space for announcements that will be coming out soon!
Do you believe working with local partners is key to your success?
It really is essential for us to find great like-minded local partners. We really believe that utilizing that local knowledge and experience is the key to success for all of our global branches. Al Khozama currently operates one of the most successful luxury hospitality companies in the Kingdom and their drive and passion for extraordinary culinary experiences and service matches our own – making them the perfect choice for our Yauatcha brand. It’s also really important for us to cultivate local talent, drive socio-economic development and give back to the communities that we operate in – working hand in hand with our local partners has been the most effective and rewarding way to achieve those objectives.
What are your development plans across the region?
The restaurant sector is really taking off in Saudi Arabia and more specifically, fine dining options and experiences. Hakkasan Group is actively exploring its development options and there will be more branches opening in the Kingdom – which concepts and locations remain to be seen. With the Kingdom having opened its doors to tourism in September, it creates quite an exciting market prospect for us and we really are thrilled to be bringing contemporary cutting-edge dining experiences to both locals and the world’s tourist in such unchartered territory.
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