Why restaurant technology matters
To meet customer expectations and adapt to changing trends, F&B operators must be flexible and agile – nothing new there. But today, restaurants must satisfy consumer demand across multiple channels and touchpoints, giving customers a seamless experience wherever they are and whenever they want it.
That’s where restaurant tech comes in. In today’s golden age of technology, many tech solutions are readily available to improve the restaurant’s resource efficiency, paving the way for that much-needed flexibility and adaptability.
Adopting technology also enables restaurants to run an efficient business across the board because it automates tedious or error-prone processes, streamlines your Back of House (BOH) and Front of House (FOH) operations, and allows business systems to communicate. As a result, technology helps owners achieve their ultimate goal of creating an extraordinary customer experience and making their food-service company as profitable as possible.
Let’s see which technologies will be on the menu next year.
#1 Automation, AI, and robotics
Automation has been around in manufacturing and food processing for some time, but it hasn’t been as important for restaurants.
That’s changing. Operators are looking into automation, robotics, and AI in response to high labor costs, staff shortages, and menu inflation. These technologies automate specific tasks or, at the very least, eliminate a few steps for staff. As a result, they increase efficiency and product consistency, helping them offer better service.
Additionally, the F&B industry is taking to Artificial Intelligence. While you may think AI sounds a bit extreme, some smart kitchen technologies are relatively simple, easy to implement, and already commonly used. Finally, drone food delivery took off this year (literally!), making deliveries faster and less expensive for customers. Undoubtedly, more delivery restaurants will start teaming up with drone companies soon.
#2 Virtual brand marketplaces
Thanks to the widespread success of virtual brands on delivery platforms, more restaurants will launch their own virtual brand in the year ahead. A recent survey conducted by Deliverect and Qoot, 70% of the respondents expressed that they are planning to open new dark/cloud kitchen operations.
And why shouldn’t they?! Virtual brands help expand the reach and delivery radius, improve sales, and experiment with new dishes to meet demand. Kitchen space can also be optimized by preparing food for delivery at off-peak times.
However, while setting up a virtual brand is easy, it requires market research to define gaps in the market, compare competitors’ offers, and develop a fitting marketing and branding strategy. That takes time and resources that may not necessarily be available.
#3 Contactless payment and ordering systems
The demand for contactless processes has been growing considerably since the onset of the pandemic. Mobile ordering, payment apps, and QR code menus offer plenty of benefits for food businesses and their customers. They help increase table turnover, optimize the operational flow, and give restaurants access to customer data, helping them build a meaningful connection with guests.
On the customer’s side, going contactless ensures more secure payment transactions, increased order accuracy, and an overall improved dining experience.
#4 Digital loyalty programs
With diners cutting expenses due to the global economic crisis, restaurateurs are investing in loyalty programs to increase customers’ spending and encourage repeat business.
Retaining an existing customer is five times cheaper than acquiring a new one. Current customers are also more likely to try new dishes and spend more. So, investing in your loyal regulars makes a lot of sense.
While some companies prefer old-school punch cards, digital loyalty programs are trending because they fulfill consumers’ need for contactless experiences. A digital loyalty scheme allows customers to register online or through an app – using a phone number or email, for instance. The program then keeps track of their spending and suggests rewards based on past purchases.
The best thing about loyalty programs is that they come in different shapes and sizes. In other words, they can be as simple or complex as you want. One of the trends we’re seeing today is programs that offer immediate incentives, like in-store discounts or reduced prices on delivery. Alternatively, you can provide a free drink, appetizer, or dessert after several visits or orders.
Finally, most digital loyalty schemes can be integrated directly into your restaurant POS, making tracking, personalizing, and redeeming rewards easier than ever.
#5 Online order aggregator software
The global online food delivery industry is showing no signs of slowing down and is estimated to become a $369.97 billion business by 2030.
Over the past few years, food service operators and Q-commerce businesses have been turning to online ordering systems and (third-party) delivery services to meet increased demand. As the next step, they’ll be looking to optimize their online ordering operations and maximize potential. That’s why delivery aggregator software will gain even wider-spread adoption in 2023.
Online order aggregator software is designed to help restaurants manage online orders without effort. At its most basic level, it aggregates all online orders and synchronizes them with the restaurant’s POS, improving the business’ operational flow.
But state-of-the-art delivery management platforms do much more than that. They also enable restaurant owners to efficiently manage their menus and stock and help you gain valuable insights into your sales and consumer behavior. The cherry on top is the software’s ability to integrate with other software systems seamlessly, so you get a 360° view of your business in real-time.
Restaurant tech is the way forward in 2023
Restaurant technology and automation can help restaurants remain flexible and adaptable to changing realities, making daily activities more efficient and giving owners all the tools needed to build a profitable business.
While you can adopt countless restaurant tech solutions, some platforms will come in extra handy over the coming year because they fit today’s consumers’ needs. We recommend looking into contactless payment and ordering systems, digital loyalty programs, virtual brand marketplaces, delivery aggregator software, and automation and robotics platforms. Implementing these technologies can help food businesses go from surviving to thriving.
Copyright © 2022
BNC Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2022
BNC Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
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Mark Willis is a key industry opinion leader in the IMEA region, with over 420 hotels in the current portfolio and more than 120 hotels in the pipeline. He is undoubtably an industry heavy weight due to his leadership style, strategic decision making and extensive experience in the industry. His forward-thinking leadership and understanding have positioned this region as a key market for the company globally, both in results, as well as expansion plans. Throughout his tenure as CEO, Mark has led the team through a global crisis, while ensuring results were delivered, team members were taken care of, partners were supported, and guests were reassured.
A clear success is the way Mark lead and managed the region during the difficult period of Covid. His leadership and mentorship ensured that teams, partners, and guests were always informed on Accor strategies and activities that were implemented to support the different stakeholders. Successful activities included the opening over 20 properties per year since he has joined the Accor Dubai office (even during Covid), as well as ensuring that financial results were achieved even during the most difficult times. Another standout achievement has been the hugely successful opening and launch of lifestyle brands in the region such as SLS, 25 Hours and Hyde Dubai.
Tim Cordon has been with Radisson Hotel Group (RHG) (formerly Carlson Rezidor) for nearly two decades. He began his progressive career in the UK in 2003 as General Manager at Radisson Blu Hotel Manchester Airport which, at the time, was Rezidor’s largest hotel in the UK and where he successfully positioned the hotel in the group’s top 20 performing hotels worldwide.
In 2006, Cordon was recognised with the Alpha Forum Prize – “Younger Manager” award by the British Travel and Hospitality Hall of Fame. He then took on several leadership roles in two of the group’s key properties in London before making Dubai his home in 2015, taking on the role of Regional Director of Middle East & Africa (MEA). In 2017, Cordon was appointed Area Senior Vice President for MEA responsible for leading operations and delivering business growth and profit across the group’s largest area. Cordon has played a crucial role in Radisson Hotel Group’s expansion in the region, hitting key milestones for the group worldwide and setting in place an ambitious five-year development plan to reach 100 hotels in the Middle East by 2025. By 2019, Cordon looks after 50 properties in the Middle East with a total of 10,944 keys and 57 properties in Africa with a total of 11,373 keys.
As Area Senior Vice President for MEA, Cordon continues to contribute to the group’s regional milestones as it remains on track to reach its goal of having 100 properties in the next three years, as well as becoming one of the top three hotel groups in the world. Under Cordon’s leadership, the group continues to unleash the power of its portfolio, consisting of nine strong brands, driving significant growth across the Middle East and Africa. In fact, Cordon made the Middle East the fastest-growing region for the group and the region that recovered best during 2021, growing RevPAR to 85.6% of pre-pandemic comparable.
In the unprecedented times of COVID-19, Cordon ensured the hotel group remained resilient and on track for the rebound of the travel and tourism market. During the pandemic, he ensured all hotels followed stringent health and safety measures, including launching the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol.
As travel started to rebound in 2021, Cordon remained optimistic and encouraged partnerships with industry peers and the public sector to rebuild the hospitality industry and ensure the safety of travellers, partners, and team members.
With a mission to be recognised as one of the top three hotel groups in the world by 2025, Cordon’s visionary leadership helped secure various awards for the group including the Leaders in Hospitality Awards 2022. The group won the Innovation of the Year category and Radisson RED Dubai Silicon Oasis won the Mid-Market Hotel of The Year award. The recently opened Radisson Resort Ras Al Khaimah was highly commended in the Leading New Hotel category. RHG also took home an award at this year’s Sustainability Innovation Awards for its Hydroponic Farm Project, in its commitment to contributing to the Net Zero by 2050 initiative that Dubai has set out. Sustainability has always been vital, as Cordon raised awareness of environmental responsibility and implemented sustainability programmes to reduce the hotels’ carbon footprint.
Cenk Ünverdi brings 15 years of experience in the hotel industry, wonderfully spent with Rixos, one of the most prolific lifestyle hotel brands globally. Being the Regional General Manager, he currently oversees 5 hotels in UAE and gearing for upcoming hotels in the wider GCC region. Through Cenk Ünverdi’s vision, Rixos Hotels has been successfully recognised globally and continuously expanding its footprint in the region. With his leadership, the brand awareness has reached new peaks and have been visible across prestigious channels through strategic partnerships with highly-acclaimed brands such as UAE Pro League, Mubadala, RAKBANK, Aquaventure, Dubai Parks and Resorts, and Dubai Expo 2020 amongst others. Cenk Ünverdi’s passion for digital landscape and innovation plays a significant role in the success of various campaigns especially after the brink of pandemic resulting to 20% of the business. In 2021, his initiative to diversify the brand and grow the business to overcome 2019 pre-covid levels resulted in the highest increase in all business performance metrics.
Rixos Hotels is a fast, young, energetic, and growing brand and Cenk Ünverdi has been leading a successful and competitive team on a relentless quest to establish the brand as the leader in setting the stage for memorable 360° guest experiences. The brand introduced revolutionary entertainment and wellness programs in the Middle East, from staged shows to exciting creative activities for children at Rixy Kids Club to action-packed challenges at Exclusive Sports Club.
