Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity is pre­par­ing to open its sec­ond con­cept in Dubai fol­low­ing the suc­cess of Il Borro. Founder Omar Saideh spoke ex­clu­sively with Caterer Mid­dle East about the up­com­ing Alici.

Hav­ing worked in the shad­ows for the past two years, qui­etly op­er­at­ing one of the most suc­cess­ful restaurants in Dubai, Il Borro, Omar Saideh and Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity are burst­ing onto the scene in a big way in 2019

Caterer Middle East - - Contents -

Not many peo­ple have heard of Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity, de­spite the large num­ber of awards its one con­cept in Dubai, Il Borro, has won. It’s the way founder Omar Saideh has liked it up un­til now, work­ing dis­cretely with his team to keep Il Borro at the top of its game while plan­ning his next move.

That next move is upon us now, and Saideh be­lieves it’s time to an­nounce Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity to the world.

The bou­tique op­er­a­tor is all set to open its sec­ond con­cept, Alici, an Ital­ian seafood restau­rant with its lo­ca­tion on the new Blue­wa­ters Is­land, but its heart and soul on Italy’s Amalfi coast. For Saideh it’s a sec­ond op­por­tu­nity to high­light what sets Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity apart from the rest of the in­dus­try.

“We fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing restau­rant that re­volve around the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence and giv­ing the mar­ket some­thing it has never seen be­fore,” he tells us.

“We look at brands for their true con­text. We try to look at things that make it dif­fer­ent. Il Borro for ex­am­ple has its own wines, its own olive oil, its own iden­tity, and we try to cap­ture that unique sell­ing point.”

Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity was cre­ated to give the con­sumer some­thing ex­cep­tional and for Saideh that means more than just de­liv­er­ing a good meal. He says: “It’s not enough now to walk in­side a restau­rant and open a menu and or­der off it. You have to ex­pe­ri­ence it from the mo­ment you walk in un­til the minute you leave.”

To en­sure that, build­ing the right team who could take care of cus­tomers was of vi­tal im­por­tance. De­spite the many ac­co­lades given to Il Borro in its two years, Saideh humbly says that “I be­lieve awards don’t de­fine you as a brand. Your

IT'S NOT ENOUGH NOW TO WALK IN­SIDE A RESTAU­RANT AND OPEN A MENU AND OR­DER OFF IT. YOU HAVE TO EX­PE­RI­ENCE IT"

team, their ef­forts, their con­stant strive to im­prove is what makes you suc­cess­ful and be­comes a tes­ta­ment of your model.

“The Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity team is a bunch of very pas­sion­ate peo­ple who have lo­cal ex­per­tise and also in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure. When we hire peo­ple we don’t hire them be­cause they know how to serve a plate or serve a glass of wa­ter. We hire peo­ple be­cause of who they know in the mar­ket, who will recog­nise them when they en­ter our restaurants. We be­lieve you re­ally need to give that per­sonal touch. They know what you like, what you don’t like. Th­ese small de­tails re­ally make a dif­fer­ence to the cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Be­ing avail­able and ap­proach­able to his em­ploy­ees is key to Saideh, and Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity has an open door pol­icy where “ev­ery opin­ion mat­ters”.

Saideh ex­pands: “We op­er­ate as one unit. I my­self am head­ing it but by no means am I an owner, I’m an em­ployee like ev­ery­one else. I like to keep that spirit of team­build­ing so that all of us, col­lec­tively as one unit, can achieve greater heights.”

It goes against the grain of the tra­di­tion­ally cor­po­rate hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try which Saideh tells us is “too struc­tured”. Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity, he says, is “de­con­structed but for­mal in a sense. We make de­ci­sions over lunch, we make de­ci­sions by go­ing to places and see­ing dif­fer­ent restaurants in the mar­ket. This is the style of Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity. It’s not a com­pany where you have to fill out 20 forms to get some­thing ap­proved and this is what’s miss­ing. You have to be su­per quick be­cause the mar­ket is very quick. We try to stay in­no­va­tive which is what I be­lieve will make Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity a strong con­tender in the hos­pi­tal­ity scene.”

Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity’s next in­no­va­tion is Alici. Lo­cated on the newly opened Blue­wa­ters Is­land, it will be one of the first con­cepts to be open to the pub­lic from Jan­uary 2019 and sits walk­ing dis­tance from what will be the world’s big­gest fer­ris wheel. Saideh says as soon as they vis­ited the site, it was ob­vi­ous what it had to be.

“You can lit­er­ally smell the salt of the sea when you are sit­ting so when we came and saw the space we thought this can only be a seafood restau­rant.”

Al­ready op­er­at­ing an Ital­ian restau­rant, Saideh was nat­u­rally drawn to the Amalfi coast and be­lieves “the south of Italy hasn’t been given enough at­ten­tion from the world in gen­eral” in com­par­i­son to other Mediter­ranean cuisines. So, he says, “we put a mag­ni­fy­ing glass on the south of Italy and Alici was born. I feel that for the first time Dubai is go­ing to get a con­cept that fits the lo­ca­tion per­fectly”.

The de­tails mat­ter to Saideh and ev­ery­thing about Alici is steeped in south Ital­ian her­itage. As he ex­plains, Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity is “in the field of be­spoke and tai­lor made con­cept cre­ations to en­sure that we de­liver some­thing that is truly authen­tic and very recog­nis­able from when you walk in”. As such the team trav­elled to the south of Italy for ten days to re­search ev­ery­thing they could to bring a con­cept au­then­ti­cally to life from scratch.

From the name, which is a slang term from the re­gion for an­chovies, to the vast amount of work which went in to find­ing lo­cal Ital­ian col­lab­o­ra­tors to help de­sign ev­ery­thing from the tiles to the table­ware, the Amalfi coast shines through in Alici.

WE PUT A MAG­NI­FY­ING GLASS ON THE SOUTH OF ITALY AND ALICI

WAS BORN. I FEEL FOR THE FIRST TIME DUBAI IS GO­ING TO GET A CON­CEPT THAT FITS THE LO­CA­TION PER­FECTLY."

That in­cludes the meth­ods of cook­ing the fish also, with Saideh con­sis­tently unim­pressed with what he has found in Dubai up un­til now.

He says: “I’ve been here for 24 years and when it comes to fresh seafood you are very lim­ited with op­tions. You ei­ther have some­where that is over sea­soned or some­where it is overly ca­sual. We wanted to bring a seafood ex­pe­ri­ence that is truly rep­re­sent­ing the south of Italy way of cook­ing which is sim­ple and nat­u­ral.”

That also means no frozen seafood.

“Our menus al­ways re­volve around what’s avail­able fresh cur­rently in our kitchen. We in­vested a lot in a big tank in our back of house area which hosts all of our live seafood to en­sure you get your seafood live five min­utes ago on your plate. Alici as a brand and us as a group stand against fro- zen seafood. What­ever prod­uct we bring to your ta­ble needs to be of the high­est qual­ity, and of course we try not to pinch your pocket too much, so you leave with a smile,” Saideh laughs.

But Saideh does ad­mit that they won’t be try­ing to make Alici 100% authen­tic to the south of Italy and that adap­ta­tions will have to be made. He says: “It’s a con­cept that is authen­tic in its con­text and the

way we are de­liv­er­ing it but that does not mean we need to strictly abide 100% by ev­ery­thing we took from the south. We also look at the lo­cal mar­ket and Dubai as a whole and un­der­stand how we can take ev­ery­thing we learned from our 10-day trip to the coast and put that into a beau­ti­ful model that fits the mar­ket.

“It will be a very dif­fer­ent ap­proach to seafood in Dubai. Very authen­tic to the south but it will be eas­ily un­der­stood by the lo­cal mar­ket and we feel this is key to any restau­rant’s suc­cess. You can’t for­get you are serv­ing peo­ple who live here, who come as tourists — there are 52 dif­fer­ent na­tion­al­i­ties in Dubai, all th­ese dif­fer­ent tastes, cul­tures, back­grounds, you have to cater for all of that and give peo­ple what they like.”

That’s what makes Dubai a unique mar­ket and one that has suf­fered un­der the weight of many restaurants open­ing and clos­ing in re­cent years. But Saideh be­lieves that things are look­ing up.

