By Staff writer
For the past four years More cafe has found a loyal following with its outlet in Al Garhoud, Dubai. Since then, it has expanded operations with more in the pipeline
Beginning his career as a chef in Holland, Dutch-born Wouter Lap Jnr has worked across the globe. Working in the catering industry in Belgium, Australia and Africa, Lap eventually moved to Dubai and opened his first cafe in 2002.
Lap is now the managing partner of two More cafe’s as well as Intelligent Foods, a bakery in Dubai. Also, plans are underway for a third outlet with Jumeirah earmarked as a possible location.
Selecting the location for the first More in Al Garhoud, Dubai, was a speedy process for Lap, yet the positioning of the building in a car park did bring some criticism.
“The size was right, and I never doubted it. I think that’s very important when you start a business, even though everyone was telling me I was an idiot to go ahead with it,” recalls Lap.
However, due to the success of the first restaurant, Lap then opened a second outlet in February this year, at Al Murooj complex. Boasting more than 1000 covers a day across both outlets, Lap relies on word of mouth, and predicts an estimated revenue growth of 30%.
Approximately twice the size of Al Garhoud cafe — although offering identical menus — More at Al Murooj complex accommodates additional features such as a butcher’s section.
Supplying meat and marinades to both cafes from the butcher at the second outlet — as well as ice cream and bread from Intelligent Foods — Lap can guarantee strict portion control and maintain consistent food standards. However, the biggest obstacle has been transportation.
“We offer fresh, healthy foods, so the important thing for us is that food is delivered on time. But with Dubai’s demanding traffic it is becoming virtually impossible,” he complains.
The nine cooler and freezer vans currently carry the meat from the butcher at Al Murooj complex to Al Garhoud every two days, and the pastries and breads on a daily basis. However, in order to combat the traffic issue, the company hopes to turn the delivery process into a night operation for both its meats and pastries.
Sourcing bakery products from Lap’s Intelligent Foods company, the seven-year-old business was established to produce breads and pastries for schools. The site has since then been modified into a 2000m² production unit primarily for the More restaurants, as well as some select customers. As well as providing fresh breads daily, the factory also produces ice creams in vanilla, strawberry, chocolate, mixed berry, mocha, cinnamon, banana, and coconut varieties.
But with the impending opening of a third More, Lap says that the butcher’s section will move to Intelligent Foods, where a separate company will be created to supply the outlets.
Because of the increase in business, technology has been at the forefront of Lap’s efficient organisation of logistics, service and stock control operations, leading the company to invest AED250,000 (US $68,000) in a bid to further streamline the flow of data currently reaching the head office in Al Ghusais.
“We need software that will speak to our Micros-Fidelio systems. Despite having more than 1000 covers per day, the biggest discrepancy we’ve ever had is AED4500 ($1225), which turned out to be a manual feeding mistake. We know where everything goes down to a single portion of meat,” Lap reveals.
Currently transferring data via a virtual private network (VPN) from the restaurants to the accounts department, the food checks are sent through to the office every fortnight, while the waiting staff’s orders are fed through the computer system. Lap can also access the restaurants live online.
But despite the company’s ability to take advantage of technology to assess stock levels based on purchasing records, Lap is adamant that physical stocktaking is also conducted. “It’s not meant to be place where people are like zombies behind computer screens,” Lap says.
Despite spending a lot of time coordinating technology, one of Lap’s main concerns in running an outlet is regarding the production process for ingredients, especially the use of fertilisers to grow produce. To tackle this, Lap sources lettuce from a trusted supplier in Abu Dhabi, and the bread on offer is organic.
Lap also says that sourcing other products, such as fresh fish, has been more expensive then he thought. He adds though, that it is important to offer a wide variety of quality goods.
“You need to offer a product mix with a good profit margin, while still maintaining affordable prices in order to build a strong base. I also have a menu which hasn’t changed much, as people used to complain when I removed dishes,” he admits.
Even though maintaining consistency is important, Lap says some dishes clearly did not work and their presence on the menu was short-lived, such as whole fish on the bone and paella. But despite creating a strong menu and sourcing the right ingredients — which has proved costly — the company’s biggest investment has been in its staff.
One of the key things Lap believes in, he says, is the importance of building a team before a new project arrives, in order for staff to learn more about the company.
“When I think they are ready I throw them in at the deep end, but I let them raise the bar,” he says.
The company also offers an in-house recommendation scheme, which rewards staff members who find suitable new recruits, as well as using recruitment agencies around the world.
Lap believes, though, that the days of cheap labour are over, as he outlines the costs of accommodation, medical insurance, and training programs.
“New labour regulations seem to change daily, with a long paper trail. The systems of the labour and immigration departments brings a number of challenges. They always seem to be running behind the wagon, rather than towing it,” he comments.
Conducting bi-monthly staff evaluations, as well as weekly meetings between the front and back of house, Lap says this is in part responsible for the company’s low staff turnover. And with more outlets planned, business for Lap looks set to grow.
Al Garhoud July 2002 and Al Murooj February 2006
Number of covers
Number of staff
36 front of house, 32 back of house and two head chefs
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