A Foodie’s Tour of Dubai, through LBS Alumni

by  Freya Evans, Recruitment & Admissions Manager, EMBA Dubai, and Ross Neilson, Director Strategy & Operations, Dubai Centre

Dubai is renowned for being a melting pot of cultures. Unsurprisingly, so too is Dubai’s global cuisine scene. In this blog, we explore London Business School’s Dubai connection with good food and highlight the culinary and entrepreneurial successes of our current students and alumni.

LBS community & food

We have 1,353 LBS students and alumni working in the Food and Beverages (F&B) industry, peppered across every continent. They also represent all spans of our degree programme portfolio from the LBS Sloan Masters in Leadership and Strategy Fellows, MBA, Executive MBA (EMBA), Masters in Management and Masters in Finance (part-time) students.

Good food is a key element of the EMBA Dubai. Embracing the ethos of “first we eat, then we do everything else”, each EMBA Dubai module begins with a scrumptious breakfast on campus provided by the Ritz Carlton. This allows students to speed read their latest case before class starts, while devouring a freshly baked croissant and washing it down with a frothy cappuccino! Students’ nutrient levels are kept high throughout the day: a succulent range of Ritz lunch options are served daily including salads and a selection of warm main courses, with snacks provided throughout the day.

Much of the learning at LBS is about sharing culture, within a business context and socially. Recently, students from Lebanon and India celebrated national events using food: our social rep celebrated Lebanon’s 75th Independence Day by handing out chocolates to the class, while the previous module students enjoyed celebrating a Diwali dinner at Carnival.

Providing such rich culinary delights during class clearly inspires our future alumni to delve into the food and beverage industry. Our LBS Dubai community represent a delicious mix of culinary business talent, with many alumni founding delectable restaurants surrounding the LBS’s Dubai campus.

For example, after class our current students can be found hanging out at the latest Mexican Street food restaurant and bar, El Noctambulo in Dubai’s Design District. EMBA Dubai 2018 alumni Furat Al-Hassani founded this restaurant, which has our students flocking there to tuck into tacos and polishing off dinner with churros and chocolate sauce. Students come to El Noctambulo not just out of LBS loyalty, but for the chic environment and the wholesome home cooked meals.

Food and beverage industry thriving in Dubai

Why are our students and alumni opening up successful establishments across the UAE? Firstly, there’s a demand and growth in Dubai’s food and beverage (or ‘F&B’) industry. The industry grew from $11.3 billion (Dh41.5 billion) in 2015 to $13.2 billion in 2018. What’s driving this demand? A growing population and the ease of doing business in Dubai. The World Bank ranks the UAE ranked 11th (out of 183 countries) as a convenient place to do business.

Current EMBA student Fadl Safadi (EMBA Dubai 2020) is Business Development Manager at Al Safadi Restaurants, a Lebanese family founded chain. He agrees that the ease of setting up a business in Dubai as a key driver for the F&B industry flourishing.

Rapid F&B industry growth is not without challenges, which include recruiting and retaining good staff and increased competition. With this fierce competition, what makes some F&B companies thrive and others fail? Fadl reflects that a willingness to adapt is crucial, he says “we have seen many brands disappear from the market because of their resistance to change. If a company wants to thrive, its executives should be extremely dynamic and proactive to the market changes and trends.”

It’s no longer just good food and ambiance which are core ingredients to a successful F&B business, but a social media strategy and innovation says current EMBA student and founder of Society Café & Lounge Dubai, Sheikha Al Muhairy (EMBA Dubai 2018). She has described how embracing social media, constant innovation and creativity is key to helping a restaurant business establish itself in a very tough and challenging industry. In fact, nowadays nine out of ten restaurants report using social media to connect with their guests.

How LBS is supporting food and beverage start-ups in Dubai

London Business School is at the forefront of helping foodie entrepreneurs, and other industries too, overcome challenges in setting-up business in Dubai. Our established ‘Entrepreneur’s Journey’ programme helps aspiring entrepreneurs work directly with leading members of Dubai’s start-up community to develop their business ideas as part of a practical programme.

Jane Khedair, Director at LBS’s Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship describes how the programme exists to “offer the extra guidance, feedback and even inspiration needed to take their businesses to the next level.”

Nader Amiri, founder of El Grocer, recently led a session as part of this programme where he talked to attendees on the tough realities of being an entrepreneur and growing a business in the region. He’s successfully overcome challenges and his business is now partnered with over 40 supermarkets across Dubai, with wider Middle East growth aspirations.

At London Business School, diversity of our classes and alumni community is of utmost importance, which is why our F&B students provide such a rich source of industry knowledge as well as excellent hospitality outside the classroom. Students are actively encouraged to share their unique industry experience, as leaders in their field.

Are you a future food entrepreneur looking to put your business recipe to the test and want to network with our thousand plus F&B alumni? Or simply want to learn from talented business leaders in other industries? The EMBA Dubai Programme is currently recruiting for January 2019 and September 2019 class. If you are interested in applying, please feel welcome to contact us.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Dubai melting pot and to you joining our culinary community in Dubai!


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