Abdul Kader Saadi, Founder, Glee Hospitality

Having graduated from Les Roches Hotel Management School in Switzerland, Abdul Kader joined the Sogeres company part of a leading catering group. Abdul Kader spent over six years with the company in Paris. He started on the operational side of the business then moved on to head office to cover the commercial, internal auditing, purchasing departments and finally achieving the position of Manager of international developments.

Moving back to the UK in 2001 Abdul Kader joined the MARC restaurant group as project manager. After 3 successful years, 3 restaurants were opened of which two were granted the Michelin Star recognition. From 2005 to 2007 Abdul Kader invested and focused on turning around a restaurant chain with 3 outlet in London.

In 2008 Abdul Kader moved to the UAE, Dubai and set up Glee Hospitality Solutions by the end of 2009. Now in it is 7th year of operations, GLEE Hospitality Solutions successfully launched over 40 concepts, opened over 55 outlets across the region and by end of 2017 will be managing a team of nearly 500 employees.

Akhilesh Bahl, Founder & CEO, Malt & Salt Hospitality

Akhilesh founded Malt & Salt Hospitality in 2014 with the aim of providing excellence in Hospitality Consulting, Operations Management and Portfolio Investments Management.

With over two decades of experience in industries ranging from Hospitality, Real Estate, Strategic Marketing and Knowledge Management, Akhilesh decided to launch his own entrepreneurial venture.

Having been part of multiple start-ups, Akhilesh considers himself a specialist at starting, launching and successfully operating Food and Beverage businesses. Establishing and ramping up businesses whilst streamlining operations and profitability are the key assets to Akhilesh’s focus in building great ventures.

Having lived and worked in the UAE for over twelve years, Akhilesh has developed an in-depth understanding and gained valuable experience of the Middle East market. Understanding new trends, conducting gap analysis, creating unique concepts and implementing ideas is the thriving force for launching Malt & Salt Hospitality

Akhilesh brings a deep passion for the hospitality business coupled with a vast experience of working with reputable hotel chains like the Taj Group of Hotels in India. He has successfully launched more than twelve diverse Food & Beverage concepts including an award winning all-day gourmet café concept in Dubai.

In addition to being a Hotel Management graduate and Bachelor of Commerce, Akhilesh is also a Masters in Business Administration from the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chausees, Paris. He was a visiting faculty and guest speaker at a leading Hotel Management college in New Delhi for three years and has coached & mentored over 500 team members of various nationalities.

Anishkaa Gehani, Founder & Managing Director, Yardstick Marketing Management Consultancy

Born and raised in the UAE, Anishkaa S Gehani, founded Yardstick Marketing Management in 2012, with the vision of offering innovative and effective marketing solutions to local and international brands. With a flair and penchant for Marketing and Public Relations, Anishkaa has been immersed in Middle Eastern Public Relations for the past 13 years. Over the years, Anishkaa has successfully created a niche for herself in creating innovative PR campaigns.

Yardstick creates the right media marketing mix through a series of strategic influencing tactics to create the right recipe for success. Its F&B clientele include Brownie Point, 800 Degrees Pizzeria, Suba Hotel, Punjabi By Nature, ICONS Coffee Couture, Gursha, The Veranda, My Govinda’s, Royal Continental Hotel, Food Addict (Food Show), ANGT, Meatballerz, Ribbon Hospitality Consulting, etc.

Anishkaa strategically consults at F&B events such as  MEVEG (Middle East Vegetarian Group) and MEFF (Middle East Food Forum), where she involves herself in the learning and networking events, panel discussions and workshops, offering unique consulting services that can help upgrade skills, build valuable connections, and explore ways to start, sustain, grow, or transform any F&B business.

Her motto is to Create marketing campaigns to include the right tactical ingredients to create a winning recipe for your brand success.

Yardstick is the exclusive member of the International Public Relations Agencies Network for the Middle East region.

