Richard Schestak has revealed plans for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts after stepping into the newly created role of regional director for food and beverage.
"There are 15 hotels in the pipeline in the Middle East, and we have been working with IFA on Kingdom of Sheba and The Fairmont Palm Hotel & Resort, and have started to summarise the types of outlets planned."
"We don't want to follow the trends that have already been set in Dubai, we want to bring something new, such as all-day dining restaurants with activity. "We're currently looking at concepts that will make sense to our guest segmentation."
The Fairmont Palm Hotel & Resort is tipped to draw predominantly corporate and luxury groups, and Kingdom of Sheba will attract international operators, families, luxury groups and the thriving MICE market.
He said between five and 10 concepts would be developed for new openings in the region, and he lauded the potential of The Fairmont Dubai's concepts Spectrum On One and Pronto for expansion for future properties.
"We will be looking more towards The Fairmont Palm Hotel & Resort and Fairmont Kingdom of Sheba for the development of new dining concepts", he said.
Staff accommodation and logistics have emerged as fundamental considerations on Schestak's hectic agenda for the island projects.
"We have to be strategic in terms of creating our outlets and banqueting facilities, and in devising a manpower plan which is a very meticulous exercise as you have to make sure there enough beds and rooms."
The Fairmont Nile City in Cairo - a 754-room property scheduled to open in early 2008 - will have five food and beverage venues, including a rooftop restaurant with views of the Nile and the Pyramids in the city.
The 48,000ft² of meeting space at The Fairmont Heliopolis, another soon to open property in the Egyptian capital, is also predicted to appeal to the MICE sector.
Reliance on local employment will be a key marker for the group in that market, with strong talent to be discovered among the city's seven million strong populace. Recruitment of nationals will also be significant in Oman.
Traditional markets for sourcing staff including India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines and Indonesia have become less reliable, he said.
"We are looking to alternative Southeast Asian countries including Thailand, Vietnam and Burma, and some African countries, as they are coming on strong in terms of supply."
The Fairmont Abu Dhabi Resort & Villas, slated for a 2009 opening, will feature a network of seawater canals links to the linking the hotel to the resort's facilities, including its restaurant promenade.
He said "market studies to make sure we know exactly going on in the immediate neighbourhoods" would be the chief priority for development in the emirate.
The creation of relaxed and fun surroundings is now the main trend in concept creation across the Middle East's restaurant scene, according to Schestak.
"We are looking for concepts which will provide a great crossroad between stylish entertainment and good food and beverage, as guests want to take their ties off, coupled with quality food and service."
Recruitment drives for the executive teams at upcoming developments will be conducted a year prior to openings, and Schestak's new post will entail examining the new builds from design and construction standpoints, developing concepts and positioning staff in suitable roles, aided by the health of the industry's hospitality sector.
"The Middle East is the most important emerging market worldwide, apart from China and India, in terms of new hotel and food and beverage developments, and Cairo has witnessed a 10% growth in tourist numbers."
Syria has also emerged as a market to watch, he said, prompted by the quality set by Four Seasons' arrival in Damascus and the influx of more international chains.
Schestak joined Fairmont Hotels & Resorts as food and beverage outlets manager in Toronto in 1998, before transferring to The Fairmont Dubai in 2001, with considerable responsibility for the opening of Spectrum On One. He credits his recent promotion to the vast experience he has gained in the region, and his dedication.
"It's patience, discipline, belief in what you're going, flexibility, gaining the trust of who you're working with and an awareness of what others are doing."
He revealed the group conducted competitor surveys every two months, which looks at price analyses, and the importance of great service.
"There are a lot of great restaurants here in the region, but achieving great service requires recruitment of the right people," he added.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
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