GRIF hosts region’s leading hospitality personalities

GRIF hosts region’s leading hospitality personalities

A who’s who of the region’s hospitality and F&B leaders gathered at The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management for the GRIF Society Dubai Briefing: a fascinating series of panel discussions, industry insight sessions and seminars on the latest market trends followed by lunch and a networking reception hosted by Gates Hospitality at Folly by Nick & Scott. 

Following welcome remarks from Jennifer Pettinger-Haines (Managing Director Middle East of Bench Events and Co-Founder of GRIF), Naim Maadad (Chief Executive of Gates Hospitality) gave an enlightening introduction, in which he spoke about the need for a united approach from F&B operators. He explained that businesses should work together for the good of the industry, without sacrificing their competitiveness.

Setting the scene

The briefing officially kicked off with an insightful conversation between Stefan Breg (Group Strategy Director of Keane) and Richard Thompson (Editorial Director at MEED), during which they examined how GCC business dynamics are evolving. They analyzed key geopolitical and macro-economic trends to watch out for in the region. The comprehensive discussion touched on important topics, including the increasing competition among operators chasing increasingly tight margins, as well as the shift towards a focus on investment opportunities in China and India. They also looked at the need for businesses to have ‘China-ready’ strategies and the necessity for a long-term post-Expo 2020 plan. 

Dubai’s evolving restaurant landscape

Next, Duncan Fraser-Smith (Vice President of F&B with The First Group) chaired a panel discussion with Christian Abell (Vice President of F&B MEA with Marriott International), Tom Arnel (Co-Founder and Managing Director of Bull & Roo Hospitality and Investments) and Samantha Wood (Publisher, Editor and Consultant of FooDiva). The group spoke at length about how F&B operators, from independents to hotel outlets, should work together, learn from each other and position Dubai as a leading dining destination on the global restaurant scene. Topics such as the need for restaurateurs to think independently and demonstrate more savviness in terms of location and pricing, along with the importance of sourcing quality local produce, were to the fore of the conversation. 

Vertical farming 

After Darren Tse (Commercial Director of Concessions at Expo 2020 Dubai) updated GRIF attendees on the exciting progress being made at the Expo 2020 site, Richard Thompson (Editorial Director at MEED) returned to curate a discussion on vertical farming, with Kieran Dowd (Vice President of Sourcing Solutions at Emirates Flight Catering and General Manager at Emirates Crop One) and Ming Zhu (Regional Development Manager at Crop One).

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Dis-connect and Gen Z

Dan Clayton (Director of PPS Addison Hospitality) took to the stage and gave a presentation on how businesses can reconnect with a disrupted audience in a third-party world. Helen El Mettouri (Regional Director of Keane) later welcomed students from the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management on stage to explain what they expect from their future employers and to speak about what Generation Z consumers look for from F&B operators.

Beyond the restaurant

GRIF’s panel discussions were rounded off with a group conversation featuring Courtney Brandt (Founder of A to Za’atar), Ian Ohan (Founder and CEO of KRUSH Brands), Reif Othman (Chef and Founder of REIF Kushiyaki) and Ron Simpson (Founder of The Avocado Show), which focused on corporate transparency and consumer expectations for companies to act in the interests of the greater good. The panel gave their expert opinions on the significance of staying true and authentic as business owners, while also talking about how sustainability can be a sustainable business model and the importance of not getting caught up in headline-based hysteria, by engaging with factual reports, data and statistics instead.

Big announcement from KRUSH brands

Ian Ohan, Founder and CEO of KRUSH Brands, chose GRIF as the platform to unveil the big news that KRUSH Brands has acquired the UAE food concept, the Salad Jar. The UAE company already owns, operates and franchises healthier and convenient food brands such as Freedom Pizza, Wildflower Poke & More, Coco Yogo Vegan Kitchen and Big Dwarf Food Technology. The acquisition is part of KRUSH Brands’ multi-brand, single-platform strategy – healthier brands you love, Powered by Freedom, KRUSH Brands’ proprietary technology, operating, franchising and delivery platform.

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About author

Rita Ghantous

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.

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