Anoop Gopal, Director – Real Estate, Americana Kuwait Food Company, Kuwait

A Retail and Real estate experienced professional with more than 15+ years’ experience. One of the few people in this industry with both Landlord and retails combined experience.

Started his career in the Shopping Mall Industry in this company, Line Investments & Property LLC, part of LuLu Group; in the Leasing Department. In 10 years of his work here managed to successfully lease and be part of the opening of 13projects; 4.5Million + Sq. Ft GLA with experience of MENA and India.

On July 2015 to July 2017 was heading the Retail Real Estate expansion for Apparel Group, one of the largest Retail company in the Middle East who operates 60+ International brands with over 1800+ stores operational in the Middle East, namely – Tim Hortons, Aldo, Tommy Hilfiger, CK, LC Waikiki, Skechers, New Balance and so on.

From July 2017, heading Real Estate expansion for Americana Group, handling the franchise brands expansion for MENA region. Responsible for delivery of new store opening strategies. Will lead the team for market mapping across all countries and brands, build the new store opening pipeline, and undertake lease negotiations for new sites.

Bobby Kapoor, Chef Partner, Cartalyst Solutions                                                             

This Brit-Indian Chef and author of many books used by universities of HM, was told early on in life that he could never become a big chef since he was left handed. Half a dozen years later, Bobby Kapoor was walking out of Oberoi School of management and working with the likes of Oberois, Marriott’s and Kempinskis across continents, integrating his food science with their styles. Little wonder that in a short span, two of the world’s leading hotels had asked him to join them, which he claims was both super challenging as well as adrenaline-raising.

So the next logical step was to play solo. Bobby decided to venture on his own in the Middle East, primarily because he wanted to marry the ‘science of food’ to the ‘art of food’. Let’s just say he is pretty ‘deconstructive’ – challenging, and bettering world accepted recipes and cooking norms to give it the BK signature style. Bobby’s culinary escapades are creating storms in the Middle East, and with his catering company named as Classic Catering, the range of ideas he can transform into reality onto your plate, is nothing short of vast. Whoever said this about Bobby was so right. ‘Passion’ is your middle name.’

But this little note on BK would be incomplete without a mention of his command over the genre of spices. Bobby has worked extensively and passionately creating powerful spice combinations which have been used by the world’s largest food brands and food chains to spice their food and give it that inimitable taste. I guess just like Bobby has reasons to thank opportunity and hard work, the food industry has more reasons to thank him for making their foods irresistible and simply addictive. 17 grand-daddy concepts and over a dozen LTOs down Bobby is still raring to go…wanting to play with food, and create unexplored themes which can chart success stories for theme-restaurants and food-style chains.

Having worked with Bobby and seen him work in the kitchen, one can only say he knows the business of food and loves to create a gastronomical experience from a grain.

David Learman BA, Group Managing Director, Creative Intelligence

Co-founder of Creative Intelligence, David manages the overall strategy and direction of the consultancy from its Dubai office. A qualified designer and brand strategist, he has over thirty-five years’ experience, fifteen of which in the gulf region, working side-by-side with entrepreneurs and international brand custodians on strategic brand and design related matters. Prior to establishing Creative Intelligence, David was a founding partner and creative director of the highly acclaimed design consultancy CLK, which was formed in 1981 to service the needs of the de-regulated banking and financial services sector in the City of London and across Europe.

Authoritative on business set-up and organisational change, David is primarily involved in the co-ordination and management of our consultancy undertakings for a broad range of SME clients involved in the Hospitality, Leisure and Food and Beverage sectors. These include Business Growth, IPO, Corporate Revitalisation, Disposal and Merger and Acquisition programmes, where he leads our strategic input; providing advice, developing and guiding corporate identity, branding and communications solutions that achieve meaningful and effective outcomes and leverage enhanced stakeholder and bottom-line-value.

David has a particular ability to understand and interpret complex business organisational and positioning issues. His role throughout a project is to ensure the relevance, integrity and consistency of our solutions. Known for his ability to think “left field” and “out-side-the-box” with a critical eye for detail, he is responsible for the overall standards of creativity, service and delivery set by our consultancy.