“The mar­ket is chang­ing,” he tells us. “Land­lords used to have a wait­ing list of peo­ple who wanted to open but nowa­days it’s not only who can pay the high­est rent, it’s who can de­liver a suc­cess­ful con­cept. The mar­ket is be­com­ing less sat­u­rated with tonnes of restaurants which open for the sake of open­ing and now the mar­ket is more fo­cused on qual­ity op­er­a­tors that can sus­tain in this mar­ket con­di­tion.

“This is where I see Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity fill­ing a gap. It fills the gap of go­ing that ex­tra mile, not open­ing a restau­rant be­cause you want to make money. Money is a great fac­tor, it’s a beau­ti­ful re­sult, but it’s not the pri­mary fo­cus. You have to be suc­cess­ful first — get a level of suc­cess and money is a by-prod­uct of that and will come nat­u­rally.

“We are not in it be­cause we want our port­fo­lio to have 15 restaurants. We are happy to have one restau­rant, we are happy that we are go­ing to have a sec­ond in a month’s time. We feel that if they are the best in what they are do­ing that is a great ac­com­plish­ment.”

With a num­ber of awards, in­clud­ing our sis­ter mag­a­zine Time Out’s Restau­rant of the Year 2018 un­der its belt, Il Borro is cer­tainly among the best at what it does. Which is why Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity has taken the first steps to take it to the UK.

“We have to say that Lon­don is call­ing and we are an­swer­ing,” Saideh tells us. “We’re go­ing to be there very soon. We are proud to see this beau­ti­ful brand ex­pand out­side of Tus­cany, we saw that in Dubai it’s earned its ac­co­lades, so now it’s time to bring it abroad. So Lon­don is cur­rently se­cured. We are po­ten­tially go­ing to take our lease in 2019 and hope­fully we will be wel­com­ing you to Lon­don in the first quar­ter of 2020.”

So why Lon­don? “We feel that with Lon­don and Dubai the only thing miss­ing be­tween them is a bridge.

Saideh is not stop­ping there, how­ever, and says that In­dia, Asia, and North Amer­ica are all of in­ter­est to the Il Borro brand, but he will do so care­fully. “We are try­ing to en­sure that wher­ever we place our con­cepts they are well thought of, not just putting it there bea­cause you want to put it there. We are not hun­gry or des­per­ate to push and ex­plode — we feel you lose a lit­tle bit of its per­sonal touch, you lose a bit of its bou­tique na­ture, and we want to keep that.”

But if Il Borro’s in­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion is a suc­cess could A lici fol­low in its foot­steps?

“Ab­so­lutely. Alici is not a con­cept that I want to limit. It has a beau­ti­ful story, it has a lot of nice col­lab­o­ra­tions, and with the open­ing in Jan­uary the pub­lic will see the amount of ef­fort and time, and the count­less opin­ions and de­ci­sions that we had to take. Ev­ery­thing has been sin­cerely

thought of and you will see that when you walk in. You will feel the at­ten­tion to de­tail. I wouldn’t want to put all that to waste by say­ing Alici will be a Dubai restau­rant only. I feel it has tremen­dous po­ten­tial to grow ex­po­nen­tially and be a brand that can be as se­ri­ous con­tender glob­ally when it comes to seafood from the south of Italy.”

As Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity aim to reach for the top with both Il Borro and Alici, Saideh doesn’t be­lieve it means it has to sac­ri­fice its val­ues. “We are the com­pany that is friends with ev­ery­one, even the com­pet­ing op­er­a­tors. We would like to see the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try in Dubai reach a cer­tain level.

“We want to be the com­pany that wel­comes our peo­ple, takes care of our peo­ple, and makes sure that each in­di­vid­ual that joins us is given a ca­reer de­vel­op­ment plan. I feel it’s a beau­ti­ful gap in the mar­ket Orange Hos­pi­tal­ity will be fill­ing and I can’t wait to share all th­ese beau­ti­ful ex­pe­ri­ences with the peo­ple that will come on our team. We will hope­fully be­come an in­no­va­tor in this mar­ket, be­cause it def­i­nitely needs it.”

The Orange Hosp­tial­ity team shows its awards

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