What’s the story behind your business?
Retail is Detail and Craving with Couture represent the food and beverage (F&B), Retail and Lifestyle arms of Alabbar Enterprises. Founded in 2008 with a vision to lead and operate speciality retail and F&B concepts, it has played a pivotal role in both bringing and curating F&B and retail brands to the Middle East.
From international eateries to lifestyle retail and from lovable global brands to home-grown concepts, the group specialises in bringing a desired lifestyle to both residents and visitors to the region. Today the business has 12 brands, which include Candylicious, Social House, Markette, Yogurtland, TWO Cafe, Gia, Angelina and Ethan Allen, to name a few.
Where do you see it going in the next five years? The next decade?
The next five years are extremely exciting. Last year we opened seven new businesses, which all have been very positively received in the market. As we continue to build our current profile we are always looking for new opportunities to expand the business. Our mission is to be the most admired retail, lifestyle and F&B company in the UAE and beyond.
What’s the single biggest challenge facing your industry today?
Market conditions and demands are continually changing. Our biggest challenge is to meet the demands of the dynamic market trends but more importantly, stay ahead of evolving trends.
Where do great ideas come from in your organisation?
The team are empowered to create and are encouraged to challenge the norm. As a leader, it’s great to see their creativity come to life across departments, from operations and HR to marketing and supply chain. Frontline ideas can be transformative.
How do you encourage creative thinking within your organisation?
With so many different brands we have to be continuous in our creative thinking. Encouragement at our enterprise can be in many forms. We have a ‘people’s first’ approach and I truly believe in this philosophy. Communication is a key factor and we try to bring this philosophy to life by involving people at every opportunity.
For example, recently we involved the team by organising a Barista competition. This allowed the team to come forward with their best innovations. The winning beverages were so good that we started working on developing these for our menus.
What is the most important in your company – its mission, core values or vision?
I do not think anyone is more important than the others but our core values are the ones that stand out, we are a family business and this is the backbone of who we are, what we do and how we achieve it.
What’s your decision-making process?
Completely depends on the situation, but in general, I blend data, facts and feelings. As a leader, I tend towards a consultative approach, where I value my team’s opinions and feel that having openness in our approach helps us as a team to make informed decisions.
Do you believe social networking has impacted your organisation or yourself personally? How has it done so?
Social media had a very positive impact on our business. Both the business and I have embraced social channels to ensure it works as a positive driver for us. The ability to reach the consumers directly, gain instant feedback, and share our offering at the click of a button is a very powerful tool.
What do you enjoy most about working at your company?
The people we have in our team are amazing to be with. We have over 40 nationalities in our business and each one of them brings something new to the table.
Can you name a person who has had an impact on you as a leader? How did this person impact your life?
I have been very privileged to work for some amazing people, in the past and currently under the Alabbar family. Someone that stands out in my earlier career was Susan Chappel who was the retail business manager at Mitchell’s & Butlers, I worked with Chappel for around nine years, her passion was truly inspiring and helped me develop many of the skills I have today.
I first started working for Chappel as an assistant manager and under her guidance I progressed to retail business manager, supporting around 20 businesses. Chappel is passionate about food, people, service and was amazing at building sustainable brands that have strong consumer appeal. She guided me to strive and deliver great guest experiences while developing the team along the way.
What would you say to a new employee about the culture of your organisation?
Our culture is that of a family, we are hard-working, we care about each other, and try to do the right thing by each other.
When faced with two equally qualified job candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?
At this stage it becomes very personality-based, I like confidence. Humble team members who have a track record of putting people first at the heart of the business. I truly believe with the right people you can achieve so much.
What are three characteristics that you believe every leader should possess?
The ability to learn from the past, the ability to build long-lasting relationships and a sense of curiosity and being open to learning.
Quote to live your life by?
Maya Angelou: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Finish this sentence: “The world would be a better place if only….”
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