An accomplished project director; David manages bespoke teams of highly experienced professional consultants to offer clients highly focussed consultancy input and surgically precise solutions. With
an impeccable creative track record, his career path has led him to building and directing brand and design consultancy teams that have enhanced the reputation of the branding profession in both the UK and the Gulf today.

When not at the business end of a fishing rod or behind a camera lens, he is a contributor to educational publications on design, most recently “Talking about Arabic” and is regularly published in both the professional design and business press on strategic brand and design related topics.

Duncan Fraser-Smith, Director, Global Food & Beverage, The First Group

Having spent the past 24 years in the hospitality industry, spanning Australia, Asia, and the Middle East in senior management roles, Duncan has developed and operated leading edge, brand defining high street and hotel based outlets, ranging from deconstructed bars, cafes and lifestyle outlets through to traditional steakhouses and contemporary fine dining.

During the past 10 years, he has been in the Middle East in key corporate food and beverage roles within the hospitality industry and developed a wealth of experience and expertise in this region.  His first position involved 3 years in Doha, Qatar, developing the hospitality operations for Qatar Sports City and the Katara Cultural Village, contributing to winning the bid for the 2022 World Cup.

His role as Director of Design, Food and Beverage, Middle East, Africa and Asia for InterContinental Hotels Group, the largest hotel company in the world at that time, involved creating and developing over 150 different food and beverage concepts, gaining respect and recognition for his expertise and contribution to the hotel and restaurant industry in these regions.

In 2013 Duncan established “The Cutting Edge Agency” to introduce, integrate and innovate the key pillars for success in F&B operations through creating concepts with Soul.

Since its inception, he has worked with The Al Futtaim Group, Aldar, Global Hospitality, QIMC and Katara Hospitality in Doha on upcoming projects across the region.

His portfolio includes working with Michelin-starred chefs Jason Atherton for Marina Social restaurant and Greg Malouf’s first foray in the Middle East market with Cle in DIFC. For both projects, he was engaged from concept to execution and handover of the fully functioning and successful operations.

Recently, he was involved in the concept creation and execution of Intersect by Lexus, situated in the Gate Village at DIFC which opened in December 2015 and is performing ahead of expectations to this day.

Most recently he has been appointed as Director – Global Food and Beverage for The First Group with over 30 new outlets to open over the next 3 years.

He is a contributing writer to Caterer Middle East magazine, a regular panelist and member of the Advisory Board for the Global Restaurant Investment Forum (GRIF), Arabian Hotel Investment Conference (AHIC), Caterer Middle East Food and Business Forum and a judge for the annual Caterer Middle East Awards

George Kunnappally, Managing Director, Nando’s Restaurants

A seasoned hospitality industry professional, George has been into franchise operations, brand development and F&B management for over 20 years. He has launched and built brands like Subway, Charley’s Philly Steaks, Whittard of Chelsea, Bateaux Dubai, Second Cup Coffee, Joe’s Café, Johnny Rockets and a host of UAE bred concepts in the Middle East, Africa and CIS regions.

Starting his career with the Taj Group of Hotels in India, George has worked at the senior management level with large conglomerates headquartered in Dubai with a MENA footprint. His previous roles were as the General Manager at Al Madani Group, General Manager & Board Member at BinHendi Enterprises, both in Dubai, and as Senior Franchise Strategy & Business Development Specialist at ADNOC Distribution, Abu Dhabi.

Currently, George is the Managing Director of Nando’s Restaurants, based in Dubai.

Most recently, George was Executive Director – Private Equity at Regulus Capital Limited, the Cayman Islands registered Investment Manager of over USD 1.2 Billion worth of assets in F&B, healthcare, education, logistics and real estate in the MENASEA region.

He was also the General Manager & Board Member of Al Faris Restaurants LLC (Exclusive Developer of Johnny Rockets Restaurants in the UAE, Oman, North & Sub Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe) and sat on the Boards of Diamond Lifestyle Limited, Gulf Pinnacle Logistics Limited, Al Najah Education Limited and Al Maha Infrastructure Limited.

