Five years after the launch of gourmet deli brand 1762, the first outlet targeting the leisure segment has launched in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lakes Towers. Husband-and-wife co-founders Suzi Croft and Manar Al Jayouchi say the venue’s success will shape the future strategy of the company
Suzi Croft and Manar Al Jayouchi began their F&B adventure in 2005, selling Appetite-branded packaged salads in petrol stations throughout Dubai. Today, the duo have a portfolio of four Appetite shops, four 1762 outlets in Dubai with a fifth coming up in Abu Dhabi, and Monty the Bus, a stationary catering facility, in addition to a strong catering division for corporate and private functions.
“It has very much evolved naturally,” Croft tells Catering News during an interview at 1762 Dubai Media City. “We grew organically in response to market needs, so we started off with packaged items under the Appetite brand, and that evolved into office sales then catering at corporate functions.
“We started to get requests for private catering, so we evolved our range to include lunches, platters, and party catering. Once we reached a certain point we decided we’d love to have a fresh deli environment. It’s not necessarily a different target audience, but we’re able to use richer ingredients that wouldn’t necessarily hold well in a packaged product.”
And so five years ago, in 2011, the 1762 gourmet deli brand was born in Dubai International Financial Centre. The objective? To offer something different to the market, with a range of healthy, wholesome food options and no specific focus on weight-loss or a particular diet trend.
“The whole idea is to promote good eating and good food. We’re not about dieting and we have to be very clear about that,” says Al Jayouchi. “There are lots of companies that do fantastic work with that and we’re not interested in competing. Maybe in time if we see the potential, it could be something we explore.”
“A lot of the dreams are coming into reality with the JLT venue, because each time we evolve our concept it grows a bit more and now this is the dream of our own bakery, the test kitchen, and having more á la carte items” – Suzy Croft
Sustainability is another important part of the company’s ethos, and they have worked very hard on ensuring that packaging for takeaway items is environmentally friendly. “We’re constantly researching and trying to find the best biodegradable, compostable packaging, which is hugely important,” says Croft, explaining that 1762 will soon adopt the same starch containers used for the Appetite brand. The only challenge is the hot climate of the UAE, which can often make biodegradable products waste quickly. “The materials often deteriorate, either during shipping or while in storage, however it’s part of our commitment and our payback, and we believe in it strongly,” Croft adds.
Earlier this year, the team also launched ‘Monty the Bus’, a traditional 1966 Routemaster London bus decked out with luxurious interiors and currently being rented out for VIP, corporate events. Croft explains: “For example if you’ve got an event on at the Polo, the F1 or the Boat Show, you can contact us, tell us your numbers and we’d work out the type of event you want us to put together for you. We can do anything really, and it’s very unique for weddings – the upper deck can seat 18 people and it’s like a luxury yacht”.
In addition, 1762 does catering for various events, including Design Days with Art Dubai, Al Quoz street events, The Ripe Market, and the Dubai Airshow, where it operates a mobile set-up and is four years into a six-year contract for the event. Commenting on the Dubai Airshow contract, Al Jayouchi says: “It’s a captive audience and if you’re good, you’ll see the impact on the third and fourth day. People will come back and they’ll tell others, so that’s why we see a growth in sales where others see a dip.”
However, when it comes to sporting events and concerts, the team face a more challenging operation given that many customers opt for fast food or unhealthy options. “Even if you’re on the strictest diet that day you will be relaxed because you want to enjoy it, so you go for naughty food and you forgive yourself. I think it’s fantastic to have sandwiches and salads but I don’t think I’d sell them, and if you’re doing it as a commercial exercise you’d always lose,” explains Al Jayouchi, admitting that the team usually alte
rs its menu to offer something “more curious”.
“The whole idea is to promote good eating and good food. We’re not about dieting and we have to be very clear about that. There are lots of companies that do fantastic work with that and we’re not interested in competing. Maybe in time, if we see potential for that, it could be something we explore” – Manar Al Jayouchi
Croft is heavily involved in menu development for the brands, having come from an F&B background herself. She liaises closely with the 15-strong team of chefs based at the central kitchen in Al Quoz – headed by chef Elizna Botha – who prepare all the food for the company’s three existing 1762 outlets in Dubai Media City, DIFC and Jafza. However, the next evolution of the brand is an outlet that will have its own on-site chef. 1762 Stripped, the first of which opened in Jumeirah Lakes Towers on 28 November, will feature an á la carte menu, a boulangerie, chocolate making machine, a taste kitchen and cooking school for six – eight people, and a kid’s menu and small kid’s corner.
Croft comments: “A lot of the dreams are coming into reality with the JLT venue, because each time we evolve our concept it grows a bit more and now this is the dream of our own bakery, the test kitchen, and having more á la carte items.”
Since Jumeirah Lakes Towers is both a residential and commercial district, the opening of Stripped marks the first time the team has gone after the leisure market according to Al Jayouchi, who calls it a “bold” move. “It’s the first venture where we’re not in a closed environment where we know what’s going to happen,” he says.
The team’s first opening in Abu Dhabi in March, marks another important milestone in the evolution of the 1762 brand, and similarly, this venue is located in a building expected to attract both leisure and corporate customers.
“We’re not 100% sure about the leisure market so at least for the next couple of years we’ll be playing around with the business markets mixed with leisure. In JLT, we’re in a business building but surrounded by leisure. Abu Dhabi is the same; it’s an office tower surrounded by residential so we’ll see how the residential reacts to it,” says Croft, revealing that ultimately, she would like to see a 1762 outlet open in a completely leisure market.
Another daunting prospect with the opening of the Abu Dhabi outlet will be operating out of a less accessible location. “We’ve been a bit hesitant about doing it because we like to just pop in and out as much as we want, but for Abu Dhabi it won’t be as simple as that,” says Croft.
“We think that expansion in the UAE is critical. It’s a brand of the UAE and we believe that we should be in the main districts where it will work. We believe that Abu Dhabi is a place that 1762 will work and other emirates could work in the future” – Suzy Croft
However, the pair decided to take the leap since they believe the future of the brand requires UAE expansion. “We think that expansion in the UAE is critical. It’s a brand of the UAE and we believe that we should be in the main districts where it will work. We believe that Abu Dhabi is a place that 1762 will work and other emirates could work in the future.” And while the company has received offers to open in Ras Al Khaimah, catering to a largely leisure market is something that they are not quite ready for yet, says Al Jayouchi, commenting “It’s a difficult exercise”.
In addition to two more 1762 outlets – both of which are set to pose new and unique challenges for the team – and two new Appetite shops, the recently opened Index Tower DIFC and Central Park, to open in January, the team has a lot on its plate, and is looking to consolidate its activities in 2017 before branching out again.
“I think 2017 will be about waiting and seeing, organising, reacting, being proactive, and making sure that everything is in the right place,” Al Jayouchi concludes.