November 12, 2017

Why I will Scale Cheesecake

“Quality is not about how expensive a product is but how consistent it is”

The Grid: You have focused on a specific area with in the food service industry, why?

Rehan Samee: You mean deserts? There was such a glaring deficiency (in terms of quality) and still is. When you go to a Starbucks, for example, you have a variety of food items to choose from; lollipops and packaged nuts near the check out counter to croissants, muffins, cookies and cakes in their display chillers. These are supplied by different vendors. What we found – and what we still find – is that the quality of these products, particularly bakery and pastry items, is very average. There is sweetness but nothing else.

Now take a step back and just visualize what “food” is to us today … it’s not just a means of survival … it is an experience! Switch on any TV network in any language. There are channels just dedicated to food. Look at the trends reflected there and on social media. There is a growing consciousness of the quality of ingredients, flavor subtleties and texture combinations and clearly a demand for more.

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November 12, 2017

A Sweet Spot in Outsourcing

“We wanted something more scalable than [a restaurant] at a small incremental cost”

The Grid: From banker to B2B desert maker. What was that moment of change?

Rehan Samee: I always had the entrepreneurial curiosity. Since I first came to Dubai twenty years ago I have been itching with ideas. Whether it was to create nutritious preservative free TV dinners, inspired by the most amazing Thai red curry cooked by my ex-wife; or looking to establish different types of entertainment centers when all my boys would have to play with in malls when they were growing up were ball pits! Why not carting, archery or even miniature golf… with some kind of F&B? So I have been down a lot of paths that never materialized.

The Grid: Why do you think that was?

Rehan Samee: In hindsight, it was not as much about the feasibility of the product as it was the type of co-operation – particularly with the TV dinner idea. The person you think of as the co owner of the company interprets roles differently to what you do sometimes. Pieces therefore don’t fall into place.

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“The vast majority of these studies are designed from a western-perspective and do not apply equally to our social context as Arabs, Muslims, or to the Middle East or the wider region”

The Grid: In our event ‘Family Firms: Coming out of Denial, Taking Stock and Lessons Learned’, in which you were a guest speaker, there was a lot of interest in the investment trends of families in the Emirates. What do you see as the key areas of interest at present?

Adil Al Zarooni: Education is key for stabilization in any region, with the Middle East being no exception. I naturally start with the United Arab Emirates. It is the most mature market in the region with a lot of institutions providing education services.

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