Hesham Almekkawi, Founder & President, Ahramiz Management Consulting Company

Hesham Almekkawi is an International Business Consultant and Food and Beverage industry expert with more than 25 years of experience in managing global and international chains of restaurants in the USA and the Middle East. He is the founder and president of AHRAMIZ FZ LLC, a leadership development and management consulting company based in Dubai.

Prior to AHRAMIZ, Hesham was the Group Managing Director of Hospitality for Marka Holding PJSC and the Country Director for Kuwait Food Company (Americana) in UAE and the Country General Manager for Oman.

Prior to moving to Dubai in 2008, Hesham held several leadership positions with YUM! Brands and ADF Companies in New York and the Mid-Atlantic Region in the United States for more than 15 years.

Mr. Almekkawi holds a Bachelor Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Alexandria University in Egypt and EMBA from the Zicklin School of Business in New York where he served afterword as an adjunct professor from 2003 to 2006 teaching service strategies and operations management.

Among his credentials, Mr. Almekkawi is a Certified International Life Coach, NLP Practitioner and Certified Public Speaker, Mentor and Coach by John Maxwell and frequent guest speaker in regular international event for hospitality and retail. He is the Author of the book “The 9 Traits of Hero Brands”.

Ian Ohan, CEO & Founder, Freedom Pizza

Ian is the CEO and Founder of Freedom Pizza, a UAE based, all natural carry out and delivery pizza chain with over 250 employees, an airline packaged product division (developed initially for Emirates Airlines and soon for VOX Cinemas) and six locations in the United Arab Emirates.  Freedom Pizza is part of KRSH Investments, a food and beverage investment platform (also owned by Ohan) that is in the process of developing additional homegrown food concepts in the healthier fast and fast casual food sector.

KRSH Investments has a dedicated and growing corporate team of 15+ food service professionals with a passion for excellence in service and operational excellence. At the heart of its mission is its ever and always increasing drive and capability to develop its multi-national workforce offering rewarding and often life changing career opportunities.

In 2006, Ian joined two partners and established RSP Group a real estate and hospitality investment advisory firm based in Dubai and Middle Eastern clients’ interest in the region and internationally – which was sold to Jones Lang LaSalle in 2009.  He went on to establish and became Regional Vice President for Jones Lang LaSalle’s Middle Eastern Capital Markets group and executed landmark, placements and cross-border transactions before deciding to leave the firm in 2010.

Ian has also held senior positions in KPMG’s and Arthur Andersen’s Real Estate and Hospitality group’s in Canada and the Middle East over a period of 10 years. He also worked for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts for four years where he became fascinated with exceptional service delivery through people and technology. He holds a bachelor of commerce degree in hospitality and tourism, is a qualified sommelier and in his free time is an avid motor biker and cyclist (in that order).

Love Mansukhani, Founder and Managing Director of Ribbon Consulting 

Love is the Founder and Managing Director of Ribbon Consulting and set up the company in 2012. An accomplished restaurant developer, operator, and business manager with over 15 years of hospitality experience, Love’s diverse network of industry contacts and investors across the UAE has helped drive Ribbon Consulting to be the successful hospitality firm it is today.

After graduating from Switzerland’s esteemed Glion Institute of Higher Education with a BBA in Hospitality Management, Love decided to spend several years working in the US, Australia, France, Germany, Spain and the UK to further develop his skills in the hospitality industry. As a result, he gained extensive global experience across all areas of hospitality.

Born and raised in Dubai, Love moved back to the UAE in 2008, working as the Area Operations Manager for a private restaurant group overseeing the opening and management of several F&B brands across the UAE and Oman. With deep technical knowledge under his belt and a natural entrepreneurial spirit, Love decided to open his own consultancy, knowing that his solid hospitality training, extensive experience, and creative flare could be combined to create some fantastic F&B concepts.

