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Thu 9 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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Business brunch

Two GCC-based hotels talk about how they have managed to build successful brunch concepts in increasingly competitive markets.

Two GCC-based hotels talk about how they have managed to build successful brunch concepts in increasingly competitive markets.

Friday brunch has become an institution in Dubai, with hundreds of consumers pre-booking events weeks in advance across the city's landscape of F&B outlets.

With such a dedicated crowd of weekly brunch-goers it has become an important revenue stream for F&B outlets, representing up to 30% of a property's weekly profit margin according to some of the region's F&B professionals.

We have eight interactive kitchens that represent six international cuisines and offer more than 300 signature items. - David Hammonds, Fairmont Dubai.

As a result of the growing consumer demand for brunch events, properties in other GCC countries such as Bahrain are also cashing in on the brunch trend explains Mövenpick Hotel Bahrain's executive chef, Kim Gates.

"Many hotels are starting to offer Friday brunch, although their menus are very basic."

"Our brunch is one of the most popular because we have such a vast selection of food available and people enjoy having the choice."

But in a highly competitive market, making an impact is not an easy task says Fairmont Dubai director of F&B, Sunny Joseph.

"In a city with more than 1500 restaurants, it can be challenging, although we were one of the first to popularise the Friday brunch culture, which has always proved a success with our guests."

The Bahrain market is still developing in contrast to Dubai's booming brunch scene, but that is all set to change, according to Mövenpick Hotel Bahrain's F&B manager, Alfonso Machleidt.

"We're expecting more competition when  the new five-star hotels open in Bahrain next year and introduce their own brunch concepts."

Standing out

Understanding the target market is the first step to creating a popular brunch event says Machleidt.

"We have a high percentage of westerners as well a high volume of Asians and Bahrainis, so a large element of our food offering reflects their tastes.

"We also receive a large number of group bookings for parties and anniversaries," he adds.

In Dubai, the growing trend for group bookings is accommodated by offering three different private dining room options, which add a more intimate touch to the whole brunch experience says the Fairmont's Joseph.

Meanwhile, in Bahrain, the Mövenpick relies on customer feedback to improve its offering, as the majority of its brunch business is generated via returning guests and recommendations.

"Approximately 75% of our brunch guests are regulars and it's increasing every week."

With such a multicultural customer base to cater for, and an increased demand for unique flavours, a large selection of different cuisines is essential says Fairmont Dubai executive chef David Hammonds.

"Our format for the Friday brunch is quite unique. We have eight interactive kitchens that represent six inter-national cuisines and offer more than 300 signature items."

Machleidt comments that guests "love variety and interaction", so the Mövenpick Bahrain's brunch set-up contains a mixture of live cooking stations, buffets and self-selection options to keep the offering varied.

"In Bar Flamingo we have a live sushi station as well a Christoffle trolley with prime rib cuts available."

"In the Lobby Gallery there are several live cooking stations, as well as a booth where guests can help themselves to mojito cocktails, freshly prepared by our resident mixologist."Besides having a wide selection of food on offer, the authenticity of the cuisine is essential because diners today have "an international palate", says Hammonds.

"More than 10 nationalities are represented in the Spectrum on One culinary brigade and we have specialist chefs assigned to each area to keep everything as authentic as possible."

In contrast, the Mövenpick Bahrain maintains a strong emphasis on Asian cuisine says Gates, adding that he chose to specifically recruite his staff from Malaysia, Indonesia and India to "keep the offering as authentic as possible".

People want something different each time they come to brunch, although new products are only considered if their supply is guaranteed. - Kim Gates, Mövenpick Bahrain.

Quality and diversity are two buzz words for Joseph who believes that "the sheer breadth of offerings - more than 200 items from eight interactive kitchens - and the extremely knowledgeable and attentive staff" sets the Fairmont brunch apart from competition.

Innovation is very important to the Mövenpick brunch offering as Gates says that new items generate a renewed interest among his guests.

"People want something different each time they come to brunch and we try to make subtle changes to our offering each week although new products are only considered if their supply is guaranteed."

The Fairmont relies on the experiences of its chefs, staff and guests to develop new menu options says Hammonds.

"Our chefs are encouraged to see what's out there in the city and during their travels."

"We can take their ideas and find ways of incorporating them into our brunch menu."

Forward planning

To organise such a large event for hundreds of guests is an excersise in precision planning says Joseph.

"From ordering products to commissioning ice sculptures and ensuring that ingredients from around the world arrive on time is imperative, so that our chefs can begin the intensive preparation and brunch execution."

Working with suppliers and doing the legwork days in advance is part of the process continues Joseph.

"We've done almost 200 brunches now and we work closely with our suppliers to ensure the steady and timely delivery of the various products required."

"It's no small feat, especially when you consider that one third of the hotel's entire culinary brigade is devoted to this undertaking."

In Bahrain, Gates concedes that a regular supply of quality ingredients is never an easy task.

"We need to be flexible with our menus because we can't always guarantee that we'll receive certain items on time.

"However, there are now many dishes that our regular guests request and these cannot be taken off the menu even though they can still create problems."

"I have to work very closely with the suppliers to get them to improve their standards."

In the future, the Mövenpick Bahrain hopes to expand its offering by adding new and interesting elements says Gates.

"We will update our selection of food and upgrade our display sections, bringing in new equipment to keep things fresh," he says.

The Fairmont's future plans for its brunch include the expansion of the offerings from the Chinese and Thai kitchens and the introduction of a Peking duck station.

The hotel also has plans to expand on its new cheese, port and delicatessen room, with a view to adding more stations and extending the selection says Hammonds.

"The interaction between our colleagues and chefs and our guests completes the whole Friday brunch experience."

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