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Tue 26 Nov 2019 10:23 AM

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Dubai's F&B operators must work harder to compete, says CEO of Solutions Leisure Group

Solutions Leisure Group, which turned over $150m last year, operates Lock, Stock & Barrel (LSB), Asia Asia, STK, Wavehouse, Karma Kafe, Q43, The Central and District

Dubai's F&B operators must work harder to compete, says CEO of Solutions Leisure Group

Paul Evans, CEO of Solutions Leisure Group, said operators are struggling because they are not working hard enough or offering anything different.

Paul Evans, CEO of Solutions Leisure Group, has denied that the F&B market in Dubai is overcrowded and said operators are struggling because they are not working hard enough or offering anything different.

Solutions Leisure Group, which turned over $150 million last year, operates Lock, Stock & Barrel (LSB), Asia Asia, STK, Wavehouse, Karma Kafe, Q43, The Central and District.

Evans told Arabian Business 80,000 people visited the company’s two LSB venues last month and said plans were afoot to take the brand to Downtown Dubai and also open a branch in Abu Dhabi next year.

He said: “There are four-and-a-half million people living in this city. I look after 120,000 of them a month. There’s plenty of room for me to grab some more.

“While we can keep doing game-changing stuff, we’ll find opportunity, we’ll find customers and we won’t find challenges. The market’s not challenging. The market’s challenging if you keep doing the same stuff.”

Increased demand

The industry as a whole has seen an increase of 20 percent in demand, as more entrepreneurs enter the market. And this is expected to expand further, with analysts at KPMG forecasting the number of food and beverage venues in the UAE to swell to over 19,000 by 2020.

“It’s just copy paste, copy paste,” said Evans. “I’ve not tried to be Barasti, I’ve not tried to be Zero (Gravity), I’ve not tried to be Zuma. I’m super respectful of these guys but I’m going to outwork them and then I let the customer decide.

"I don’t force a single customer to spend one dirham in my place, but I’ll encourage you to death to spend it all. That’s the difference between us and everyone else. And I think while we continue on that methodology, and we don’t get all excited and buy ourselves big offices and Lamborghinis and get all complacent about how amazing we are, we’ll continue to be hungry and we’ll keep finding that next evolution.

“The same stuff is challenging and it will always continue to be. If you want to try and be a little bar that doesn’t put effort into its staff, its entertainment, its programme and its design, yes you’re going to be challenged.”

Book launch

Evans has recently released ‘When I Woke Up’, a book about his incredible life story to date, which includes how his party lifestyle while operating bars and clubs in Egypt almost cost him his life – he suffered pancreatitis and slipped into a 77-day coma.

Since recovering he said he has worked, on average, 14 hours every day, which he believes also sets him apart from the competition.

“It’s easy to crawl back in your shell and say it’s quiet and it’s challenging. It’s never been easy here. Who wants it to be easy? I don’t. I like the fact that it’s tough, but then that makes you work harder,” he said.

“There’s not a single F&B guy owning a company today who’s going to bed at midnight, waking up at 2 and then spending seven hours on his emails. There’s not one guy.”

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