Murad Alnasur, Founder/ Managing Director, Restonalysis FZE Hospitality/F&B Consulting

Mr. Alnasur moved to the UAE in 2006. Since his arrival he has been involved in operating over 10 international brands representing franchisors as well as franchisees. Prior to arriving in the UAE, Mr. Alnasur had a lengthy career in the F&B industry in the US. Having spent over 32 years in the food and beverage industry in the US, and having worked for multinational restaurant companies such as Brinker International, Cracker Barrel, Ponderosa, and Dave and Busters, gave Mr. Alnasur extensive experience in the restaurant business and franchise model.

Since his arrival to the UAE in 2006, Mr. Alnasur was instrumental in the expansion plans of Arabian Food Supplies (Franchisor and franchisee of, Fuddruckers, Chili’s, and On the Border Mexican Grill brands) by opening 10 locations for the 3 brands. In 2010 Mr. Alnasur launched Prime Hospitality (A company owned by Ghobash Trading and Investment). Secured 3 brands (Chopsticks, Butler’s chocolate Café and Russo’s New York Pizzeria) and opened 9 locations throughout the UAE. Prior to joining the Ghobash Group, Prime Hospitality did not exist.

Mr. Alnasur is the founder of the (Franchising Score card) a scoring system to be used when evaluating a brand for franchising in the region, (Balancing the 4 sided scale) theory addressing balancing all aspects of a business, as well as the recipient of the 2013 Best Franchise Professional award presented by the Middle East and North Africa Franchise association.

Currently Mr. Alnasur is the Managing Director of Restonalysis FZE, and COO of FranchiseME. Both are consulting firms for the F&B business where he specializes in launching of new F&B ventures, re-structuring existing business to help put it on the proper operational path, developing and implementation of policy and procedure, developing operational and HR manuals, develop new brands, market adaptation, the total execution of F&B projects from idea to opening, and franchising. Mr. Alnasur is well versed in the rules, regulations, laws and operational criteria of the region. Operations and anything involved in building restaurants, building teams, making F&B ventures profitable, and ensuring guest satisfaction is his biggest passion.

Naim Maadad, Chief Executive, Gates Hospitality

With over 28 years in the hospitality world across Australia, Asia, & the Middle East in various senior management roles, I have launched & operated some of the world’s best Hotels, Resorts, Spas & Lifestyle Food & Beverage Concepts. My career has exposed me to some of the best properties around the world and I was fortunate to partake & orchestrate several amazing openings & operations.

Covering a wide spectrum of positions within senior leadership, including the role of Managing Director for both Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas and The Anantara Group respectively. During my time with these exclusive properties, I was instrumental in nurturing sound relationships with owners, securing the best possible locations, negotiating and formalizing contractual agreements, and appointing teams to infuse and reflect the ethos of the brands.

Being based in the ME over the past 18 years, I have witnessed tremendous industry growth, gained a deep cultural understanding & have been endorsed by principals & organizations alike. In 2012, I have established “Gates Hospitality” A homegrown Hospitality Company representing handpicked Concepts catering for the affluent life stylers. Gates Hospitality, the parent company of well-known homegrown brands such as; Ultra Brasserie, the internationally acclaimed concept; Reform Social & Grill Dubai, The Black Lion, Bistro Des Arts and ownership of Six Senses Zighy Bay.

Continuing the successful growth of Gates Hospitality’s portfolio; 2017, has seen the launch of the highly anticipated; Folly by Nick & Scott, as well as Publique, Dubai’s premier “Apres Ski chalet”. Via Veneto Osteria e Cucina will be revealed early Q3 of 2017. In principle, GH expertise that are extended are indicative but not limited to; Hospitality Guidance | Asset Management | Pre-opening Foundation | Day-to-day Operational Success.

My philosophy & approach are simple, connecting likeminded investors, operators & brands to define concepts, successful portfolios & continue on shaping the hospitality industry.