Hakan Ozel, the General Manager and Luxury Hotel Operator of Shangri-La Dubai has not only played an integral role in making Shangri-La what it is today but is a leading example in the broader industry due to his reputation for having a forward thinking and passionate approach coupled with robust experience. His contributions and impact across two decades of experience in a variety of locations with signature properties, has been exceptional. Some of his key accomplishments include being: highly knowledgeable in operations, renovation, refurbishment, and improvement projects; instrumental in turn-around properties, projects and crisis management by driving take-over, rebranding, and revamping efforts; a successful executive in turn-around projects and crisis management; appointed several times by corporate office for related leadership roles; vital in pre-opening many hotels.
What makes Hakan distinguished is his mindset and personality. He employs unique and highly successful strategies such as using a competitive approach to drive business results while strengthening collaborative partnerships among stakeholders. He understands that character is a differentiating element in hotels, and he brings this to life with creative and innovative ideas.
Hakan is not only highly experienced and meticulous but is also caring, compassionate, and strongly committed to the financial success of the business. His impact on the company has resulted in collective exponential growth in terms of team happiness, productivity, and goal realisation. In addition, he has been continuously developing his career and personal intellectual assets to ensure that he will assume higher responsibilities in the group in the future, while continuing to take innovative management standards and practices to places they’ve never been before in the present. He is a rarity and each and every contribution he has made has been nothing short of amazing.
An international hotelier of Italian and Danish descent, Thomas began his career in sales and marketing in Germany. Prior to joining Armani Hotel Dubai, he held senior management roles at Artprojekt Hospitality and Grand Hotel Heiligendamm in Germany, among others. As General Manager, Thomas is responsible for driving the commercial strategy and the all-round operations of Armani Hotel Dubai, ensuring that it sustains its status as one of Dubai’s most admired properties. He is mandated with strengthening the hotel’s brand identity as well as outreach to new international markets. He is also responsible for leading activities across operations, marketing, and administrative functions through an innovative approach and collaborative management style. Recent projects have included spearheading the 2020 launch of the UAE’s first kosher restaurant and the opening of a dedicated salon area within Armani/SPA. He is also committed to ensuring strong levels of productivity and resource use efficiency. Staff welfare and happiness is another key area of focus and Thomas maintains an open-door policy for all Armani Ambassadors as well as fostering a culture centred on team member empowerment. Thomas thrives on the fast-paced, dynamic, unique, and rewarding demands of his role and his passion for the industry and Armani Hotel Dubai is driven by its amazing team members.
Thomas is not only an innovative character by nature, but he is also committed to ensuring strong levels of productivity and resource efficiency, exemplified most clearly in the recent partnership agreement signed with Ferrari to transform Armani/Pavilion into Downtown Dubai’s most successful outdoor Ramadan venue.
It is Thomas’ overall character that exemplifies him as a leader in the hospitality industry and as a role model for many young hoteliers on the rise.
Outside of work, he makes time to enjoy the Armani Hotel Dubai experience for himself as he explains: “There are so many special corners within the hotel, however, there is something magical about our restaurant terraces. When the weather in Dubai is pleasurable, there is nothing better than having dinner al fresco on one of the terraces overlooking The Dubai Fountain show. It is truly a magical experience.
Richard Haddad has years of experience in the hospitality industry and has been the CEO of Jannah Hotels & Resorts for the last 4 years, in his reign we have seen many improvements across different fields and departments, including his strategic planning skills which impacted the increase of the group’s profits, helping to maintain and grow the reputation of each hotel. Richard’s vision for Jannah Hotels & Resorts is to expand to global market and showcase the Bedouin hospitality culture and expand halal tourism by tapping into the international market.
Richard has contributed to many achievements towards the group’s development, reputation, positive RGI results, overall improvement and much more. Since he joined Jannah Hotels & Resorts in September 2018, Richard oversaw the hotel and restaurant development including the launch of, Sahara Café an Arabic concept in Ras Al Khaimah during August 2020; Terrace at Cocina Restaurant an Arabic and International concept in Abu Dhabi during September 2020; EDGE Creekside Hotel, Dubai in January 202; Second branch of Feta Restaurant, a Mediterranean concept, in Dubai during January 2021; Halo Halo Restaurant and Asian concept in Dubai with 2 branches during January 2021; and the new cloud kitchen multi-concept that launched January this year.
In addition, he ensured the overall improvement and beautification of all the properties under Jannah Hotels & Resorts including the renovations that took place at Jannah Hotel Apartments & Villas RAAK and Jannah Marina Hotel Apartments.
Due to Richard’s outstanding business strategies and leadership, all properties within the group have seen a remarkable growth in the year-to-date numbers, looking at the “Revenue Generation Index”, we saw a 76% growth against last year at Jannah Marina Hotel Apartments, 129% growth at EDGE Creekside Hotel and 10% growth Jannah Burj Al Sarab, Abu Dhabi.
Richard understands the important of staying loyal to employees and the impact this makes on guest satisfaction, with his team’s help, he implemented a new service philosophy called “The Jannah Way – Culture and DNA”. The successful launch of the new DNA is just the foundation of how we want to celebrate our service culture. All guest service starts from within, in order for us to offer unparallel guest services, we had to focus on our people and the value they bring to the brand. Our Safir (which translates to Ambassador in English), is our most valuable asset in the organisation, and it is our mission to work as a family, not a team, in creating an environment that fosters pride, joy, and respect wherein the true spirit of Bedouin Hospitality thrives at every level.
As Chief Executive Officer, José Silva is responsible for growing the Group’s luxury portfolio through international expansion overseeing the next phase of dynamic growth whilst building on Jumeirah’s extraordinary success over the past two decades, driving the company to a new era in luxury. Currently Jumeirah Group has 25 properties across 8 countries, with 50% of the portfolio located outside of the United Arab Emirates including hotels in London, Capri, Mallorca, and then Shanghai, Nanjing, and Guangzhou in China.
He has enabled Jumeirah Group to weather the greatest economic storm of the 21st century (COVID-19) and has already broken historical performance records for Jumeirah Group throughout its 25-year history in Q1 of 2022. This has been achieved through restructuring the organisation, prioritising equal representation of women across the business, investment in talent and realignment of roles to foster a more agile business that can respond to the changing market and consumer dynamics, and identifying opportune moments to invest in product and guest experiences to expand the brand offering, delivering strong financial and reputational results
With his eyes firmly set on establishing Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts as a globally recognised luxury hotel brand operating in the pure luxury segment, José Silva continues to be the driving force behind Jumeirah Group’s growth into key cities and destinations around the world.
Yigit Sezgin has lived around the globe in 8 cities during the last 25 years and held senior executive roles in multinational companies such as Hilton, Ritz Carlton and Radisson Hotel Group. In his last role as CEO of BLG Capital he managed a portfolio of luxury and lifestyle real estate and hospitality developments such as Aman Resorts, Peninsula Hotel, Soho House, W Istanbul, Ritz Carlton & Mandarin Oriental Residences, Galata Port. He holds a wide range of successful achievements and a proven track record especially in Emerging Markets with strong experience in M&A, integrations, leadership, strategic marketing, brand management, commercial performance and business development. In his current role as the Chief Commercial Officer at Accor Hospitality, he oversees a portfolio of 42 Brands in 41 countries in charge of all Commercial Functions, Mergers & Acquisitions, lifestyle platform and Integrations.
Over the past 3 years of him being Chief Commercial Officer, Yigit has led the commercial activities to achieve a growth of +7 points in RGI for the region, and under his leadership, PR activities have led to an overall coverage of over 10,000 features for the region which has resulted in more than 6.9 Billion views YTD 2022, especially leading in the Middle East & Africa against its main competitors.
He has also led a number of projects namely: The integration of Turkey and India into the Middle East and Africa region in 2021 adding more than 100 properties to the existing portfolio; the integration of Rixos brand global management under his leadership into the Dubai IMEA office; launch of ALL – Accor Live Limitless; creation and launch of Kitch In in 2021; and the launch of the All Inclusive Platform following the success of the Rixos Brand.
Yigit holds a Master’s Degree from Harvard Business School and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management, from Bosphorus University in Istanbul.
Over the last years, Palazzo Versace Dubai’s managing director Monther Darwish put the property on the map, coming up with innovative campaigns aimed at increasing occupancy and revenue. As a result, the property had one of the highest occupancies amongst city resorts in 2021/2022.
July 2022 set a milestone for the businessman, who launched Palazzo Hospitality, a new management company for luxury hotels, residential buildings and lifestyle brands that aims to reinvent the world of personalised luxury. Leveraging on the trusted expertise of a team of hospitality experts, Palazzo Hospitality will bring to the market a diverse range hotel brands, from ultra-luxury beach resorts to business and art properties. Founded by Monther Darwish, the company is dedicated to building world-class hospitality products.
The launch of Palazzo Hospitality comes after the success of the ultra-luxury hotel in Jaddaf Waterfront, which has witnessed an immense success due to the market positioning through different campaigns and new business products, like the e-commerce platform aimed to offer guests the ease to purchase an experience at Palazzo Versace Dubai.
The hotel’s e-commerce platform has generated millions in revenue. Darwish says: “Being an independent property gives you the freedom to experiment and that’s the beauty of Palazzo Versace Dubai. We’re free to throw into the market any crazy idea and our audience just likes how unique we are. We’ve been thinking outside the hospitality box for a while, bringing in new initiatives and projects that haven’t been implemented anywhere else in the industry. Our ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ idea was a tactic to attract younger guests, the new generation who like to experience luxury with ease of purchase”.
Palazzo Versace Dubai was also the first property to introduce a bidding platform for stays, while the F&B segment continued to be a focus for the property. F&B revenue increased, too, as Palazzo Versace Dubai came up with unique concepts that proved to be successful among UAE residents. The ‘Into the Jungle brunch’ at Giardino, Palazzo Versace Dubai’s all-day dining restaurant, was a concept focused on child-friendly activities and a great F&B offering. It has been fully booked every Friday since it launched in July 2020.
In 2022, the hotel revisited its strategies and formulated new ones to continue to bring in guests and stay above its competitors.
