- It's not enough to have good food, restaurants need to create a unique atmosphere and experience, explains an F&B expert
Entering Dubai’s extremely competitive gastronomic industry (the emirate has some 20,000 eateries) this year with a bang is TABŪ, a high-end restaurant serving modern Japanese cuisine alongside theatrics and sumo wrestlers – both real and fake.
“TABŪ is a modern and creative take on Japanese cuisine,” Aleix Garcia, Managing Partner at Infini Concepts – a UAE-based hospitality concept development company – told Business Recorder.
“You will not find dishes that you find somewhere else. We always bring a different touch to it, not only in the ingredients that we use, but also on how they are presented, how this is mixed with the beverage pairing and the entertainment options.”
The creative take is obvious in TABŪ's decor, which features a giant samurai-inspired mural plus a wall covered with small sumo wrestler statues, and two giant ones on the terrace positioned to look like they are holding up the Burj Khalifa, which stands tall in the background. It's no surprise that Time Out recently listed the venue as one of the most Instagrammable places in Dubai
But it's also obvious in it's avante garde theatrics.
Diners will not just see quirky acts on stage, with characters dressed in glamourous and even outrageous costumes, but they might see some of them casually walking around, including an actual sumo wrestler.
“So you will come to a Japanese restaurant and very rarely, in fact, we never see this anywhere, you will find a true sumo wrestler,” said Garcia.
The idea was "a bit of a quirky approach. We want customers to come here and feel like, oh wow, this is a guy that is obviously a professional summer wrestler that puts some acting into it. We wanted to bring characters that would tell a bit of a Japanese underground approach,” he explained.
The concept of doing something different was important to Garcia because he believes it’s not enough to have good food any more.
When opening a restaurant, it is important now more than ever before “to create a story behind it, to create a bit of more of an atmosphere, an experience overall,” he explained.
“When we talk about food, we should not only focus on the culinary creative aspect behind it, I think it's very important to talk about the atmosphere and the service as well, because ultimately, people don't no longer come for food only, they come here for an experience.”
Commenting on the food and beverage industry in Dubai, he said, “Dubai is an incredibly competitive market compared to other very big and international markets."
"My experience in Germany, in the UK and in Spain, I have never seen so many restaurants opening at once or in the same year at high caliber. I'm not talking about casual restaurants, I'm talking about fine dining, very well-executed restaurants.
“I think Dubai is a very mature market and I think because of all these factors is incredibly important that the offering stands out not only in terms of food.”
And he should know what he's talking about. Infini’s focus is uniqueness and creativity and it’s the driving force behind the concepts of Billionaire Dubai, described as an "Italian & new-Asian restaurant" offering a “theatrical extravaganza” and as well as street food eatery Miss Tess.
But Garcia warns against being “too creative - some people won't understand it and don't appreciate it.” The trick is finding the right balance, "which requires a lot of work.”
Infini’s future plans
Looking ahead to plans for the rest of 2022, it’s hard to be in the hospitality sector in Dubai and not talk about the FIFA World Cup in neighbouring Qatar.
According to Reuters, thousands of fans are expected to descend on the Gulf city due to limited accommodation in Qatar.
“It's just a 50 minutes flight to come to Dubai from Qatar, which is fantastic. The relationship between both governments is fantastic as well. We don't know exactly how much of that will impact the market, but we know that it will,” said Garcia.
Infini “is closley working with working and communicating with the hotels in which we operate so that they can give us estimated figures of how the reservations are moving during the month of November and December so that we can be ready for that additional influx of customers.”
Not one to rest on its laurels, Infini will also be launching another restaurant next month.
“We have a new venue coming next month in October called Hayal, it's a very creative approach to Turkish cuisine as well, and hopefully we'll be soon able to talk about it more,” said Garcia.