Naveed Dowlatshahi, CEO, Kash Global

Born and educated in the UK Naveed started his career in the automotive industry and later progressed into retail and has been working in the F&B industry for most of his 24+ years of work experience. From the beginning Naveed has been fascinated with food and the daily challenges that the restaurant scene brings and this is what has fueled his passion for the industry. Naveed is a veteran to the F&B scene in the UAE

Since moving to Dubai in 2004 Naveed has worked in senior executive roles for prestigious companies such as Gourmet Gulf Company, Dubai Holding, BinHendi Enterprises, The Landmark Group and most recently Naveed worked with the Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari Group at City of Arabia where he spearheaded the master planning and development of 17 non-branded restaurants, 13 food carts, staff canteen feeding over 1,800 meals a day and a 25,000 sq. ft. central commissary at the IMG Worlds of Adventure Theme Park.  Naveed now runs his own boutique consultancy and advisory service called Kash Global Group.

Dana Al Sharif, Founder, Urban RetrEAT

Dana Al Sharif is the founder of Urban RetrEAT, Abu Dhabi’s new food incubator. Hailing from Amman in Jordan, Dana moved to the UAE in 2008 to follow her foodie passion and pursue a career in F&B. She received a degree in agri-business from the University of Jordan in 2008 which was a platform for her career in marketing in the F&B industry.

In 2013, she began the famous Calle Tacos food truck in Dubai which has been nominated for a BBC Good Food Award 2 years in a row. Dana is a true foodie at heart and is passionate about promoting home-grown food talent which drove her to start Urban RetrEAT. The mission behind Urban RetrEAT is to promote local food businesses and give them a platform to launch their career in the competitive UAE food market.

Dana is a wife and mother to two and resides in Motor City, Dubai.

Sanjay Duggal, Managing Partner, Stellar Eastern Food & Beverage Solutions

Sanjay is a veteran of the Food & Beverage and Franchising field, with almost three decades of senior management experience across multiple arenas of the industry. Having cut his professional teeth with Hilton International, he has also been closely involved with large-scale industrial catering operations, multi-unit American casual dining, family entertainment centres, coffee concepts and confectionery retail.

In his role as Managing Partner of Stellar Eastern Food & Beverage Solutions, he helps individuals, corporations and private equity firms with the planning and execution of their food business investment strategies. This includes advisory on development of comprehensive franchise programs.

Deeply passionate about all matters franchising, Sanjay writes extensively on the subject. In his writings, he often challenges convention and calls out contentious practices on both sides of the franchisor-franchisee divide. He has a close relationship with the International Franchise Association (IFA) and is a contributor to their Franchising World publication.

Having earned degrees in Commerce and Hotel Management, he credits his well-rounded business perspective to a significant amount of operational and commercial exposure acquired in five different continents. In a resounding endorsement of his contemporary Food & Beverage vision, MGM Resorts, Las Vegas recently offered a space in their new billion dollar resort to an original concept that he conceived and developed.

In this era of rapid economic, technological and demographic change, Sanjay believes that the best in the Food Service and Franchising industry is yet to come.

Stefan Breg, Group Strategy Director, Keane Brands

Stefan is Group Strategy Director at Keane Brands providing the lead on strategic F&B consulting, master planning and concept development. He was previously Senior Director of F&B at Marriott for Middle East & Africa based in Dubai; with over 1200 F&B venues and $1 billion + revenue and leading a team managing a pipeline of 200 openings and renovations.

Stefan has over 250 F&B concepts to his name and brought brands such as Buddha Bar, Hakkasan, Pierre Gagnaire and Embassy to the ME. His previous positions include 10 years as founder/CEO of TRIBE: one of the most successful F&B strategy houses in the Middle East with extensive work on malls such as Mall of the Emirates and Yas Mall.

He has also worked with IHG in SE Asia, Hilton (Europe) and E&Y Consulting. He is a regular speaker on industry trends, a Visiting Professor at Emirates Academy and a judge on the Global Restaurant Awards.

