By Elsa Leite
Portuguese furniture manufacturer, Fenabel, is in favour of the personal touch when it comes to creating bespoke furnishings for the hospitality sector explains the manager, Elsa Leite.
Fenabel has been manufacturing chairs since 1910, when the present managers' grandfathers began crafting unique pieces of wooden furniture by hand at their home in Portugal.
Nowadays, Fenabel is still a family business, run by Elsa and Mário Leite, who try to adhere to the customer-led values established by the company's founding fathers, and prefer to deal face-to-face with clients and potential customers whenever possible.
"Client satisfaction is the first aim of the company," confirms Elsa Leite, who visited Dubai in February for Fenabel's first participation in the Gulfood exhibition.
"This show pulls in more food and beverage management personnel and restaurant owners than any other show, and [this] is our core clientele."
Fenabel teamed up with new distributor, Spyro, for the exhibition, and the company is already planning a greater presence for next year's show, says Leite.
"We felt that we had a better response at Gulfood, compared to our other [less personal] lines of marketing, such as print adverts, directories and e-mail promotions, so we're definitely going to be looking for a bigger space next year," she explains.
The reason for this commitment to the Middle East's market is simple - the GCC represents around 8% of the company's worldwide sales at present, and the Fenabel management is acutely aware of the great potential for future development.
"This is one of the fastest growing regions in the world today," Leite confirms. "We've received orders from Le Meridien, the Ramada Hotel and the Accor Group, to name but a few, and we have been noticing a trend towards customisation in this part of the world for many years now."
It is this growing demand for bespoke furnishings that will allow Fenabel to really take off in the region, according to Leite.
"Because of the robust growth in the market and high occupancy rates in the Middle East, we see our clients in this region trying to move away from ordering products directly from our catalogue and instead trying to design and invent their own products," she says.
"Each property wants to be different from the next. They all want to have their own unique signature style and brand recognition. This is why [our slogan is] ‘You design, we produce' - specifically to cater to this type of customer."
With a team of 65 highly motivated, experienced personnel dedicated to offering a complete design and fit-out service to its corporate clients, the company is striving to build a reputation within the Middle East hospitality industry for "consistently exceeding customers' expectations".
"We use high quality, durable materials and finishes to meet international standards," says Leite, adding that the company was awarded the ISO 9001 product certification in February.
"Our philosophy consists of seeking out our brand's identity, and we emphasise quality and originality, even if achieving it entails using the most advanced techniques and discovering new materials."
Despite the high quality of its products, the company still manages to produce over 12,000 chairs per month, which it distributes in Portugal, as well as exporting to France, Spain, the UK, Italy, Belgium, Greece and, of course, the UAE.
"Essentially focused on mass production, we employ the latest forms of production, including automated, computerised manufacturing processes and high-tech painting methods," explains Leite.
"We always work with the perspective of innovation, design and ergonomics to maximise the potential of our new products," she adds.
The company is also dedicated to protecting the environment, a responsibility it tries hard to live up to at every stage of the manufacturing cycle.
"All the wood shavings are collected into a large container and are re-used in the making of pressed wood.
"The varnish tins and other finishing product waste are collected by a state-owned organisation to be re-used, and paper and boxes are collected for recycling," she explains.
Even the wood dust is recycled. It is vacuumed up using a silo, which then transfers it into a boiler, where the shavings are burned to produce the heat that is used in the factory's finishing and drying processes.
It is this level of attention to detail, not only in production and design processes, but also in customer service, that sets Fenabel apart, according to Leite, who believes that the company's dedicated approach has been the main contributing factor to the company's success thus far, and will remain its key differentiating feature in years to come.
"Last year, our business grew by more than 20% and we are doing our best to ensure we are at least on the same level next year," she says.
"Now we are preparing a new strategy - a plan to really establish our brand in the UAE and, in order to further strengthen and grow the brand over the next year, we also intend to expand into Saudi Arabia."
In order to achieve the desired growth in its regional presence, Fenabel has begun work on a new factory building, which will cover an area of more than 4000m², allowing more space for design, innovation and the latest in manufacturing technology.
No matter how large the company grows, however, Leite is determined that Fenabel's important core values will never change: "We will always hold one attitude to each and every client - that of esteem and dedication," she promises.