2021, The Year That Was: Luma Makhlouf, Co-Founder, HL Foods
"I have learned that although your path might look different than many others in the business, you can still achieve your goals and remain true to your core values."
After the chaos that the COVID-19 crisis put Dubai’s F&B industry through in 2020, the sector was hoping to get some much-needed respite this year, and that wish came true for HL Foods, an enterprise founded by Luma Makhlouf and Haider Al Assam that includes popular homegrown food brands like Maiz Tacos and Good Burger in its portfolio.
“My biggest highlight of the past year was finding light at the end of the tunnel, and realizing we might not only be okay, but we are also flourishing as a whole,” Makhlouf says. “2020 left us with so much uncertainty and instability that we, along with many others, didn’t know what our future would look like, if we would even make it. Our first Maiz Tacos restaurant in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lakes Towers neighborhood had only been open for a few months before the COVID-19 lockdowns began, so we were not off to a great start, but because of the great feedback of our newly launched brand, Good Burger, we were able to bounce back, and grow an amazingly loyal community of foodies.”
In an ecosystem that’s almost bursting with F&B concepts, the following that Maiz Tacos and Good Burger have garnered in Dubai is certainly worth cheering, with it also being the key factor fueling their development and growth. Maiz Tacos, for instance, started out as a food truck before graduating into a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
Meanwhile, Good Burger came into being as an alternate concept operating within Maiz Tacos amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, and now, it’s gearing up for its own dedicated space in Dubai. “I have learned so much in the last year about myself, what really matters to my business,” Makhlouf says. “I have learned that although your path might look different than many others in the business, you can still achieve your goals and remain true to your core values. My husband is my business partner, and we always wanted to remain boot-strapped and as organic as possible, a real family business. At times, we didn’t know if that was truly scalable, but now here we are, opening up two new branches, and looking forward to launching more exciting brands that we are really passionate about. If you stick to your plan, keep perfecting your product, and invest in a strong team, it is certainly possible to grow your small food brand in Dubai.”
Luma Makhlouf and Haider Al Assam, founders of HL Foods
Source: HL Foods
Reflections 2021: Luma Makhlouf, Co-Founder, HL Foods
Taking a step back and slowing down is not always a bad thing. “We don’t always get the chance to slow down, and really think of what we want to focus on, or truly feel strong about. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that in those times, magic can be created!”
The power of saying no. “We all know or can imagine how challenging it can be to run and scale a business, so the power of being able to say no to opportunities that could be either distracting or unfit can reduce serious stress levels and maintain boundaries.”
Your business values matter. “We have thankfully been able to stick to the values and culture we put in place from day one and keep them at the core of all major decisions, such as only using 100% fresh ingredients, or remaining very close to the brands to still be the face of the business, no matter how much we grow. I personally believe that these values will help you stay focused, and ensure you remain on track to growing your business, just as you intended in the first place.”
Aby Sam Thomas is the Editor in Chief of Entrepreneur Middle East. In this role, Aby is responsible for leading the publication on its editorial front, while also working to build the brand and grow its presence across the MENA region through the development and execution of events and other programming, as well as through representation in conferences, media, etc.
Aby has been working in journalism since 2011, prior to which he was an analyst programmer with Accenture, where he worked with J. P. Morgan Chase's investment banking arm at offices in Mumbai, London, and New York. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.