David has an ability to inspire and lead his team while continuing to fight at the forefront and his capability to communicate and comfort the owners and external stakeholders are only some of the traits where David differs distinctly from many of his contemporaries. Despite the challenging times, the hotels have been able to sustain a retention rate of over 90%, demonstrating the loyalty to his team and their commitment to each other. Everyone in the team has been a big part of supporting the wellbeing of others amidst the social distancing. From keeping the team healthy and fit by organising isolated fitness regimes, fun runs, or simply coming up with new ways of entertainment such as stay-home hobbies, story sharing, or cooking ideas, David was committed to supporting everyone’s mental wellbeing. Looking back, the teams have not only made it through 2020 with a smile, but they have also been able to achieve budget and forecast on the second half of 2020, a remarkable achievement given the circumstances. Looking at the financials for 2021, the hotels are in line with their forecast and ahead of budget for the first 6 months. His colleagues and team members will assure you; David is not only someone who lives and breathes hospitality, he is a true leader that does not only take care of business continuity but also understands what is required to meet the expectations of stakeholders, employees, and communities. “David is a highly gifted and very experienced General Manager who has not only coped with the arduous challenges of opening three full service hotels in three years, whilst continuing to manage all of them, but has successfully navigated a way through the pandemic growing market share, maintaining high levels of guest satisfaction and exceeding financial expectations. Whilst David has numerous achievements to be proud of, including being the first hotel to organise a vaccination day with DHA, he is most proud of not making any employees redundant despite the challenges of the pandemic, speaks volumes about his character”, said Bert Fol, Regional Director Arabian Peninsula & East Africa, Radisson Hotel Group.
Taking the lead for three hotel openings with total 1046 rooms within 4 years, in a competitive market, wasn’t tough enough, the biggest challenge has been the uncertainty of the past 16 months. Throughout the past year, the tourism and hospitality industry has very evidently been impacted by the crisis, leading to most hotels across the globe choosing to temporarily close due to low occupancy or restrictions. There is no doubt that this has been a difficult time for everyone, but no matter the circumstances, David would always try to emit calmness, underlining his commitment to his team, ensuring everyone’s wellbeing comes first while refusing to compromise on anyone’s job security. David did not only manage to retain all 369 team members across the three hotels, despite the very difficult cash flow situation that the hotels went through during the pandemic, he also secured business during the hard-hit period of the strict lockdowns and travel restrictions, by working closely with the Dubai Healthcare departments and offering support. Whilst many hesitated, David, recognised early that this new kind of business would help them to survive and get through the most difficult months. While the first weeks of lockdown and COVID-19 landscape and more than 700 repatriate stays, the teams had to learn to fully adapt. Between PPE equipment, strict hygiene measures, and self-isolating repatriates, David made sure to stay close to his team, while supporting and supervising them on this honourable journey. From controlling expenses, repurposing the hotel for essential service use, and temporary closure of another, David has had many factors to consider, but never forgot his responsibility towards his team members. Throughout the lockdown, David didn’t step foot out of the hotel, ensuring that his teams were looked after and never shied from questions. He made it a point to address all concerns as much as possible through personal interactions at the hotel as well as weekly newsletters. On the top of the agenda; transparency and support. Although the hospitality industry has had one of its most difficult years in terms of cash flow, David had made it his priority to support those with financial concerns be it rent or other commitments, through temporary accommodation in one of the hotels or financial support where possible. In terms of revenue results the grou had a record breaking profit conversion of 19.7 Million, a great achievement which could only be realised by a great team working under an exceptional leader.
Artashes Avetisyan is an experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the hospitality industry. Skilled in business planning, management, hospitality management, customer service, and strategic planning. He is a strong business development professional graduated from Yerevan State University and Public Administration Academy.
The Golden Group has become one of the leading groups in hospitality in Armenia. It was established in 2000 and now owns 2 hotels in the Republic of Armenia; Golden Palace Hotel Yerevan, with 36 luxury suites; and Radisson Blu Hotel Yerevan, with 142 rooms and suites. Both hotels have a 5-star classification according to the international classification standards.
In addition to the luxurious outlets, exceptional design, and two exceptional locations, the welcoming service completes the picture. The group staff do their best to provide excellent service and meet guests’ expectations, making their stay memorable and delightful under the leadership of Artashes.
Artashes’ main mission for the group was to put hospitality service at the highest level in Armenia in order to provide guests with exceptional customer service and memorable experiences, that results in welcoming the guests back on another wonderful occasion, which he has been able to successful achieve in a short space of time.
In addition, Artashes has also founded 3A Hotel Management Company, which handles the entire operational management of the hotel, starting from pre-opening and beyond.
The ideology of his vision is to continue to apply and set the highest standards of service quality and, in that way, justify and uphold the reputation that he has among guests, partners, competitors, and the wider community. Artashes looks forward to embracing the changes that modern life brings and become more attractive in the market and more interesting to guests and partners. It’s no coincidence that the group has been repeatedly recognised as the regions guest’s choice. The Golden Group is continually growing and doing its best to make the hospitality industry in Armenia even more fascinating.
Bill Keffer is the Cluster General Manager of Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites and the iconic JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, a flagship of the JW Marriott Brand that opened in 2012 as the world’s tallest hotel. Bill is leading the hotel team of over 1,000 associates and more than 50 nationalities and is responsible for every aspect of this 1,608-room landmark, having already led the team to significant operational success.
Hailing from the Southern state of Tennessee in the US, Keffer has held managerial positions with Marriott International for over 25 years. Beginning his career in the Four Seasons Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, Keffer joined Marriott International in his home state of Tennessee sometime later, followed by positions in Florida and New York. In 2000, Keffer decided on a move to Asia and spent two years in Japan as the Food and Beverage Director of the Renaissance Hotel, Sapporo, followed by three years in South Korea as Director of Operations in the JW Marriott, Seoul. 2005 he saw a move to Europe taking on the role of Area Director of Operations in the United Kingdom and Ireland until 2009, when he came to the UAE as General Manager of Marriott Dubai Harbour Hotel and Suites. Throughout his career, Keffer has been the recipient of several prestigious awards including Continent General Manager of the Year 2012, Continent Hotel of the Year 2011, Global Hotel of the Year for 2011, three individual recognitions for Leadership and Engagement Excellence between 2010 and 2012, Food and Beverage Excellence in 2011, Operational Excellence in Asia Pacific Region 2005 and a special award for ‘Investor in People’ in Middle East and Africa, 2011. In his past assignments he was actively engaged in local community projects and business councils, winning a “Contribution to Culture” award in the Marriott Business Council and “Spirit to Serve” Community award in Dubai. With career spanned over 2.5 decades and counting, served in three continents for multiple owners and at the iconic properties backed with numerous awards and accolades, Bill’s committed and dedication to the industry is truly legendary.
Bill’s wealth of experience in the industry allowed him to lead the iconic 1,608 key hotel through the pandemic without having to close the hotel doors, a feat which was unachievable by many hotels across the globe, especially one of this size. Regarding revenue generation, Bill and his team adapted the hotel’s sales strategy during the pandemic, diversifying into long stay business for the hotel as well as reaching out to new markets, such as Israel. These new strategies helped maintain and support the business during the tough times and into 2021 helped drive more demand leading the hotel to achieve budget year to date. His kind and friendly demeanour combined with charismatic personality makes him approachable and well-trusted by his team which is reflected in the Associate Engagement results in 2021 where the hotel achieved 90% Engagement. And like a true mentor, Bill was overjoyed when promoting Nick Patmore (ex. Food & Beverages Director) to Hotel Manager last year. Nick’s promotion was a result of F&B exceeding its budget by 5 % in 2021, a huge achievement following a year where the hospitality and F&B industry were badly hit, helping for a speedy recovery for the hotel. If you were to ask Bill to pinpoint his favourite achievements, the avid animal lover would shout out the cat shelter project he has been part of lately. Teaming up with associates from the hotel, the group is facilitating over 25 stray cats at the staff accommodation in Ras Al Khor where our furry friends are well looked after.
Christophe Schnyder is a seasoned leader within the hospitality industry, with over 30 years of experience that spans across several iconic hotels around the globe, spending the last 20 years in Dubai, UAE. His personality exudes passion and drive to deliver results through his team. Christophe is well recognised in the industry for his innate ability to develop strong performing teams through empowerment and deep trust, with several of his direct reports moving on to become senior leaders and general managers within the industry. During his illustrious career, Christophe spearheaded several high-profile openings including the iconic Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Al Qasr & Dar Al Masyaf, and more recently Sofitel Dubai The Palm. His eye for detail and drive for success is acutely tangible in the success story each of these hotels have been since day one. Under Christophe’s leadership, Sofitel Dubai The Palm has established itself as the flagship Dubai property for the Sofitel brand and Accor, which continues to shine as an exceptionally profitable asset since its opening in 2013. He is a true reflection of the brand, which radiates modern luxury celebrating the most sophisticated living. Hard work and passion have led Christophe to where he is today, but he translated it with being personable towards his team, individually recognising and rewarding his team members for excellence.
With a keen on eye on customer experience Christophe worked closely with the owning company to drive profitable long-term investment into the hotel that will continue to enhance the guest experience in an ever evolving Dubai hospitality scene.
Christophe is a visionary leader that understands the importance technology plays in the future of hospitality and in the customer journey. He quickly embraced the digital transformation of the hospitality industry and enabled the hotel to swiftly integrate two technologies that helped drive incremental revenue and improve customer journey.
A hospitality veteran of more than 20 years, Slim Zaiane’s career path has taken him from Geneva to London to Dubai in senior management roles with several luxury hotel brands. In order of keeping this exciting and challenging, his day-to-day role involves being around guests and overseeing the hotel’s operations, logistics, management, and team. He thrives in achieving excellence in both guest and employee satisfaction and enjoys being extremely hands-on in all areas of the hotel to achieve the highest level of service. The most challenging part of this role is to make sure all my colleagues are appreciated in the same manner and to constantly improve and provide a healthy work environment while maintaining a work-life balance.
