Ras Al Khaimah’s food and beverage scene is undergoing a transformation with major brands entering, existing outlets being refurbished, and the addition of new developments. Catering News catches up with Barry Ebrahimy, head of commercial, Al Hamra Real Estate Development to find out more about the projects shaping the emirate’s restaurant landscape
Tell us about the F&B concepts in Al Hamra’s portfolio?
Within Al Hamra group itself we have the Marina Muse, which is a nice casual dining experience located in our marina overlooking the lagoon and the sea. In addition, we just opened The Bay Sports Bar in the Al Hamra Golf Club, which is a casual sports-themed dining and bar facility. We also have Pesto, a franchised Italian restaurant, which was completely refurbished in the summer. In addition to these restaurants, which are operated by Ras Al Khaimah Hospitality Holdings subsidiary, Hakaya Collection, we also have Maison Mathis and Belgian Beer Café run by tenants and within our hotel portfolio, we have Trader Vic’s Mai Thai Lounge, Lexington Grill, one of the best steak houses in the UAE, and Umi, a great Japanese offering, plus a number of other casual dining options.
How does the Ras Al Khaimah F&B scene compare to Dubai?
Of course Dubai has a number of fantastic offerings, it’s very diversified and it’s great to go to Dubai to experience that. However, we have something very unique in Ras Al Khaimah, particularly in our Al Hamra properties, and that’s a sense of community. You can always be sure to run into people you know. So for example, in our Bay Sports Bar we have communal tables and people often run into their friends and they sit all together, so that’s probably the most unique thing about our offering.
What enhancements have you made recently to the Al Hamra F&B portfolio?
We decided to up our game with The Bay Sports Bar (previously Lagoons Sports Bar) and Marina Muse so we renovated them to make them very trendy yet casual, and the menus changed completely to suit what people want in those areas. This then set the path for Pesto, which following its refurbishment, has a more traditional Italian look and feel while taking advantage of its huge patio overlooking Al Hamra Bay and the Golf Club.
Which of your outlets perform best?
The Marina Muse and The Bay Sports Bar are really popular spots for their atmosphere and good beverages.
Why is it so important to have a strong F&B offer for selling residential properties?
We’re selling more than a home; we’re selling a community, a way of life, a quality of life so it’s important to have all of those offerings for people within our community.
How do you see the F&B landscape in Ras Al Khaimah evolving?
In Ras Al Khaimah we need F&B destinations. We’re trying to position the marina in this way with our Pier One development, which has been completely refurbished to create a new atmosphere. There will be eight licensed outlets overlooking the water, made up of tenants operating brands. Already an Arabic and a seafood concept are open and we hope to finalise our brand selection for the rest of the outlets by the end of this year. It will then take three – six months to fit them out and the development should be completed by the middle of next year. It will be similar to Dubai’s Pier 7 but more casual.
What brands would you like to see in your developments?
In Pier One we would like more franchised, well-known brands in order to make it a go-to destination. Manar Mall is currently undergoing an extension and we will be introducing Baskin Robbins, PF Chang’s, Asha’s, Raising Cane’s, Shake Shack, Mandilicious and Papkumpir. More and more F&B is very important for us – both for the residents and visitors – they don’t just want to be stuck in the hotels, they want to explore.
What are the key challenges for F&B outlets operating in Ras Al Khaimah?
The problem is we don’t have the population of Dubai so there’s only so much money you can make. Another challenge is that for some brands, to service a location they need multiple venues to be able to afford the housing and all the BOH operations.
What are the opportunities for F&B outlets operating in Ras Al Khaimah?
To get a liquor license it’s much easier and for staffing, investors actually find they save money on transportation, on housing and things like that. Mid-level casual dining brands will always do very, very well in this environment. I don’t think we’ll ever have a Roberto’s for example – there’s no need for it.
Are Ras Al Khaimah residents loyal to certain outlets?
There are people who only go to Marina Muse and that’s their neighbourhood, and others that just go to The Bay Sports bar. There’s crossover but not regularly.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
We will re-commence our open-air markets on 14 September with street food, food trucks, etc. Usually thousands of people show up. We support the food vendors and caterers of Ras Al Khaimah.
What are your growth targets for the F&B portfolio?
Right now we’re waiting to see how all current offerings within Al Hamra perform. Once we complete the Pier One project with all the new brands, we’ll take a step back and see how they are being received and see if they are profitable, before introducing something else. With everything we do, we’re about sustainability. We don’t want to open businesses and then fail because there’s too much competition or not enough demand.