Running A Successful F&B Venture In An Oversaturated Market: The How-To Just because the market you want to enter is crowded with competitors doesn't mean you can't succeed.

By Haider Madani

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Just because the market you want to enter is crowded with competitors doesn't mean you can't succeed. If you've taken the leap and decided to turn your passion into a thriving business, you might be in the market of finding out how you can make your new venture stand out amongst the crowd.

This is something I've personally gone through (successfully) as the co-founder and owner of Dubai-based café, Cassette, and as such, I'd like to share my top tips on how you can make your F&B venture work in an oversaturated market:

1. Location, location, location The first time I walked into our location at Al Qouz, I knew this was where I wanted to turn my dream into a reality. A great location is one of the most important factors for attracting customers.

2. Concept is key Choosing a strong yet simple concept is also key- there is no need to overcomplicate things. We wanted to serve quality coffee and fresh food in a trendy, relaxing, and cozy atmosphere, a place where we knew our customers by their first names. We envisioned a home away from home. From there, Cassette was born.

3. Work to bring your idea to life It was not easy designing and detailing every inch to build the space that I had in mind. An ideal atmosphere is one that is clean and bright with plenty of natural light, comfortable seating space, and lots of charging outlets to stay connected. Whether it is was for work or pleasure, I wanted Cassette to have an ambiance that suits everyone. It was vital to work with designers who share your passion and understand your vision. H2R, the designers behind Cassette, understood the importance of using different materials, and they had great knowledge in terms of understanding the customer experience. Having an outdoor area space for people to walk by and flowing water fountains surrounded by greenery is a huge attraction, and it greatly increases the visibility of our business. We used a mix of seating and bench tables, so that we can accommodate single customers as well as larger groups.

Related: Building A Business: Starting And Expanding An F&B Enterprise

4. Atmosphere matters I knew it was a leap of faith to open a café in Dubai that thrives on a vibrant food scene in which every street corner, mall, and outdoor attraction offers endless quality food options But I wanted to offer something unique to make it a preferred spot for our clients. Families can enjoy a rich Friday breakfast as their children can play in a safe, open area, while others may want to read a book over a good cup of coffee. We are also big on being environment friendly. We offer free filtered water to everyone (even pets), and we do not use single use plastic. Our playlist is a big hit among our clients who have a true appreciate of old school music as well as today's latest hits. Our sound system ensures that the music is never a nuisance even when customers delve deep into their conversations. We've managed to cater to the different needs of people, whether it is an informal business meeting, or even for students to catch up on their school work.

5. Offer the best for your clientele No atmosphere is complete without good food, and I'm proud of what we've been able to offer. With my team of experienced chefs and baristas, we've been able to provide gourmet food and coffee. Our dishes are all made from scratch using rich, colorful, and natural ingredients, and we make sure they look as good as they taste. I believe this is why Cassette has quickly been able to compete among the top hot spots in the city.

6. Hire staff who live and breathe your brand I think our secret ingredient to our success has been our staff. They are the heart of Cassette, and without them, we cannot operate. We've become a family, and everyone is constantly trained to make sure we meet the highest standards in the food and beverage industry. We also treat our clients as our family, and we make sure we take into account any allergies or dietary requirements they may have. We try our best to substitute ingredients without jeopardizing on taste. Excellent customer service is a major factor in any business, and it cannot be more true for the food industry. Our staff are trained to not only serve our dishes, but to understand them and be able to speak from their experience.

I, personally, am also quite hands-on in Cassette, and I am the first one in morning, and last one out. For many customers, the sign of a good business is seeing the owner front and centre taking orders, serving, and greeting and conversing with the public. I am very blessed to have the love and support from my family to be able to do what I love. That is the cherry on top to have a successful business. As for the recipe for success, I would say it would be a great location, top quality products, great customer service, love and support from loved ones, and to believe in your concept. If you've got those, the chances are you will have a very successful F&B venture.

Related: Despite The Negative Repercussions Of The COVID-19 Crisis, Entrepreneurs In The UAE's F&B Sector Are Stepping Up To Challenge The Status Quo

Haider Madani

Founder and Co-Owner, Cassette

Haider Madani is one of the co-owners and founder of Cassette, a Dubai-based café inspired by a passion for great food, music, art, design, and the culture that surrounds it. Cassette is a creative hub located in the industrial and yet contemporary and cool Al Quoz, serving diners great food, coffee, and vibes. With an extensive professional background, Haider is involved in every aspect of the business, from strategy to operations, seeing that the Cassette standard is never compromised. A serial entrepreneur at heart, Haider started his career in the automotive industry from the age of 13.

Born in Iraq, yet raised and educated in London, Haider’s background is firmly rooted in the engineering and automotive industry, which he grew a passion for during his time in the big city. During his university years, Haider took up mechatronic engineering at Middlesex University UK, focusing on the engineering of both electrical and mechanical systems including a combination of robotics, electronics and product engineering. This appetite for engineering followed him to Dubai where he and his brother Nizar Madani launched a company called JEEPERS, which is now an authorized Jeep dealer in UAE, specializing in modification, customization and fabrication.

As well as having his mind very much focused on his first business, it was back during his first few years in Dubai that Haider dreamt up the idea of Cassette, a dream that later came true with the help of H2R Design. Having always had a personal interest in the F&B industry (and spending more dinners in restaurants than his own home), Haider was looking to create a space where people could enjoy great food, electric ambiance, and personalized service.

Combining the brain power of his nephews, Husain and Hasan, the entrepreneurs saw that the market was in need of a casual French café, offering affordable yet great quality food. From here, the modern Parisian bistro concept Cassette was born, housed in The Courtyard, Al Quoz. H2R Design, co-founded by brothers Hasan and Husain, are the interior architect company behind Cassette, and the team have created a space that reflects their passion for all things music, design, and food.

Haider is a British national and studied at Middlesex University in London. Fluent in English and Arabic, Haider enjoys driving, dune bashing and competitive challenges in the desert. He is also a keen squash and racket sports player.

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