Slim’s leadership is responsible for launching of the newly open SPA and other hotel outlets. As well as the strong CSR activities which include: supporting constantly the local community by generating funds during the stollen event to be donated; the funds raised to support the Red Crescent and Senses residential care; supporting the medical hospital crew during Covid by extending free meals for the them to support them during the peak time of the pandemic; and supporting various local school charities.
The hotel saw a RevPAR growth of 79% in 2021 despite the difficult market conditions, enhanced quality scores are at the highest for the last 10 years. He has also successfully positioned the hotel as one of the top luxurious leisure destinations in Dubai, winning different hotel and general manager international awards. Achieving LEED platinum accreditation for the hotel and supporting ALUMNIs from different international hotel management schools to integrate the hotel industry once newly graduated is one of Slim’s priorities, along with ongoing mentoring and development plans to the senior management team resulting in reducing turnover.
With over 39 years in the hospitality world across Australia, Asia, & the Middle East in various senior management roles, Naim has launched and operated some of the world’s best Hotels, Resorts, Spas & Lifestyle Food & Beverage Concepts. Naim’s career has exposed him to some of the best properties around the world and he has been fortunate to partake and orchestrate several amazing openings and operations. In 2010, Naim established “Gates Hospitality” a homegrown Hospitality Company representing handpicked Concepts catering for the affluent life-stylers. Gates Hospitality, the owning company of well-known homegrown brands such as Ultra Brasserie, the internationally acclaimed concept; Reform Social & Grill Dubai, Folly, as well as Publique, Dubai’s premier “Apres Ski chalet”, Bistro Des Arts, Six Senses Zighy Bay and Red Farm London at Covent Garden London.
Covering a wide spectrum of positions within senior leadership, including the role of Managing Director for both Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas and The Anantara Group respectively. During his time with these exclusive properties, Naim was instrumental in nurturing sound relationships with owners, securing the best possible locations, negotiating, and formalising contractual agreements, and appointing teams to infuse and reflect the ethos of the brands. Being based in the Middle East over the past 20 years, Naim has witnessed tremendous industry growth, gained a deep cultural understanding and has been endorsed by principals and organisations alike. He has also achieved a selection of awards from reputable publications and organizations recently including ‘Hospitality Entrepreneur of the year’ at the Leaders in Hospitality Awards by Hotel & Catering in March 2022, a Gold ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ award in December 2021 as well as ‘F&B Heavyweight’ at the Leaders in Hospitality Awards by Hotel & Catering in November 2021.
2021 has been a grand year for 7 Management with CEO Rabih Fakhreddine firmly at the helm, leveraging every possible opportunity and fearlessly taking the year by storm. A key player in the industry, Fakhreddine has amplified the nightlife landscape in the region with 7 phenomenal launches under his belt. While many were proceeding with caution, Fakhreddine was trailblazing with perseverance, determination, and unparalleled enthusiasm. Fakhreddine was the visionary behind several concepts that helped cement Dubai’s global dining and nightlife reputation, by introducing famous Beirut exports such as Seven Sisters, Antika Bar, BO18 DXB, February 30, and Cafe Beirut to the UAE market. Additionally homegrown concepts such as The Theater and Lucia’s that have already proved ground-breaking players within the regional landscape. Recognised as an entertainment leader in the region, 2021 has honed and elevated Fakhreddine’s ability to envision, conceptualise, and create aspirational brands that strike the balance of experiential excellence, thrilling entertainment, and a quality culinary offering. 2021 was the year that Fakhreddine kept his finger firmly on the pulse of this ever-evolving city, whilst also setting his sights further afield. Fakhreddine enhanced the nightlife scene in both KSA and Qatar with the successful launch of Antika Bar. Hailing from Lebanon, Fakhreddine has always been a visionary at heart. Working for many years in the corporate world he knew that his true passion lay on the other side of his comfort zone. With an absolute passion for the hospitality industry, he created 7 Management that has gone from strength to strength in 2021, with plenty of robust expansion plans on the horizon. 7 Management has tapped into the explosive power of this sector, resulting in a new payment option, where clients can pay with cryptocurrencies at all the Food and Beverages outlets.
Timothy Kelly, the Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Atlantis Resorts and Residences has grown the business from strength to strength after coming on board in November 2017. Although he has seen many successes over the years, these are a few of the most recent achievements to date: He successfully navigated Atlantis, The Palm through some of the most challenging years in hospitality history, not only to survive but to thrive, resulting in 2021 being the best year financially for the company since opening in 2008 (whilst also caring for over 3,000 colleagues).
Tim is not only leading the way for resorts in the Middle East but creating a product that is game changing on a global scale. During the pandemic, Tim took the move to embark on the world’s largest waterpark expansion and increased the waterpark by a third, so that with an additional tower and 28 new rides and attractions, we’re now home to the largest waterpark in the world offering over 105 different experiences to our guests. He also shook up the entertainment sector by bringing a slice of Ibiza to Dubai with Palmarama at WHITE Beach – a first of its kind partnership that had never happened before in the region that brought world class entertainment to the city in the middle of the pandemic in a responsible way.
2020 was a wonderful opportunity for Atlantis to give back to the community from a social standpoint and had the opportunity to do so in the partnership with the world-renowned artist Sacha Jafri. For over six months, Tim donated the space for Sacha to create the world’s largest canvas which was sold at a glittering auction at the resort for a staggering $62 million, raising money for children in need across the globe. This also achieved the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest painting.
In June 2021, Atlantis, The Palm announced its commitment to do business in ways that are good for both people and the planet with the resort’s first sustainability initiative Atlantis Atlas Project.
Tim is considered a hospitality heavyweight not only for his achievements, but mostly for his visionary leadership to helm not only one of Dubai’s, but one of the world’s leading entertainment destination resorts.
Strategic, engaged and result driven, Guy Hutchinson is responsible for developing and executing the strategic direction of Rotana and devising and implementing short- and long-term strategies to help the company realise its expansion plans. In addition, he provides executive oversight of all aspects of Rotana’s day-to-day operations. Spearheading the company’s expansion, Hutchinson led the introduction of 28 new hotels across 13 markets, launched a franchise model for the Group and oversaw the opening of new Global Sales offices in Paris, Milan, Amsterdam, and Istanbul to drive business from these key markets. Furthermore, he spearheaded the launch of a new brand at the recent ATM, Edge by Rotana, to complement our existing portfolio of products.
Hutchinson joined Rotana’s feted executive team with prestigious recognition of his own. The international hotelier’s career is notable for its creative leadership and his success in change management, repositioning, and building high performing teams.
Rotana has achieved a number of milestones as it continued its tenacious expansion over the past 12 months. The leading hospitality group has signed seven hotels last year, which include its expansion in Qatar and signings in Egypt.
In 2021 Guy Hutchinson continued to spearhead the management of the pandemic across the Rotana portfolio, swiftly instigating several successful measures, some of which include the Rotana Safe Space Program that remains today. His quick thinking and bold efforts in the initial stages of the pandemic mitigated the impact on the overall business and his team, and soon pushed the hotels into a commercial recovery phase
Panos Panagis is a highly creative, detail oriented leader with a strong work ethic and passion for his job, he likes to challenge himself daily, whether it be cultivating his skills or developing talent in the Industry. He is dedicated, committed, compassionate and, more importantly, a man with vision and wealth of knowledge. His innovative strategies demonstrate his commitment to ensure high levels of productivity and resource efficiency. He continues to priorities health and safety of guests and staff. His’ primary focus is to deliver a personalised and engaging luxury experience by combining distinctive characters of Oman’s local culture with his international experience. He has implemented various organisational changes to make business agile and adaptive to the current market trends, while maintaining and creating long-lasting relationships with partners and guests. Panos’ overall character makes him a role model for young hoteliers and a leader in the hospitality industry. One of his greatest passions is mentoring young leaders; empowering them within his team and across the company so that they can grow professionally and achieve their goals.
His passion and expertise in the hospitality industry is unmatched; he is truly a one-of-a-kind leader. In the hospitality industry, Panos demonstrated excellent leadership, robust resilience, and unwavering determination to deliver results during the most challenging market conditions. In addition to working as GM at Hormuz Grand Muscat, A Radisson Collection Hotel, one of the most iconic properties in the capital, Panos Panagis’ contributions to Radisson Hotel Group extend far beyond one five-star luxury hotel with 231 rooms. During his tenure at Hormuz Grand Muscat, Panos led his team to achieve several awards, including World Luxury Hotel & Restaurant Awards for ‘Luxury Hotel in Oman & Luxury Restaurant in Oman’. During the pandemic, Panos and his team adapted the hotel’s sales strategy, diversifying into long-stay business and targeting the domestic market with staycation and food and beverage offers, which helped maintain business. Captains led by example, so he ensured that no job was too small, ensuring support for all departments.
Adib Moukheiber is best known for his time leading one of the region’s most private and luxurious hospitality projects in the world, Zaya Nurai Island. As the former head of the ultra-luxury boutique Zaya Nurai Island, Moukheiber is no stranger to welcoming the most discerning UAE residents, as well as celebrities.
With a BA in Hotel and Tourism Management from Notre Dame University, Adib joined Zaya Nurai Island, Abu Dhabi in 2016 as the General Manager prior to this he was the Director of Sales for the Middle East and GCC at Hotel President Wilson (Starwood Luxury Collection) Geneva, Switzerland. During his time at Zaya Nurai Island he achieved great success in terms of revenue and worldwide recognition and managed to generate strong performance during COVID in 2020 and 2021 before assuming his current role as CEO of Zaya Hospitality where he leads the organisation to new heights with his vast experience and leadership skills.
