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Five Minutes With… Jim Moaddab, COO, Caramel Group

Five Minutes With… Jim Moaddab, COO, Caramel Group

Jim Moaddab, COO at F&B specialist Caramel Group gives his insight into the company’s expansion plans and the UAE restaurant market.

Can you explain why Caramel Group was formed and its operations?

From the conception of Caramel Group we aimed to play a fundamental role in the development of the hospitality industry in the region by becoming an industry innovator whilst also raising the bar for service and customer expectation.

The company currently manages and operates its flagship venue Caramel Restaurant & Lounge – Dubai in the DIFC and Caramel Restaurant & Lounge – Abu Dhabi at The Collection within the St. Regis Saadiyat Island resort. In August 2013 we opened our family concept – MO’s, an all American casual dining concept which has opened its doors at the Citywalk on Al Wasl Road, Dubai.

In a few weeks time we will open our first venture outside the UAE with the third Caramel in Nairobi, Kenya.

How does the Dubai market differ in comparison to Abu Dhabi?

The trend in Dubai over the last few years has certainly been sharing food by ordering a selection of appetisers for all at the table. However upon the conception of the Abu Dhabi menu, we did explore a more versatile menu with greater attention to more formal dining items such as our Porterhouse for two, Ribeye Steak and 1.5KG Stuffed Lobster.

How difficult is it to compete in the UAE’s crowded F&B segment?

It’s a tough and heavily saturated market. In relation to the size of the UAE population and the amount of tourists it currently attracts, there are just too many venues, with more on the way.

Do you think there is any danger of the market being spread too thin with new venues on the horizon?

At the current speed and how fast new venues open each week, I believe so.

What trends are you noticing in terms of consumer eating out habits?

The UAE consumer loves new restaurant openings and trying out a new venue’s menu for the first time.

What are Caramel Group’s expansion plans for the GCC?

We review each expansion opportunity case by case as they present themselves and we’re not restricted to specific territories.

Why has the company opted for Nairobi for its next venue and are there any concerns given recent unrest?

Our decision was specific in this case to Nairobi given the cosmopolitan nature of the population and the potential growth opportunities for a brand like ours. We are aware of the current climate and concern for safety of our team and clientele will always be in the forefront. At the same time, every country has and faces unrest in their own way.

Is the group also eyeing other African venues?

In Africa – not currently, but we are in the advanced stages of our expansion strategy. With the successful launch of our Abu Dhabi location we can now look forward to this prominent opening in Africa. Our long–term growth strategy will allow us, see us to be on the constant look out for new locations around the world.

Will you be hiring this year?

Yes we are building a corporate team in addition to the standard venue rosters.

What is your leadership style?

I’m a pace setter, leading by example, and always provide the team with very clear objectives.

What makes the perfect employee?

Someone that’s driven, takes ownership and is passionate about what he/she does.

Define success in five words…

Hard work, dedication, determination and compassion.

Three tips for becoming the boss…

One: Be fair to all at all times.
Two: Be a good listener.
Three: Praise in public, coach in private.

In my spare time I like to…

Spending time and planning activities with my family.

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