For Glee Hospitality Solutions, being consistently able to bring joy through success to clients is the ultimate priority. Managing director Abdul Kader Saadi walks us through the right way to make it in the regional F&B landscape.
Tell us a bit more about your background.
I have around 25 years of experience in hospitality, having worked in the UK, France, Switzerland and Morocco. I studied hotel management, then worked in Paris for six or seven years – in industrial catering, for the fourth largest company in Europe. The group served over 100,000 meals daily across France, Monte-Carlo and Morocco.
I then moved to London, and started working in a more high-end capacity, setting up outlets for a private company which received the Michelin Star.
In the end of 2007, I moved to Dubai and started working on Gramercy in 2009 (opened in 2010) – which was our first project. I established Glee Hospitality Solutions in 2009 on the back of that as we saw demand for such services. Following that, we worked on some projects in Abu Dhabi, and word was out that we were doing well, so this is how the company started growing.
What services do you offer clients?
We develop new food and beverage concepts, all the way from the initial stages, until the opening and management. We conduct financial feasibility and market studies, secure prime locations, develop operational manuals, and work on kitchen design, branding, and recruitment. We also work on menu engineering, marketing and PR support and coordination, interior design conceptualisation, and more.
We have more and more clients asking us to run the business for them, hence we’ve built the back office here. In this structure, the restaurant manager reports to us, and we report back to the owners; we provide the full back office structure from accounting and human resources to procurement as well as area managers
Our main pillars are concept creation, opening and management. Glee Hospitality also offers advisory services, where we can work on, for example, tenancy mix, auditing or advisory on acquisition.
What markets have you expanded to?
We have opened an office in Saudi Arabia and now have a trade license, and have two upcoming restaurant openings with more than five already in development for 2022 – namely Black Spoon in September and Olé in December. We also opened an office in Egypt, which will be focusing on investments and is run by my partner who is currently based there.
What are your views on the Dubai market and what challenges have you faced?
The market in the emirate undergoes swings, but what started as a two-man show has now grown into a big company. Glee Hospitality has successfully launched over 50 plus F&B concepts and unveiled 70 plus outlets across the region, including the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Oman, Kuwait and Jordan among others, with a team under management of nearly 350 employees.
We’re quite established, and have a solid reputation in the market now. There’s a lot of competition, but some coming in and more going out. In this market, many underestimate how difficult it is. I think that individuals from the industry or outside underestimate the amount of work that goes into opening a restaurant and all the different elements required.
Also, many may think that what goes into this is a lot of money. We’re not cheap, but we’re not the most expensive, a lot work goes into putting these projects together (many elements to coordinate and plan) – and we’re very well-positioned to make things happen for new F&B businesses.
A big change that the market has undergone is also a shift in how consumers are behaving and spending. There’s a market segment that’s feeling the pinch, and is now benefitting from delivery app discounts and two-for-one vouchers – something which may negatively impact businesses – in addition to all-inclusive packages offered by hotels.
Luckily, Dubai Tourism has been doing a great job with bringing in the numbers, which offsets a bit of the damage which investors may experience due to changes in the market such as oversupply and the abovementioned. However, while consumers now have more options and less loyalty due to the delivery surge, if you have the money, a good product, optimum service and the right marketing activity, you’re very bound to succeed.
How does the process flow once a client comes on board and how do you keep things fresh?
We have a team for pre-opening which works on keeping concepts varied and creative. We always tell clients, we need 12 weeks to work on these, researching what’s happening outside, getting operations involved, building a brief, putting down what they want the place to be like, identifying the target market and good locations, and more. We often work with local branding agencies as well, and change them up every once in a while to get new ideas in. A full project typically requires a year from the creative part all the way until the opening.