Aloki Batra has been aptly referred to as ‘Mr Brightside’ for his perennially optimistic approach to leadership at the world-famous FIVE Hotels and Resorts, (which includes the iconic FIVE Palm Jumeirah and Instagram favourite FIVE Jumeirah Village, FIVE Zurich and FIVE LUXE, JBR). With an innovative spin on traditionally relied upon approaches and an out of the box philosophy that has yielded stratospheric results – including rapidly selling out all of FIVE Palm Jumeirah’s luxury residences for approximately US$400mn, Aloki has helped create a brand value for FIVE Hotels and Resorts that enjoys over 60% of all its bookings coming in directly through FIVE’s very own proprietary website/reservations teams. All-in-all Aloki’s marketing prowess has resulted in FIVE Hotels and Resorts in Dubai successfully welcoming over 3.79mn guests of over 192 nationalities to FIVE’s award-winning F&B venues and over 4000 events with over 360 top DJs in 1,784 days. Two FIVE Hotels have been ranked #1 with occupancy rates of over 95% and a TrevPAR that is 253% higher than its competitive set. FIVE Jumeirah Village is the most reviewed hotel on Booking.com with over 30,000 reviews with a rating of 9.
The imaginative powerhouse behind hugely successful homegrown concepts such Dubai’s iconic rooftop nightlife destination, The Penthouse, chic Italian luxury haute spot, Cinque and gourmet MSG-free Chinese favourite, Maiden Shanghai at FIVE Palm Jumeirah along with award-winning immersive street-food dining experience serving all your food-cart favourites from every delicious corner of the world, Soul Street. He has completely conceptualised and executed in-house, FIVE’s award-winning array of venues – each of which enhances the seductive appeal of the FIVE Vibe.
Looking ahead, Aloki plans to continue to evolve and encourage pioneering strategies at FIVE Zurich and capitalise on its’ already established key markets. He continues to lead FIVE’s portfolio, focusing on dynamic growth and bringing even more luxury lifestyle concepts to life.
Sunset Hospitality Group was founded in 2011 by Antonio Gonzalez with a vision to create unique experiences around the world through a diverse mix of hospitality concepts.
Under Antonio Gonzalez’s leadership, Sunset Hospitality Group (SHG) achieved excellent results, with overall business growing massively, making it one of the UAE’s most reputable hospitality investment and management companies. For the last 13 years, he has worked tirelessly to introduce new hospitality concepts that bring people together to create memorable experiences. As a result, the Group is now present in 9 countries across 26 brands with a proven record in delivering a blend of high-quality services at exceptional locations.
In 2021, Sunset introduced ten new brands, including SUSHISAMBA, Aura Skypool Lounge, METT Hotels and Resorts, Isola Ristorante Italiano, Folie Restaurant & Sea, and RAISE Fitness & Wellness, taking its portfolio to over 30 venues. The Group received 25 awards and nominations from the industry’s award-giving bodies. Sunset welcomed the year 2022 with the opening of DREAM, a dinner and show concept that received amazing reviews from guests and the media worldwide. It was followed by L’Amo Bistro Del Mare, which was rated One Toque by Gault&Millau Guide.
The Group is expanding regionally and internationally, with the Black Tap burger joint entering Riyadh in June of 2022, while METT Hotels & Resorts, with its first hotel in Bodrum, is eyeing new locations in other parts of the globe. New concepts opening in the next few months are Mott 32, a luxury Chinese restaurant originally from Hong Kong, in Address Beach Resort, and ATTIKO, a signature outlet for guests looking to unwind and celebrate, opening in W Hotel Mina Seyahi.
Celebrating its first ten years in 2022, SHG aims to reach over 50 operating venues in 14 countries and will continue to expand with a robust pipeline of new openings for 2023 and beyond, not only in the Middle East but also in Spain, Italy, Greece, and Morocco, to name a few, confirming its status as the leader in hospitality management in the UAE.
Paul Bridger, a British National is a proven hospitality leader with more than two decades of diverse experience across Europe, Middle East and Asia, Paul Bridger is the Chief Operating Officer of Rove Hotels, the smart, new value hospitality brand created as a joint venture between Emaar Hospitality Group and Meraas Holding. His journey with Rove Hotels started in 2016 at the brands first opening and he has been overseeing the initiation, planning, and achievement of the brands objectives since.
Paul Bridger has led Rove hotels since its first opening in Downtown Dubai. The brand has carved out a new niche in the region’s hospitality scene for its fuss free service, unique approach, and quick growth. In the past 12 months the group has continued to go from strength to strength, with new openings and signings in prime locations and further unique twists on the region’s hospitality scene.
As the Head Rovester, Paul has always laid a keen focus on guest satisfaction. A testament to all these efforts is shown via a quick search on one of the OTA sites or TripAdvisor, with the Rove Hotels consistently occupying the top spots in their category. TripAdvisor recognised some of the brand’s hotels as ‘best of the best’ (TOP 1% Worldwide), and Hotels.com have recognised them through the ‘Loved by Guests’ Awards 2021. Other recognition has been in the Leaders in Hospitality Awards 2021’s and LIV Hospitality Design Awards ‘Interior Design Hotel’, to name a few.
In his current role, Jochem-Jan is responsible for Hilton’s portfolio of hotels in the Middle East, Africa & Türkiye, where Hilton has more than 170 hotels across eight market-leading brands and more than 29,000 Team Members. Under his leadership, Hilton’s portfolio in the region will more than double in the coming 3-5 years, with 180 hotels in its development pipeline across luxury, full-service and the mid-market brands.
Under Jochem-Jan Sleiffer’s leadership, Hilton is ushering in a new golden age of travel in the region – as the industry recovery continues to gather pace around the world. With a proven strategy focused on workplace culture, ESG and growth, achievements include: Team Members voted Hilton in the top 4 Best Workplaces in the UAE and KSA in 2022 – making it the top-ranked hospitality company in both markets. Hilton will continue to focus on creating a fantastic workplace culture for its teams – and be a welcoming place to work for all. In June 2022, Hilton partnered with Bunyan for Training, a local affiliate of Swiss hospitality management school Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, to train young Saudi talent willing to enter the industry. Hilton has partnered with organisations such as the SEDRA Foundation in the UAE – and such partnerships will continue to grow under the leadership of Jochem-Jan with a major part of his leadership focused on creating opportunity for People of Determination. Jochem-Jan works closely with the Dubai Executive Council – acting as a representative of the hospitality sector to advise on and promote inclusion of People of Determination in the industry.
For the last 6 years and even during the most challenging year of recent times, the pandemic during 2020, Giacomo has managed to deliver a profit year after year through leading by example and always pushing boundaries to achieve the impossible. Giacomo’s engagement with guests and team members alike are unique and personal. The term “engagement” has somewhat staled, but here it means showing genuine interest in the success of the organisation and for each individual team member. Giacomo’s leadership style prides itself on the notion that, interested and engaged people do not multitask, fidget with their smartphones, or otherwise dilute their attention and participation during interactions and meetings. Giacomo actively listens, proactively comments on other contributions and offers constructive feedback or insights to other queries. Giacomo is solution-focused with those relying on him. Giacomo gracefully frames his contributions and feedback in a constructive and supportive manner, which typically has a positive effect on others. For Giacomo, leadership charisma does not mean being “larger than life,” a “dynamic speaker,” or having a strong “executive presence.” Rather, Giacomo fundamentally stands out in his ability to focus on others and not on himself. This “service to others” is at the core of his genuine charisma, it is inspirational in his messages and his ability to bring people together to realise a common goal and share in that success. Giacomo’s charisma coupled with substance and empathy makes him a very powerful asset to the organisation. He has over 26 years of experience. Inspired by his passion for wines and food from the start of his career, his priority has always been to ensure that his team and his customers are always satisfied.
Over the years Giacomo has increased profitability for the hotel and his latest achievement is the successful opening of the only resort located in The World Islands archipelago, Anantara World Islands Dubai Resort, on 18th December 202.
As the Vice President of Development, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Panos Loupasis has overseen a number of important developments in the region for the brand. In particular, Panos was at the forefront for the significant growth across the MEA market over 2021, including the signing of eight hotels with a total of 1,279 rooms as well as the opening of five hotels and 809 rooms.
As a key member of the Wyndham’s leadership team, Panos supports the brand’s focus on the recovery and growth in a new era of travel post pandemic. At the forefront of development for the hotel group, Panos has personally signed up to 60 opportunities over his time at Wyndham, with the latest including the largest Tryp hotel with 672 rooms when signed and Wyndham Dubai Marina at 497 rooms.
Professionally, Panos is passionate about advancing the GCC tourism sector and has contributed his expertise, as a member of the advisory board for the AHIC (Arabian Hotel Investment Conference) and the AHIF (African Hotel Investment Forum). By working with partners – from governments to airlines, tour operators to franchisees – Panos, alongside the Wyndham team, continue to rebuild confidence in tourism, as people begin to explore once again in this new era of travel.
In 2015, Bani Haddad founded Aleph Hospitality, a leading independent hotel management company, working for hotel owners in the Middle East and Africa to maximise their assets. In contrast to traditional hotel management models in the region, Aleph Hospitality manages hotels directly for owners, either on a franchise basis for branded properties or as a white label operator for independently branded hotels.
Introducing the 3rd party management model to the region was quite a pioneering move by Bani seven years ago and it remains his legacy to hospitality in this part of the world. In seven short years, Bani Haddad has taken the hotel management portfolio to 12 operating hotels, 947 keys, and 12 signed hotels in the pipeline, 2,000 keys, in the following countries: UAE, Lebanon , Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Monrovia, Cameroon, and Ghana. In addition, Bani has established preferred partner status with leading hotel brands, including Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt. Aleph Hospitality has earmarked a portfolio of 50 hotels in the Middle East and Africa by 2026. Bani’s hands-on and human leadership style has remained consistent, and Aleph’s company culture of empowerment has made it an attractive employer, with a hotel employee turnover below 5%.
Prior to founding Aleph, Bani successfully developed, launched and managed several major international hotel brands. As Regional Vice President Middle East & Africa for Wyndham Hotel Group, Bani grew the portfolio from six hotels to 49 operational hotels and 20+ under development, developed five new brands and expanded the company’s portfolio to the African continent. From fundraising and developing 40 Holiday Inn Express hotels in the GCC at Hospitality Management Services and setting up HMS as an independent hotel management company to pre- and post-opening operations at Starwood and Disneyland Resort Paris, Bani has first-hand experience in virtually every aspect of hotel management. Under Ban Haddad’s visionary guidance, Aleph Hospitality almost doubled its revenues over the past 12 months driven by the group’s portfolio expansion.
