Interview: Social Distrikt's Hassan Ballout on expansion plans
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Interview: Hassan Ballout shares Limestone Lab’s ambitious plans for Social Distrikt

Interview: Hassan Ballout shares Limestone Lab’s ambitious plans for Social Distrikt

In the GCC, Social Distrikt is looking to expand to Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Morocco, says the CEO and co-founder of the company

Gulf Business
Social distrikt - Hassan Ballout

What inspired the creation of Social Distrikt?
We started Social Distrikt to offer the consumer a multitude of unique and rich experiences all under one roof, by creating a harmonious ecosystem for all its stakeholders.

Tell us about SD’s business model and operations.
Social Distrikt is not only an experiential food hall, but rather a real estate solution that directly impacts the asset value it occupies, the neighbouring lease retail value and the lifestyle of its residential communities. Being a versatile platform that offers successful brand owners a faster route to scalability through lower capital and operational expense deployment has allowed us access to more than 200 F&B brands.

Our model is extremely agile, with a rotational feature that reduces the risk of the typical tenant-landlord relationship in addition to an evolving offering that correlates to our consumer-centric philosophy.

How has the brand expanded since its launch?
We have signed our first franchise in Doha and should be launching our branch there within the year.

We are also in active discussions with most of the largest master developers here in Dubai and Abu Dhabi; and regionally in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as well as globally in Poland, Czech Republic, US and Romania.

What are some of the factors that have contributed to Social Distrikt’s success?
A number of factors have contributed to our success. These include:

– Serving as a dependable anchor for any asset we occupy

– Having an extensive and busy yearly calendar of events and activations. These enable the sustainable and organic flow of footfall across diverse demographics

– The attention paid to our curated brands, depending on geographics, cuisine gaps, new experiential taste trends, top-selling cuisines as well the focus on non-food brands and a small component for retail

– The entertainment component: It allows us to interact with new ways of creating content such as our radio/podcast elements

– The cultural component: It enables us to reach out to all nationalities not only through food but also through curating events that connect us to different cultures

– Our understanding of how technology can help optimise our operational efficiency, enabling the consumer to order and pay online from any table from any brand all in one basket

– An understanding of the consumer journey and the fact that we continuously improve it to enable a seamless flow of traffic

– Comprehension of the vendor journey (under our roof) and making sure we’ve built the right infrastructure for them to be effective

Tell us about your recent fund-raise and how that will contribute to SD’s growth and expansion.
We are preparing to raise $4m in our first seed round. It will support our local expansion, establish our headquarters, and develop our franchising team to build the foundation for regional and global growth.

Shed some light on Social Distrikt’s future plans.
Locally, we are in the advanced stages of discussions to open in three more locations in Dubai, and one each in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, with the possibility of opening one in Ras Al Khaimah as well.

Regionally, we are looking into having eight locations in Saudi Arabia, five in Egypt, and one each in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Morocco. We are also exploring the Jordanian and Tunisian markets.

Globally, we are in initial talks for locations in Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, the US, and Canada.

Read: Limestone Lab announces partnership with Aura Hospitality Group

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