Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.
Bulldozer Group’s impressive portfolio comprises several F&B and nightlife destinations in Dubai, including Cipriani, Novikov, Sass’ Café, Downtown Toko, Socialista, Eshak, and VIP Room. Evgeny Kuzin, the group’s founder and managing partner, gives his take on the emirates’ ever-developing food scene and tells HN that standing still isn’t an option.
How would you describe the F&B scene in Dubai?
When we look at Dubai’s F&B industry, we realize competition is at its fiercest. Dubai has undergone drastic changes and a rapid development over the years. It’s vital that we keep pushing the boundaries and avoid becoming complacent with our brands and end offerings to the consumer. We are continuing to expand our portfolio by not only tapping into the finest F&B brands that we can bring to the GCC, but also exploring local homegrown concepts. However, we are well aware that it’s not only about the brands we bring in, but also the offering itself which needs to be unique and create a mark in Dubai. The emirate already boasts the best brands in the world, so we always evaluate the value proposition of the offering and how it can differentiate itself.
What impact has Bulldozer Group made on the local F&B landscape
At the Bulldozer Group, we pride ourselves on the concepts that we introduce to the Middle East, but most importantly, the fundamental factor behind our success to date is our ability to employ and partner with the best talents in the market. There’s no substitute for a team that has years of knowledge and hands-on experience; with partners of this caliber, we are able to not only navigate, but also set trends in this fast-paced industry.
What makes you stand out?
It is a combination of factors, from the core offering of the food and entertainment, to the designs, exteriors, attention to small details and sensibility. We also believe that creating the right ambiance is essential if a destination is to become the ultimate hot-spot. For example, people might not necessarily enjoy excellent food if the service is bad or the setting unattractive. Due to the intense competition across the F&B and nightlife scene, it’s vital that all the elements work together in harmony.
What challenges have you faced and how did you address them?
The major changes evident in Dubai’s F&B scene have taken place in less than five years. The emirate has become home to numerous new and diverse concepts that span the spectrum of F&B and nightlife offerings. In 2012, you could easily open a club or restaurant and were guaranteed some degree of success, but that’s not the case today; the market is saturated with F&B and nightlife venues and brands have to be very clear in their vision and offering if they’re to survive. We continue to retain our leading position in the market because we know who our target audience is and what we can offer them. Moreover, we are always adding new elements for our guests to experience. Ensuring that our guests don’t become bored with us is an ongoing exercise.
What additional opportunities are you exploring in the market?
Aside from bringing high-end, well-established concepts to Dubai, we’re also focused on homegrown concepts and the casual dining scene. These have tremendous potential to grow organically, if executed correctly.
As a Russian group, did you encounter challenges in integrating in Dubai?
Dubai is multicultural, with most of the emirate’s population made up of expats of different nationalities from various countries, so integration was not really an issue. The emirate has proved itself a receptive market and business there continues to boom, making it an attractive destination for new, international enterprises as well.
Do you think F&B and hospitality projects remain an attractive proposition for investors and investments?
The hospitality sector in Dubai is not only expanding, but ever changing. A growing number of hospitality companies are making inroads into the emirates. The number of tourists, too, is continuing to rise, with even more visitors expected for the upcoming Expo 2020 Dubai.
Which regional markets interest you?
Saudi Arabia has a thriving economy and affluent population, which makes it one of the most attractive markets in the region. Its F&B industry is growing, which signals great potential for us to tap into.
About Bulldozer Group
Dubai-based Bulldozer Group is a boutique investment and brand management company. Since its inception in December 2011, the Bulldozer Group has opened brands that are aligned with celebrated restaurateurs at the forefront of the global industry. These brands include: Movida, VIP room, Toko Dubai and Sass Café Dubai, Cipriani, Socialista, Eshak, and The Hobo Club.
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