Stronger Together: Gates Hospitality Founder And CEO Naim Maadad Is Betting On Agility To Recover From The COVID-19 Crisis' Impact
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With nearly 40 years of experience in the hospitality world across Australia, Asia, and the Middle East in various senior management roles, Naim Maadad, founder and CEO of Gates Hospitality, is well worth listening to if you are seeking sound advice to make it through the ongoing difficult period in the industry at large.
In 2010, Maadad established Gates Hospitality, a UAE-headquartered hospitality company whose development of world-class concepts that have an international presence has given its founder a birds-eye view of the different approaches nations around the world have been undertaking to help their respective business communities overcome challenges stemming from the COVID-19 crisis. “In some countries, we have seen an extremely whole-hearted support from the government authorities, with banks holding off on payments for licenses, mortgages, or any changes in fees in order to help businesses survive the wave, and surf through with relatively less challenges,” he explains. “Ideally, what I would like to see is for financial institutions, banks, institutional providers, landlords, aggregators, and ministries to chip in with their bit to make sure that the burden is shared equally by all stakeholders, and that the plans are mitigated for all sectors to unite and fight this challenge for sheer survival in the long run.”
Zooming in onto Gates Hospitality -an umbrella group for some of the GCC’s most popular hospitality ventures from Ultra Brasserie, Bistro des Arts, Reform Social & Grill, Publique and Folly by Nick & Scott, to Six Senses Zighy Bay- Maadad is pleased that being agile during difficult times has served them well. “We have associated our brand Folly by Nick & Scott to have our presence through the WORKSHOP venue at the Time Out Market Dubai commencing soon at Souk Al Bahar in Downtown,” he says. “Gates Hospitality has also secured advisory management roles in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as well as Ethiopia for projects involving hotels, spas, and F&B venues, and we would be actively sharing our expertise in concept development, brand definition and operational launch. We would continue to realign our current business plans, and keep on adapting to the changed business environment under the pandemic restrictions. We wholeheartedly support the authorities and their directives and regulations, and truly understand the circumstances in which these are required.”
Maadad admits that the demographic profile in the industry has been changing for the last two years, but explains that the pandemic has accelerated the change further in the last twelve months. “This time around, the change has been across all industry and not just restricted to food and beverage sector,” he says. “I foresee this trend continuing till the vaccination efforts bring a curb to the spread and bring a conclusion to this rising medical challenge. However, in the UAE, the new visa rules and regulations and the Expo 2020 commencing later this year will certainly bring an influx of a higher calibre demographic clients to Dubai in the times ahead. So, I remain very optimistic.”
Having said that, Maadad does point out that significant challenges remain for players in the UAE’s F&B sector. “The limit of 50% max capacity per table, three meter distancing, bars closed, or 1:00am closing time for restaurants, and so on, are only some of the measures placing a heavy commercial burden, while the costs remain fixed and cannot be halved,” he notes.
It is thus with an aim to voice these concerns and serve the industry at large that Maadad has joined the Restaurants Business Group, a new non-profit built under the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry umbrella to support Dubai’s restaurant sector. “The whole idea of the Dubai Restaurants Group (DRG) is to be a channel for any issues which face the sector,” he says. “It is a path-breaking initiative, as it is formed under the auspices of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.” When looking at things from the customer’s point of view, Maadad believes that the coronavirus pandemic has not changed behavioral patterns permanently, and that humankind will bounce back to being social in the times ahead. “How quickly this happens is uncertain, and the longer it takes, the higher the probability of the delay in returning to norm,” he adds.
“Faster the vaccine implementation, the speedier will the return to normalcy realization be. I would like to hugely commend the UAE government authorities and the medical professionals for their determination in supporting the vaccination drive.” However, the pandemic has certainly fast-forwarded the arrival of the delivery model, Maadad adds. “People do not want to take the risk of leaving the comforts of their homes if there is an opportunity, so the convenience factor cannot be ignored,” he says. “Having said this, I am personally worried at the damage that this model will cause considering the high turnover, complete commercial focus, and very limited integrity on the branding.”
Maadad, however, is doubling down on his brand. The Gates Hospitality team recently developed the GatesWay app in an attempt to build a closer relationship and inspire loyalty with the clientele they serve. “Each of our venues can now directly reach their clients, so this is a way to thank them for their support,” he says. “All the promotions, activations and collaborations directly benefit the users. It is a value addition initiative. As soon as the members sign in, they automatically qualify to points, which are added and can be used at any of the venues within the group. What we aim to give is a total experience through the app, and not an address collection gimmick with pure commercial focus.”
This also signifies Maadad’s thought process when it comes to the future of his enterprise, given that he says Gates Hospitality will be focusing on consolidation as an organization in the new normal. “We are actively watching the market, and we are in discussions with potential partners and hotel investors to explore different avenues to partner which would benefit both of us,” he says. “We are also looking closely at businesses that are available for takeovers to add on to our portfolio, so that a business can be redefined and relaunched with our brand ethos as a new entity model.”