An internationally award-winning chef and highly respected food and beverage operations specialist, Mark Patten is leading The First Group’s fast-growing F&B division. His track record in creating successful, cutting-edge F&B concepts in the UAE, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Singapore and the UK is a testament to his optimism, hard work, hands-on attitude and entrepreneurial spirit. Here, Patten tells us more about the group’s expansion.
The First Group has a wide range of F&B brands. What does it take to ensure the success of such a diversified portfolio of restaurants?
The food and beverage offerings in Dubai are very diverse. Business Bay, Jumeirah Village Circle and Jumeirah Village Triangle are examples of Dubai’s suburban growth. Finding markets that haven’t been saturated with restaurants is essential. The secret to success is offering reliable products at affordable prices and top-notch customer service.
In the fast-paced food and beverage industry, it’s important to stay focused – I still firmly believe that you’re only as good as your last meal. Although client feedback is essential for development, it’s also critical not to make things too difficult for them. Ultimately, the success of a food and beverage business is defined by the satisfaction of customers.
What have been the highlights of 2022 in terms of new restaurant openings? Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?
By the end of 2022, our food and beverage portfolio grew to 33 outlets, and we plan to open another 14 units in Dubai this year. We are excited to continue expanding our Risen Cafe and Artisanal Bakery brands, as well as developing our portfolio, such as a new property in Business Bay and a private Lifestyle Beach Club — Soluna Beach — which will open in Q1 2023.
Thanks to our team, with a diverse understanding and expertise of the market’s demands, we will be offering our white-label management services and consultancy to support other operators in creating and delivering their concepts.
Through the F&B division, you have introduced contemporary hospitality concepts to the region. Can you tell us more about this?
Risen Artisanal Café’s brand goal is to provide customers with an artisanal patisserie and bakery, offering top-quality ingredients and products at an accessible price. It sets itself apart with unique menu items ranging from entremets to breakfast items and bread, a unique coffee blend, and hot dishes. By being located in convenient and accessible spots, customers can grab a quick bite.
The First Group’s portfolio strikes a balance between quality ingredients and entertainment. For example, The Blacksmith in Business Bay offers a unique butcher shop and a well-crafted beverage program all in one venue.
We take into consideration market prices when developing concepts and strive to offer exciting menu options and activations throughout the year.
How do you foresee the future of the UAE’s culinary scene?
Compared to 10 years ago, the UAE has evolved into a global leader and a considerably more mature market. This is made obvious thanks to the expansion of diverse categories of brands, from casual dining to high-end restaurants. This shift has been made possible by the commitment of industry experts who are developing new concepts and catering to consumers’ demand for quality.
Today, the UAE offers a range of premium top-end restaurants, as well as midscale options that are accessible to residents and hotel guests. The Middle Eastern professionals’ skill set has improved and can now rival the ones of leading cities such as London, Paris, and New York.