Naim Maadad, CEO, Gates Hospitality covers some of the top tips for a successful launch in the F&B industry.
As is in the case of any new venture being launched in the market, any food and beverage concept needs to be unique, offer great value for money, and needs to offer culinary innovation and creativity, a professional chef representing the brand and have a credible sponsor amongst many other vital components. One of the key factors that needs the most consideration is the location of the new food & beverage outlet.
I say location lightly as there are many sub-focal points which need to be addressed too. Some of these revolve around the suburb, so you have to ask yourself what is the likely footfall that the location will generate, meaning are there clients who are likely to be a captive crowd for example is it located inside a hotel, or a shopping mall?
If yes, then there is a great chance that guests staying in the hotel or shoppers at the mall are likely to recognise the brand and step in to try the cuisine during eating hours. This also begs the question of themes and target audiences, if you are targeting families, a business crowd or offering a fine-dining concept.
Another deciders revolve around flexibility. Clients need to have the convenience of free, open parking that is readily accessible to them and things like valet parking will encourage diners to visit. The neighbourhood is also extremely important; one needs to know if there are other facilities located in the area, what is the competition like? What kind of clientele is most likely to combine a visit so as to save their time? Demographics of the client base you want to build upon are equally worth a thought.
At the start of any business venture there needs to be a thorough study of competitor brands. One needs to clearly know the similar brands in the city that are competing or offering a similar cuisine that you are planning to bring through your brand. So the need to study is a top priority, and questions that you need to ask yourself include what their business model is. Once you know their strengths and weaknesses, you can get inspired from their pros and cons, make their minuses your key strengths, which will ultimately gibe you the competitive edge.
Put deep thought as to what the aspects that can be truly unique about your brand that none of your competitors can match.
That said, understanding your competitor’s needs to be a concurring theme throughout your marketing once the brand is launched. Keeping up to date with fresh new deals, concepts and ideas. Everyone loves a bargain in Dubai, so happy hours, buy one get one g=free meal initiatives will drive people into an outlet, and if the food is good, the service is good and they had an overall great experience they wont be expecting a deal next time, they will come back because they had an exceptional experience and be willing to pay the full price.
Never stop going back to the drawing board to refine the F&B concept you are trying to drive forward. It is so important to constantly re-evaluate pricing structures, the culinary and service offering, brand positioning, the key target audience, operating hours and new décor concepts.
Sales and marketing has to also be consistent and regular meetings with regards to service standards; social media messaging and positioning all need to be synergistically aligned in order to effectively portray one strong brand message.
Next, always have a clear policy on hiring and staff training, you need to have the right leadership in place from day one who fully understand and support the concept. Staff recognition is also extremely important in the early stages as the turnover in F&B is huge, so a start-up restaurant is always going to face more challenges in the early stages, so hours can be long and often unsociable.
Then comes the need to engage with the client base and make needed changes to find the perfect operational strategy, the power of social media. To strengthen any brand it is so important to have an online presence, you need to be active in updating your website, responding to positive and negative tweets, as there is a massive social media foodie following.
Lastly, on points for what not to do, the number one thing boils down to trust and customer loyalty, you can never ever compromise on this, because despite new technological advancements, good old fashioned word of mouth recommendations are the strongest, get one bad review, you could ruin your changes of a while office building avoiding your outlet.
Follow the local rules and regulations, take care of all the stakeholders of the brand, never let down the team that works for you and believes in you, and ensure there is no default on any commitments or financial transactions at any time.
Dubai is a land of endless opportunities and does welcome all types of business ventures with open arms. The support of the government and business friendly rules and regulations make it a true haven for new brands to thrive, evolve and succeed.