Move follows successful launch of Folia at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay
Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed’s plans to change the hospitality and food service industry by introducing vegan options on menus in restaurants is on its way to Dubai.
Folia, the consultancy and teaching partnership between vegan chef Matthew Kenney and Prince Khaled’s KBW Ventures, recently introduced a vegan menu at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay.
Prince Khaled, known for his vegan lifestyle, said Folia is currently “in talks” for its Dubai debut.
“We’re hoping to make it happen soon,” he told Arabian Business. “It is in the works, and we’re confident about the reception as we know the market opportunity here for Folia is massive. I see our Dubai customer base as being primarily made up of two segments: the UAE has a huge vegan community, and there are a huge number of foodies as well – experimental diners who want to broaden their palates. No other outlets in the Middle East, besides Bahrain now, offers what we have to offer.”
He said the Dubai ‘pilot’ venue will invariably introduce new people to vegan.
“If what you are offering tastes amazing and looks great people will come,” he said. “Those who follow a plant-based lifestyle are loyal clients and they bring their friends who often aren’t vegans but still want healthy options on an evening out.
“People who have never before visited a particular outlet due to the lack of plant-based options will now be regular customers, and in the vegan community word travels extremely fast.”
Prince Khaled said the next launch is going to be with another property that falls into the “early adopter category – meaning they are ahead of the curve and they know it”.
With a strong family connection to Four Seasons – through his father Prince Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal – the opportunity to bring the Folia brand global remains strong.
“I think with a business model like Folia it is always the ideal case scenario that it goes global. It certainly has the potential to scale; it was structured to be that way,” said Prince Khaled.
“Will every Four Seasons in the world launch it? That remains to be seen, and I think it depends a lot on how tuned in specific property management is as high quality plant-based options are the new ‘It’ food.
“And as we’ve learned very well, making amazing tasting and good looking plant-based food isn’t easy. In terms of progress, we’ve seen that the pilot at Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills was - and is still - successful. This paved the way for our first GCC launch at Four Seasons Bahrain Bay, and it is already receiving strong reviews from people who don’t even follow a plant-based lifestyle.”
He said far from being the ‘year of the vegan’, as The Economist dubbed it, this year is when people are “advocating for healthy, clean cuisine – all people, not just vegans”.
“That’s how the reducetarian movement initially started gaining traction. That’s what we’re trying to get behind with this business model: eating clean can also mean eating delicious. Everyone is happy – including profit-conscious venues and outlets trying to generate new clientele. The more venues that decide to provide their guests with cuisine that is both ethical and of superior taste, the better.”
Prince Khaled returned to the Four Seasons Bahrain Bay to test how the Folia menu was being presented, if it was visible, if staff knew what was in it and how it tasted.
“I had six items on the menu. I want to be clear about the fact that they weren’t aware that it was me - I went in purposely while all the senior management was busy with the Folia media tasting event in another part of the hotel. It was awesome to be a customer there, and this is what every Folia experience should be like. We want to guarantee that same level of visibility and service and quality at every venue that presents Folia,” he said.