A short chat with The Pizza Guys – aka Amber Haque and Rami Badawi – feels a bit like a lesson in the entrepreneurial arts. The husband-and-wife team, who set up their New York-style pizzeria in Business Bay in March, seem to tick all the ‘must-have’ boxes when it comes to starting your own business: product obsession, a focus on customer service, excellent relationships with both suppliers and investors and - last but not least - luck in spades. Above all, they are clearly having the time of their lives.
The idea for a neighbourhood joint that served great Neapolitan pizza, where the clientele knew the owners and felt comfortable hanging out, had been in Rami’s thoughts for at least a decade. Although raised in Abu Dhabi, he had spent a decade working in the US for Ritz-Carlton, and would often end up in the local pizzerias after lengthy night shifts.
“They were really the only places open at the time – people would go there to grab a slice or a calzone on the way home,” Rami recalls. “I noticed they had a cult following, and I remember thinking, wow, I bet these guys make a lot of money.”
Although the couple first met at high school in Abu Dhabi, Amber took a different career path, gaining a masters in human rights law before moving to Dubai in 2008 to work as a sales and marketing director for a local firm. But the obsession to create the perfect slice of pizza eventually saw them team up at the beginning of 2011 to set up their own business.
“Rami is a pizza fanatic, and he has been ever since I’ve known him,” says Amber. “Because of his background in the hospitality industry, he’s been exposed to a lot of food, so the idea to include ingredients like stracciatella cheese and wagyu beef came from him.
“He’s pretty militant about the oven temperature – we have a laser-controlled thermometer. He knows exactly what he wants and he’s thrown away pizzas that have come out of the oven in front of customers because they weren’t up to scratch.
“We’ve even had to turn away people because the oven wasn’t hot enough. He’s a little bit extreme, but that’s because this is something he’s been thinking about for a long time,” she adds.
Rami doesn’t immediately strike the casual observer as a “militant obsessive” but the softly spoken Palestinian soon reveals the depths of his passion for pizza.
“If somebody doesn’t like my product, it hurts my feelings,” he says. “I take it so personally that every time something goes wrong, it really hurts. But I don’t think you can be like that every time something goes wrong, because you can’t win every single battle – but we do really try to.”
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