In January 2006, Fathi Khogaly became the Resident Manager at the Galleria complex at Hyatt Regency Dubai, where his main goal was to rejuvenate the residence and the shops at the Galleria. This was successfully done, where the outcomes were quite remarkable. These steppingstones simply laid the foundations, and later brought him to being appointed as the Hotel Manager in 2007 and 2009, and later General Manager in 2013 and 2016 of each property respectively.
By 2022, Fathi Khogaly added to Grand Hyatt Dubai’s extensive fleet of facilities. This included an Entertainment-plex, known as the Megaplex, which consists of Tiger Jax, a sports bar with an arcade and bowling alley; Primi by Panini, an extension to the hotel’s flagship delicatessen, Panini, and Roli Poli, a brand-new Kids Playground for all the little ones. Another key addition was orchestrating the opening of Grand Hyatt Dubai’s latest MICE venue – The Grand Hyatt Dubai Conference & Exhibition Centre. This blockbuster expansion project has added over 5000 sqm of state-of-the-art events space, and features a new exhibition hall, a pre-function area, a VIP majlis, and 2 levels of exclusive parking. Built in record time, Grand Hyatt Dubai’s Conference & Exhibition Centre was designed specifically to become one of the most renowned events, conference and exhibition venues within the destination.
Fathi Khogaly and Hyatt Hotels proved to be the complete match with their genuine common ideologies and beliefs, primarily being about care, which was also the epitome of Hyatt’s purpose– we care for people so they can be their best.
During his tenure, he continues to demonstrate in many ways how he cares for people, most notably how he cares for the associates that work with him.
Mark Kirby began his journey with Emaar Hospitality Group in 2014 as Hotel Manager of the prestigious Armani Hotel Dubai and subsequently rose to the position of General Manager. Under his leadership, the hotel achieved widespread global awards including 27 service-related accolades in 2018. Moving forward with an appointment as Area General Manager, he managed the Group’s iconic flagship hotel, Address Downtown, as well as other Downtown Hotels in the Group’s portfolio, such as Address Fountain Views, Address Sky View, Palace Downtown and Vida Downtown Residences, before assuming his current role as the Head of Emaar Hospitality Group. While being a resilient force behind the success of Emaar Hospitality Group, he has been successfully expanding the group’s portfolio to key gateway cities and tourist markets internationally.
Mark pioneered the international expansion of Emaar Hospitality Group within the UAE including Address Beach Resort Fujairah and Vida Beach Resort Umm Al Quwain. He also led the successful debut of Vida Beach Resort Marassi Al-Bahrain, the first extension of Vida Hotels outside of the UAE and Address Istanbul, a hotel situated in the heart of the luxury Emaar Square on the Asian side of the city, Address Istanbul is a destination unto itself with unlimited possibilities. Mark’s involvement was instrumental in the signing of Diriyah Gate Development Authority to launch Address Hotels + Resorts within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has allowed Emaar Hospitality Group to make its mark as one of the leading developments in the region.
He leads his team with true passion to allow growth and evolution within the industry. Popular for his approachability and willingness to mentor staff at all levels with the little details as well as critical matters, he has mentored many protégés over the years, from junior levels to those in middle management positions.
Sandeep Walia is the Chief Operating Officer for Marriott International in the Middle East. With over 25 years of international experience in the hotel industry, Sandeep is currently responsible for leading the operations of Marriott’s properties in the Middle East (including Egypt and Turkey) which features over 200 operational properties and more than 100 properties in its pipeline. The company has more than 40,000 employees across its portfolio.
Sandeep took on his role as Chief Operating Officer for the Middle East mid-2021. In the last 12 months, Marriott has grown its portfolio in the region with the addition of more than 25 properties. Highlights include: Introduction of Ritz-Carlton in Jordan with The Ritz-Carlton, Amman; debut of Le Meridien in Qatar with Le Royal Meridien Doha, Residence Inn in the UAE, MEA in Qatar with Marriott Executive Apartments City Center Doha; and openings of The St. Regis Dubai, The Palm and The St. Regis Downtown Dubai and W Dubai – Mina Seyahi in the UAE.
Sandeep is passionate about the opportunity to develop the future leaders of this region’s industry. The company is committed to investing in young local talent to ensure the success of the region’s travel and tourism sector is unwavering. One of the ways the company is empowering youth is by developing the next generation of hospitality professionals through its Tahseen program – a hospitality training program that was developed by Marriott to specifically focus on fast tracking local hospitality leaders.
Emma Banks is responsible for F&B strategy and development across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, a remit which spans seventy countries and supports Hilton’s trading and future pipeline of hotels. Over the course of Emma’s career, she has seamlessly transitioned from independents to large global hospitality companies. She joined Hilton in 2019 with a mission to make the company the clear leader in F&B. In a short time she has made a major impact, bringing a wealth of exceptional F&B talent into the business to build a strategic commercial platform, while being actively involved in Hilton’s various ESG initiatives.
Emma Banks’ leadership style is underpinned by assertiveness and empathy – the sweet spot that will have a person not only marching up the figurative mountain, but most importantly with hundreds of people behind them.
Emma is renowned for being a dynamic changemaker who naturally gravitates towards challenging environments, preferring to view each hurdle as an opportunity. Her prerogative has always been to surround herself with top talent and let them shine. She sees her role very clearly: to have a clear plan, underpinned by a well thought out strategy then through creating a purpose-led culture of support, encouragement and recognition watch her team flourish and watch the results come in. Emma’s success has been determined by the standards she has set for herself, walking the walk as a role model in all facets of life. A dynamic changemaker, Emma has always blazed a trail for her people and the planet in equal measure – motivated by doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do.
With over 30 years in the hospitality world across Australia, Asia, & the Middle East in various senior management roles, Naim Maadad has launched and operated some of the world’s best hotels, resorts, s& restaurants.
His philosophy and approach is to connect likeminded investors, operators and brands to define concepts, successful portfolios and continue on shaping the hospitality industry. He is instrumental in nurturing sound relationships with owners, securing the best possible locations, negotiating, and formalising contractual agreements, and appointing teams to reflect the ethos of the brands.
Today, Naim is the CEO and Founder of Gates Hospitality, owning a range of popular and award-winning homegrown brands in Dubai, London, and Oman.He has established the company from the ground up to the empire it represents today. These brands under the umbrella of Gates Hospitality include Michelin recognised and awarded folly, internationally acclaimed concept Reform Social & Grill, Dubai’s premier apres ski chalet; Publique, an authentic French Bistro; Bistro Des Arts, homegrown healthy concept Ultra Brasserie, Red Farm London and award-winning resort and spa Six Senses in Zighy Bay.
Leading a team of 700 colleagues across Gates Hospitality, he is considered one of the industry’s most respected spokespeople, nurturing the careers of many new faces of the future.
A visionary at heart, with a passion for creating new experiences and concepts, Rabih stepped out of the corporate world in 2015 to follow his long-standing aspirations to achieve great things in the F&B and entertainment industry. Equipped with an unwavering vision of growth and development, he established 7 Management with its inaugural launch of Seven Sisters; a luxurious oasis of music and cuisine within the heart of Beirut. Seven Sisters acted as a catalyst for the development of the food, beverage and entertainment brands that followed shortly afterwards in Beirut, Dubai, Doha, Riyadh and Erbil. Antika, Sayf, The Theater, February 30, B018.DXB, Café Beirut, Black Flamingo and Lucia’s are just a few of the stellar homegrown creations of 7 Management with plans to expand into North America and Europe.
Winner of several awards, Rabih was named Best Nightlife Entrepreneur of the Year 2022, as well as being included in the Middle East F&B Power 50 List. He was also featured on the Hotel & Catering News, as one of the Top 30 Hospitality Heavyweights in the Middle East, being one of the region’s Top CEOs. He is a member of the Young President’s Organization UAE (YPO) – UAE Chapter and board member of the Global Smile Foundation.
When it comes to nightlife, Elie Saba, Managing Partner at ADDMIND knows what the people want.
Elie’s experience from his early days within the company led him to manage the entire day life and nightlife portfolio of ADDMIND, including WHITE Dubai and Abu Dhabi, WHITE Beach at Atlantis The Palm, Pure WHITE in Dubai Harbour, La Mezcaleria in Downtown, JBR and Abu Dhabi, Babylon in DIFC, Ria at The Palm, Bazaar in Meydan and many more. Elie’s experience and understanding of all aspects of the operation coupled with his drive, dedication, and passion for the industry have led to the success of the group.
Elie, who has been with ADDMIND for over 15 years, has played a crucial role in the company’s growth and development. With his keen business sense and innovative ideas, he has been instrumental in driving the company’s growth and expansion. Elie’s contribution to business development within the group coupled with his impressive network of contacts has helped to increase the company’s revenue and solidify ADDMIND’s position as one of the top players in the industry.
As the Managing Partner at ADDMIND, he continues to drive the company forward to even greater success in the future. His dedication to excellence and commitment to making a positive impact have earned him the respect and admiration of his peers and colleagues.
Natasha Sideris is the maverick of the dining scene in South Africa and the UAE. Beyond that, she is a restaurateur, passionate about creating a space that has beautiful food, stunning environments, and engaging service for every guest who walks through the door. Quality and perfection are at the heart of her brand and are the core pillars behind Natasha’s success as an entrepreneur and restaurateur.
Seventeen years after opening the first tashas café, Natasha has created several formidable brands, expanded internationally, published two best-selling cookbooks, and changed the lives of thousands of team members along the way. Under her astute and passionate leadership, the group is growing from strength to strength with multiple international award-winning restaurant concepts including tashas cafés, Flamingo Room by tashas, Avli by tashas, Galaxy Bar, and the soon to open Bungalo34.
Natasha’s vision of excellence, creativity and extreme attention to detail has won her public and professional recognition. With 16 restaurants in South Africa and 9 in the United Arab Emirates, Natasha Sideris is an undisputed leader in the F&B Industry. She has developed a household name that customers have come to know intimately, where friends and family gather regularly and where quality is constant.
