By Bernd Debusmann Jr
2020 'is about survival' in the food and beverage sector as it enters uncharted territory, says Gates Hospitality CEO Naim Maadad
Stakeholders in Dubai’s F&B sector will need to come together to survive the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, according to Gates Hospitality CEO Naim Maadad.
Gates Hospitality has a portfolio that currently includes restaurants such as Folly, Reform Social&Grill, Bistro des Arts, Asia de Cuba and Publique.
In an interview with Arabian Business, Maadad said that “nobody is going to make money” in Dubai’s F&B sector this year.
“This is about survival. Nothing else. You can’t make money if there’s no cash in the economy. There’s no liquidity. It’s simple,” he added. “We all need to figure out how to stop losing money. It’s going to be tough. It’s unknown territory. This is new on all fronts.”
In a recent letter addressed to Abdulla Mohammed Al Basti, Secretary General of the Executive Council of Dubai, more than 100 industry leaders – including Gates, Marriott International, Tim Hortons and Sunset Hospitality – claimed to be losing AED1 billion a month in staff salaries, housing and benefits.
The figure excludes rent, which in some cases can be as high as AED 1 million each year.
In his remarks, Maadad said that all the different stakeholders in the sector will have to come together to work their way through the crisis.
“I don’t think it’s any one party that should be responsible. It’s not the landlords, the operators or the government. We all need to shoulder our responsibilities,” he said.
“The government has intervened in certain parts of the world and told aggregators to cap [fees] at 10 percent…and 3 months,” he added. “Learning must come from what is happening around the globe.”
In terms of Gates’ own plans in the near future, Maadad said that the company is examining the possibility of stepping in and helping small businesses operate their F&B concepts.
“There’s a lot of small businesses that need help. I’m happy to have a look at different businesses. I’m certainly not planning on expanding the empire. I’m looking at saving the empire, if anything,” he said. “The immediate response has been ‘let’s talk next year’. That’s on the large scale. Everyone is hibernating and hiding. That’s reality.”
In the longer term, Maadad said he believes lingering safety concerns will continue to impact the industry at least until a vaccine is found.
“The lack of sheer confidence will take hold of many families. From now until the end of the year, people will be very cautious,” he added. “There’s got to be a vaccine. Until then, there will always be people that will be very scared.
“For now, we live to Covid-19,” he added. “We need to get on with life and move.”
In their letter, the participating F&B industry leaders predicted recovery no earlier than the first quarter of 2021.