Top F&B Disruptors to Convene at Global Restaurant Investment Forum

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Global Restaurant Investment Forum 2018
Global Restaurant Investment Forum 2018
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Global Restaurant Investment Forum will discuss and dissect modern-day disruptors in the world of F&B

Leaders from Hakkasan Group, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group, Altamarea Group and YO! Sushi will discuss innovation, internationalisation and expansion at the annual meeting place for the global restaurant community

The Global Restaurant Investment Forum 2018 (GRIF), the annual meeting place for the international restaurant investment community organised by Bench Events and powered by Michelin, is set to discuss and dissect the modern-day disruptors impacting expansion and global growth for restaurant investors, operators and entrepreneurs.

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Over three days from 12-14 March 2018 at Palazzo Versace Dubai, GRIF will bring together more than 300 investors, owners, franchisors and senior hospitality professionals to facilitate investment decision-making within the international restaurant space.

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Jennifer Pettinger-Haines, Managing Director Middle East, Bench Events, said: “In collaboration with our GRIF Advisory Boards in London and Dubai, we’ve developed this year’s programme to tackle two critical challenges faced by the industry. Firstly, we are witnessing increasing levels of disruption, which we will see take various forms at GRIF, from innovations in technology and big data to the transformation of the retail sector and growth of food delivery concepts. Secondly, entrepreneurs and brands alike are having to find alternative ways to expand and internationalise, with landlords, rents and regulations posing stumbling blocks in markets across the globe – another major disruptor. Our expert speakers, who come from the world’s leading restaurant groups, will offer their insights on these topics and more at GRIF 2018.”

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The stellar line-up of speakers includes Nick McCabe, CEO, Hakkasan Group; Jon Knight, Managing Director, Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group; Robin Rowland, Founder, YO! Sushi; Ken Kuguru, Group CEO, Java House; and Didier Souillat, Chief Executive Officer, Time Out Market.

Nick McCabe will join GRIF from Las Vegas for a one-on-one interview in which he will reveal how the Hakkasan Group is revolutionising the management model and expanding into international markets.

“Establishing the core pillars of a brand is an essential process to go through before trying to expand any hospitality concept,” said McCabe. “That doesn’t mean that a concept has to be cookie cutter, but without a lens to look through in decision-making, those decisions become subjective and driven by luck rather than good judgement. When we took control of Hakkasan Group in 2013, the first action we took was to pause all expansion until the core tenets of the brand had been agreed upon and documented.”

He added: “I think that our company is in a unique position at the intersection of dining and nightlife, and we’ve spent the last few years focusing on how to effectively marry those disciplines in a way that is accretive to both. Las Vegas may not be considered to be on the cutting edge of culinary development, however, it’s a market which has pioneered the blending of multiple hospitality sectors into one overall branded experience.”

Also bringing experience from the US to GRIF, with a perspective on the New York F&B market, is Ahmass L. Fakahany, CEO and Owner, Atelier House Hospitality and Altamarea Group, who will reveal why he left his role as President of international investment bank Merill Lynch to build his own restaurant empire.

On the subject of expansion, Fakahany said: “The most important factor, in my opinion, is for the brand to have a core that is transportable to different locations and cultures but also flexible to align with local palates and preferences.”

Ashley Palmer-Watts. Chef Director, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, will also be speaking on the topic of ‘turning a name into a global business’, offering a unique insight into the expansion of DDBHB, with two restaurants 10,000 miles apart.

“When opening your restaurant in another location around the world, it is always important to protect the DNA of your concept but at the same time flexing it to take in the location, market and culture of the area into consideration to become one thing,” said Palmer-Watts.

Well-known names driving the restaurant business in the Middle East will also take to the stage, including Walid Hajj, Chief Executive Officer, Cravia; Naim Maadad, Chief Executive Officer, Gates Hospitality; Ramzy Abdul-Majeed, Founder & Managing Director, Whissle Hospitality Group; and Jimmy Lopez, Executive Assistant Manager, Palazzo Versace Dubai.

Another highlight will be the GRIF Finance Forum on March 14, which will feature The GRIF Deal Den, a showcase for new restaurant concepts seeking investment to internationalise, expand or launch their first venture.

The GRIF Deal Den will enable entrepreneurs to pitch to a panel of investors including Paul Campbell, Founder at Hill Capital Partners LLP and an investor in renowned brands including Hawksmoor, Vinoteca and Gusto; Martin Sherwood, Partner, Enterprise Investment Partners and a serial investor with many years’ experience of small company fundraising, specialising in hospitality and leisure; and Sami Daud, Managing Director of the Oman-based Daud Group and the man behind Gourmet Gulf, which has franchise rights in a number of MENA markets for international brands including California Pizza Kitchen and Hummingbird Bakery.

Commenting on what the judges will seek in The Deal Den, Campbell said: “I love meeting supremely talented and ambitious people who are looking to bring a fresh and exciting twist to a traditional format.”

He advised: “Be clear on what differentiates your brand and restaurant; provide real evidence of compelling trading performance or potential; set out your own track record, abilities and determination to succeed; provide clear financials and sensible valuations; and be concise”.

GRIF will also feature workshops on Restaurant Marketing and Advanced Franchise Negotiation Skills and ‘how-to’ roundtables on the following topics: Raising Finance; Expansion; Talent Retention; Operational Costs; and Intellectual Property.

The thought-provoking conference programme, designed to deliver inspiration, insight and opportunities to the global restaurant investment community, will culminate in a celebration of the Middle East’s leading F&B entrepreneurs and establishments at the 2018 Food and Travel Awards organised by Food and Travel Magazine.

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