As a second-generation restauranteur, Umut has the makings of a phenomenal restauranteur in his blood. Excelling from aculinary point-of-view from the tender age of 9 to becoming the Vice Chairman of d.ream Group (Doğuş Restaurant Entertainment and Management), the largest restaurant and retail group out of Turkey, Umut’s career trajectory is an achievement in itself.
His first restaurant at the age of 24 was awarded Best Restaurant in Turkey, and through hard work and determination, his ventures collated several global accolades. Of his most recent achievements, and one closest to his heart is launching his dream project, Rüya in London. For Umut, that journey was a start to making Rüya the intersection of culture, history, and rich Anatolian cuisine with polished modernity. A passionate and driven individual with an innate vision for the F&B scene on a global scale, Umut still has some tricks to spare to impress the audience of the region with his creative culinary concepts.
After more than two decades in the industry, restaurant pioneer Walid Hajj took on a new challenge and co-founded the new group Lavoya in 2021. His start has been something to behold.
In the past year alone, Walid has launched three hugely popular franchises: Joe & The Juice, Dave’s Hot Chicken and Barbar and has proved once more what a savvy operator he is, continuously seeking ways to innovate and cater to developing market demands.
Lavoya’s most recent launch, Joe & The Juice, has already cemented itself in the UAE dining scene, with the first two stores in Dubai rocketing to the top of the global locations, ahead of cities such as London, New York, and Paris.
Dave’s Hot Chicken, the LA-born street food sensation, backed by celebrities Drake and Samuel Jackson also broke a global sales record in the first week of operation in both Dubai and Qatar openings.
Barbar was already an icon in Lebanon when it launched in Dubai and Riyadh, with a 45-year history to draw upon. Now, the Hessa Street flagship store and the outlet in Riyadh’s Tahlia Street, rank as the top two in the Barbar’s franchise, while the recently opened Doha branch is also making waves with the World Cup visitors.
Before establishing Lavoya, Hajj founded Cravia, one of the GCC’s leading food and hospitality groups that brought world-class franchises to the Middle East, including Zaatar W Zeit, Seattle’s Best Coffee, Cinnabon, as well as Five Guys in Saudi Arabia. Thanks to his astute vision and leadership, Five Guys in Saudi Arabia currently outperforms all the brand’s global counterparts in sales and revenue.
Today, the company’s portfolio includes over 100 franchised restaurants across the Arab-speaking world, employing more than 3,000 individuals.
From brand negotiation to achieving operational excellence, Hajj strategically directed the growth story of Cravia, from inception to its circa US$200 million acquisition in 2016.
The restaurateur possesses an intrinsic sense of the ingredients for success. He is selective about the projects he takes on and adopts a full-throttle approach in everything he does, reflected through his brands’ consistent and exponential growth. He’s able to build a loyal customer base with incredible ease, stemming from his acute understanding of what works, with a competent skill set comprising wise location identification, savvy price strategising and creative team management.
In 2023, Hajj plans to continue growing Lavoya Group. In three months, the group has grown from one store to 12 restaurants across three brands and three markets. Lavoya will end the year with 14 locations and will double that by the end of 2023. The company aims to be a 100-store operation by the end of 2024.
Antonio Gonzalez co-founded Sunset Hospitality Group (SHG) in 2011 with a vision to create unique experiences around the world through a diverse mix of hospitality concepts such as SushiSamba and Aura. Since then, he has played an integral role in the creation – from inception to launch – of more than 40 venues across nine countries. SHG has a further 20 new openings in the pipeline for before the end of 2023, including in Doha, Riyadh, Manama, and Abu Dhabi.
A Spanish national, Antonio has more than two decades of industry experience. His relationship with the Gulf and wider region started in 2006 when he was appointed general manager for Middle East and Africa at a FMCG/healthcare multinational. By 2009, he had set up Kalys Management, a management investment firm focused on hospitality projects in the region; by 2011 it had grown and evolved into Sunset Hospitality Group.
Possessing extensive knowledge of global hospitality markets;particularly that of the United States, Europe, Middle East, and Africa – Antonio has spent the past 12 years successfully creating and expanding SHG’s impressive portfolio of brands.These include METT, Black Tap, and Azure. He oversees all company operations and resources and has launched an array of high-end, themed restaurants throughout the past decade.
Rattled but robust, Antonio successfully navigated SHG through the pandemic in 2020, emerging with renewed ambition. In 2021, the company set about launching 10 new brands in the UAE and for this year, it revealed plans for 20 local and international launches by end of 2023, expanding SHG’s existing portfolio to more than 60 venues, including expansion into Spain, Italy, Morocco among other new markets.
Antonio has played – and continues to play – a pivotal role in establishing SHG as a regional hospitality portfolio, making him an F$&B all-star.
Arriving in Dubai in 1998, Manhal established his first office in Dubai specialising in retail, where he owned and operated many fashion outlets in key malls across the UAE. Three years later, he received a lucrative offer to sell the business which he accepted, and then moved into the FMCG industry. Manhal went on to become the senior business director head for the Middle East and North African region, where he led FMCG brands for prominent companies such as Reckkit Benkcizer, P&G, etc.
With a passion for food and an entrepreneurial mindset, Manhal exploded onto the F&B sector full of creative, innovative ideas and thus Awj Investments was born. Established in 2014, Awj Investments is a fast-growing Food & Beverage Holding Group headquartered in Dubai. Awj set out on its culinary journey with five unique concepts, all strategically located across popular tourist and dining destinations in Dubai. These home-grown concepts include Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and international flavours.
Armed with years of experience and a track record of proven performance, Manhal Naser is responsible for providing the overall leadership and strategic management for the company. He is a recognised expert and leader in the F&B industry with well-rounded experience covering concept creation, brand DNA, supply chain, adaptation, strategic management, market entry,regional and global expansions, partnerships, system integration, and driving performance change.
Panchali Mahendra has a rich background in hospitality having graduatedfrom some of the best hospitality schools, such as, IHM Aurangabad, The Oberoi Center of Learning & Development and University of Huddersfield, UK (here she was a gold medalist in Hospitality). Mahendra is extremely passionate about the F&B industry, with almost two decades of experience in the field. Her expertise in concept developing, feasibility, food & beverage, business planning, operations management, and turnkey, has been a strong force behind over 60 successful restaurants all over the world.
Mahendra co-founded Atelier House Hospitality with Mr. Ahmass Fakahany, Owner and CEO of Altamarea Group in 2017. After 5 successful years, Atelier House Hospitality has established a firm foothold in the region as a high-quality boutique player in the market under Mahendra’s leadership. She has brought in brands from overseas, developed and conceptualised locally grown brands, and provided consulting and operational support for the local market. AHH now has a presence in UAE, KSA, and soon India. Plans are in force to broaden their reach and capability in the Middle East.
Brands owned, managed and/or conceptualised include Marea (Michelin selected), 11 Woodfire (1 Michelin Star), Morini, Mohalla, RSVP, Host, Asma, Tides Bar. 2023 is set to unveil more concepts withMantra, Inja and more in the pipeline.
Being a visionary hospitality professional, David impressive career in the hospitality industry, but globally and regionally, that has brought Infini Concepts to where it is.
Infini Concepts was founded in 2015 with a core team of less than ten members and has managed to successfully make an impact in Dubai with now almost two hundred dedicated members that share a mutual vision.
The group have launched projects including Tabū Dubai, The Other Side, Miss Tess, Cé La Vi and their newest, Hayal Dubai. Each brand has distinctive characteristics – bold, charming, stylish, gracious, vibrant, all with David’s personal touches.
As Managing Director at Infini Concepts, David oversees 5 venues and leads all new projects.
He continues to be the Director of Growth & Development for Europe and MENA regions.
Apart from the above David is also involved in facilitating the introduction of few international brands into Dubai in 2023.
The UAE’s most awarded F&B leader, Amazon best-selling Author and CEO & Founder of Solutions Leisure Group, Paul Evans, started Solutions Leisure Group in the early hours of the morning on the shores of Hurghada beach, Egypt, with his friend and business partner, Freek Teusink.
Today, he has led the group to own and operate almost 50 venues of multi-award-winning bars, entertainment outlets and restaurants, internationally. Paul’s perseverance towards his vision, loyalty to his goals and objectives, outstanding leadership, and dedication to creating moments people live for have significantly set him apart from the fierce competition he faces daily.
His unparalleled commitment, skill and clarity has enabled him to continue to create moments people live for, from day to night. Operating a dynamic portfolio of 16 unique and diverse concepts, with several exciting additions in the pipeline.
As CEO, Aloki is a leading tour de force at FIVE Hospitality. His ethos at FIVE Hotels and Resorts reflects an ecosystem with high-quality property hardware and cutting-edge experiential software, which allows the brand to drive high performance (for both customer satisfaction scores and revenue records) and has, therefore, consistently outperformed competitors.
He is the creative genius behind hugely successful homegrown concepts such as Dubai’s iconic rooftop destination, The Penthouse, FIVE’s signature Italian, Cinque, and MSG-free, gourmet Chinese, Maiden Shanghai at FIVE Palm Jumeirah along with immersive street-food dining experience, Soul St. and Jumeirah Village Circle’s first ever nightclub, The Mansion at FIVE Jumeirah Village. Aloki has been recognised as one of the Top 100 CEOs in the Middle East while his relentless efforts to integrate sustainability and technology into the business enabled FIVE to be recognised as one of the Most Innovative Companies of The Year in 2022.
Sreejith Purushan has over 18 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Beginning his hospitality career in 2005, Sreejith started out as a guest service agent in Starwood Hotels and worked various Food & Beverage positions in 5* Hotels & Resorts in Starwood, Taj, & Rotana around Middle East and India until 2011.
Sreejith has been with the Radisson Hotel Group for over 11 years and in 2017 became the F&B Manager at Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, the first 5* hotel in Dubai. The hotel includes 15 food & B=beverage outlets and banqueting facilities which includes 2 ballrooms, 18 meeting rooms and an external catering operation that serves up to 4000 people.
Most recently, Sreejith was promoted to Director of Food and Beverage at Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek in 2019, taking over meeting & events sales and the hygiene & stewarding departments in addition to his food and beverage responsibilities. He is in charge of the financial performance and operations of the food and beverage for 15 outlets, 2 ballrooms, 18 meetings rooms and the external catering of 6 units.
Sreejith has been driving new revenue streams such as tour operators, government loyalty programs, partners and deliveries for the outlets as well as spearheading the re-launch of the multi-award-winning restaurant, Fish Market.
He pro-actively managed 2021 Ramadan with flexible pricing strategy resulting to a 36% increase in revenues YoY. In addition, Festive Season and New Year Gala dinner resulted in a 14.68% increase in revenue & 8.74% increase in Covers vs YoY.
Sreejith was able to secure an exclusive catering contract with Expo 2020. Due to high demand for catering services at EXPO, the team was able to establish a permanent team on site.
He was also able to lead responsible business initiatives as part of Radisson Hotel Group’s commitment to net zero by 2050. And worked on the vertical farm project with GreeenTech Vertical Farm, who now produces the greens that supply the Hotel’s Fish Market restaurant.
Rizwan Kassim has launched some of the city’s most popular brands, such as, La Cantine du Faubourg, Ninive, Mimi Kakushi and Twigg yby La Cantine.
Fast-forward another three years, and in 2020 the group launched Lana Lusa, a Portuguese restaurant and cafe at Wasl 51. Now, as homegrown concepts are being recognised more readily in Dubai, Rizwan is even more determined to expand Rikas Group in the UAE and abroad.
Mansour Memarian, an Iranian chef with German origins who has 25 years industry experience, has had stints at some of the world’s best restaurants. He has held executive positions at many luxury brands including the Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, as well as the award-winning Chedi Andermatt in Switzerland. Before this, he was the Chef de Cuisine at the Burj Al Arab’s signature restaurant, Al Mahara.
Chef Mansour Memarian has brought extensive experience and a wealth of talent to Palazzo Versace Dubai, where he oversees the five-star hotel’s culinary and F&B operations including its six restaurants and two bars, as well as their catering services. In his role as Hotel Manager, Memarian heads all the operations, leading the culinary team in enhancing Palazzo Versace Dubai’s reputation for world-class, curated dining.
Andrew is a seasoned F&B Director, bringing over 20 years of hospitality experience to the table. He spent years working his way across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East plus a few years on cruise ships to get to where he is today. Andrew leads with a passion for food & beverage and people. With a background in Psychology, combined with the years of experience in the Food & Beverage industry, Andrew is well placed to be running a large-scale, high-end food & beverage operation. In his time in the Middle East, Andrew has a proven track record with a ranger of 5 Star Hotels, from Corporate City Hotels, boutique hotels and now a luxury beach resort.
Andrews’ key philosophy is to ensure high quality produce combined with warm and welcoming service. Passing this simple message to the team has been a key driver of his success.
Spencer leads Jumeirah Restaurants, a Dubai-based full-service hospitality provider, with an iconic portfolio of acclaimed homegrown brands, ranging from premium-casual to quick-service restaurants, casual dining venues and food trucks.
Spencer Ayers drove the seamless integration of Meraas into Sarood Hospitality and then again into Jumeirah Restaurants, the dedicated F&B brand established to absorb the companies and consolidate Dubai Holding’s array of culinary offerings under a single banner. Spencer also created the framework for Jumeirah Group’s dining strategy globally including the inception of a dedicated F&B Committee which he chairs.
Since the pre-opening of Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort, Mehdi has been instrumental in the resort’s F&B operations. He introduced new food and beverage concepts such as the In-Villa Cinema, Breakfast By design to create unique experiences for the guests as well as generated more F&B revenue.
“Mehdi is known for his flexibility and admitted level of innovations and creativity, making him one of the superstars at our mountain resort. Mehdi is always looking for ways to create the most memorable dining experiences for all guests as well as ensuring a great work environment for his dedicated team.” Commented Maren Kuehl, General Manager, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort.
Guillaume Ferraz is the Managing Director for the Sunset Hospitality Group Day Life division, where he oversees all the group’s beachfront and pool experiences. He brings 20 years of experience to the role, spanning beach club and restaurant operations, overall team management and leadership, as well as strategic and commercial execution.
Guillaume’s wealth of experience has made him a well-rounded leader, where his passion brings pioneering ideas that drive long-term brand building and commercial success. His operational, leadership and commercial skills have led him to become a specialist in day life hospitality venues.
Andrea works tirelessly to ensure Roberto’s stays relevant through the years. Being a renowned DIFC institution for the past 10 years, the Italian venue has made its mark as an icon with its heritage and presence in the market as an original trendsetter. A true leader in fine dining, Roberto’s started its brand expansion plan in the GCC region with Andrea at the helm.
Clear and unique leadership skills make his management style inspirational, and since joining Roberto’s DIFC, Andrea has been able to make a great positive impact on the business. His focus is on the people, where guest satisfaction is at an all-time high and a staggering improvement in his team’s performance.
Chief Operating Officer of COYA Restaurant & Pisco Bar, Yannis Stanisiere, is the guiding light of the COYA brand. He is responsible for enhancing COYA’s already exceptional service and special events across all nine of its global branches, and he is the key driver behind the luxury lifestyle brand’s expansion.
With over 28 years of experience, Yannis brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise with him. Joining COYA in 2021, he formulated an impressive strategy to unify and expand the brand and ensure its bright future.
Moving forward, the highly ambitious Yannis is excited to open another venue in Oman, Barcelona, Marbella and Istanbul. Through extensive market research, he is keen to introduce as many key countries and cities to the magic of COYA as possible.
French-born Nicolas Budzynski describes himself as “a dynamic and self-driven restaurant professional with a passion for delivering unique experiences to my guests.” As a goal-oriented individual, he handles challenges with finesse with a forte in project and change management as alongside creating new concepts.
Since joining LPM Restaurant & Bar as Global Operations Director in 2019, Nicolas has achieved significant milestones with a humble approach. One of these was putting LPM Restaurant & Bar Middle East on the map and being officially recognised in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Middle East and Africa debut list in 2022, ranking Dubai and Riyadh in 8th and 42nd place respectively.
Stephanie Reichenbach is a celebrated entrepreneur and founder of Nara Desert Escape, Nara Desert Oasis, Nara in the City, Sonara Camp, Sonara Camp Al Wadi, The Nest by Sonara, Nara Nomad Secret City Tours, Nara on the Sea and Hike of Happiness. The mother of four children previously worked as Head Private Banker East Africa for Citibank and Barclays for 18 years.
She founded Nara Desert Escape in 2018 with a lounge and a table in the middle of the desert with the aim to create a bespoke, eco-friendly, and sustainable a la carte desert camp experience. Rapidly, Nara grew to become the most unique desert escape in Dubai. It has been recognised by high luxury brands as their preferred venue to host the most celebrated events in the UAE.
Chris Wright is a Dubai-based entrepreneur specialising in the events and hospitality industries. A creative in every sense of the word, Chris Wright is the owner and CEO of The Wright Group, a creative consultancy and hospitality group founded in Dubai, UAE. His growing portfolio of businesses includes Secret Parties, Inside Lifestyle, SIN events, FamilyFest Brunches, Bash Events and Ladies Day Dubai.He also recently launched New York themed bar, in Bla Bla a healthy eating café and a gym.
Across his companies, Chris’ executes over 1600 seamless events annually from party brunches to ladies’ days to large scale festivals. Chris holds records for organising the most events in one city and is often referred to as the world’s biggest promoter by nightlife publications, and with 3 more new ventures in the pipeline, there is no sign of him slowing down.
Gabrielle F. Mather has been a leading business incubator in the F&B world, helping new and seasoned entrepreneurs with 360 degrees turn-key consultancy and tailor-made services to open, operate and market their restaurants in UAE & GCC.
Moving into 2023, Gabrielle has plans to launch the region’s first F&B focused design studio that works on design with production layout expertise, functionality, operational work-flow and budgets.
Always looking for value in locations, concepts, and cuisines, Khemaney was a co-owner of Tribeca Canvas NYC, where he worked alongside Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto to create a specialised restaurant focused on Japanese comfort food. This project fuelled him to turn his entrepreneurial attention to something closer to home, co-founding VKD alongside business partner and best friend Khalil Dahmash in 2016.
Varun and his team have been able to keep Miss Lily’s ontop of its game for the past 6 yearsOne of Varun’s greatest achievements in his career is the creation of his homegrown concept Honeycomb Hifi. Alongside his partners, Serge Becker and Khalil Dahmash, he was able to disrupt the F&B scene once again by introducing the region’s first listening bar.
The Broth Lab is a healthy homegrown F&B concept under the mother company, The Roost Rotisserie. Founder Hadil, is a certified holistic nutrition and a Gut Health specialist who is passionate about supporting and catering to busy mothers and fitness fanatics. Her passion is directed tp those that have no time to make bone broth from scratch and to provide them with easier and healthier cooking solutions.
In less than a year, The Broth Lab has successfully catered to different segments of customers through its efficient automated B2C business and marketing model. It’s B2B strategy as since the brand hit the shelves of all major hypermarkets and e-platforms around the UAE like Carrefour, Choithrams, Biobox, ripe organic, QualityFood, FarmBox and soon at Kibsons.
Hadil Al Khatib has managed to create a beautiful community offering help to women in the industry and support by collaborating instead of competing.
Founder Ali Yazdi launched homegrown indie burger joint SLAW in Jumeirah 1just over 18 months ago in March 2021. Beginning with only seven staff members, the brand has grown to a team of 45 people who stand behind SLAW’s mission to deliver only the best to its customers.
In just under 2 years since its first opening, SLAW has recently expanded to Hessa Street, Barsha 1 and Last Exit, Al Khawaneej. Ali has established a whole new brand that endeavours to become one of the best burger joints amidst well-established names.
As the founder of homegrown Indian restaurant Roobaru, Hersh Suri always had the dream of starting his own restaurant. Now, at the age of 26, Hersh can proudly say that he has become that successful young businessman he once dreamt of. Since his inception into the world of F&B a short 3 years ago, Roobaru is his most successful achievement to date.