Sunjeh Raja, CEO, International Centre for Culinary Arts (ICCA) Dubai

Sunjeh Raja is the Founder, Director & CEO of the ICCA Dubai, a world class culinary training centre established in the year 2005. Since then he has been spearheading the rapid market penetration and engagement of the company’s Vocational Education Training programmes in the international arena. In this role, he takes a holistic approach to manage the centre with a clear and well defined objective to establish ICCA Dubai as a centre of excellence, offering world-class culinary education. He adopts a very rigorous yet practical and innovative approach with an eye for detail, for further developing this unique concept of industry focused training.

He is a recipient of the following awards and recognitions –

  •  – Pro Chef “Training Champion, 2014”,
  •  – Caterer Middle East “Power 50, 2014”,
  •  – Caterer Middle East “Power 50, 2015 (#1 amongst the Influencers)”,
  •  – City & Guilds International Centre of Excellence- Middle East (2016 – 17),
  •  – City & Guilds Centre of the Year – 2016,
  •  – Dubai Knowledge Park & Dubai International Academic City “Year of Giving 2017”.

ICCA Dubai has been consistently raising the standards of culinary training and food service across the region. Recognizing and taking opportunities as they arise, the centre has been able to leverage on many strategic partnerships with world majors – a direct result of Raja’s vision and leadership.

Apart from ICCA Dubai, he also spearheads “Fatafeat ICCA Academy Online”, an innovative initiative between the 24 hours dedicated food channel Fatafeat, a member of Discovery Network and ICCA Dubai that helps provide a New Way of Learning Food. Television and Online Learning come together, to effectively deliver certified Home Skills – Culinary education to 55 Million households in the MENA region, accredited by City & Guilds, London. This program has won the Middle East Broadcast PRO “Best Digital Initiative of the Year Award 2016”.

Raja specializes in concept, product and business development with a strong foundation in the corporate and finance sectors, showing a flair for entrepreneurship since his early foray into the business world and has worked in a number of directorial positions across a range of sectors.

Uwe Micheel, Director of Kitchens, Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek President, Emirates Culinary Guild & Asst. Vice President, Worldchefs Congress

Uwe Micheel was born in Celle, Germany. His career was set when he was 12 years old, always helping his mother in the kitchen, and attending cooking classes at that time designed for young girls only. In Germany where he spent most of his childhood and did his two and a half year’s apprenticeship as Restaurant Chef in Celler Hof boutique hotel in Celle city near Hanover. After one year of working at the hotel Schwarzer Bock in 1978 (Hotel founded in 1486), which is now managed by Radisson Blu, Micheel served two years in the army service as a chef in the officer restaurant.

He joined the InterContinental Hotels Group in 1981 in Berlin, Germany, a year later he moved to the UK as the Chef de Partie Saucier in Hyde Park London, Michellin Star Restaurant Le Souffle and afterwards shifted to Bahrain for three years. Relocated to Korea as member of the opening team for the InterContinental Seoul, three years later got appointed as Executive Sous Chef for the opening of Yokohama Grand InterContinental. Since 1993 he has been working in Dubai, holding a post of Director of Kitchens at Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Deira Creek.

Joined Emirates Culinary Guild in 1993 and became Emirates Culinary Guild General Secretary from 1994, ECG Chairman from 1996 and President from 1999 until present.

Koen Theunis, Founder and Partner, RBnH Solutions

My love affair with the hospitality industry started when I was in my teens; every weekend I saw my mother, who was a great baker, put home baked cakes, bread and all sorts of other sugary things on the table for us to indulge in… week after week. It was my first call to attend the secondary hotel school where I learned all about cooking, service standards and all other technical knowledge whether it was beverages, hygiene regulations or stock control.

Thanks to a rather challenging apprenticeship during my last term in one of Belgium’s top kitchens, I knew that I didn’t want to become a chef full time but I loved the hotel and restaurant environment. I was fascinated by how big hotels and busy restaurants could run so flawlessly even though they were looking after so many people’s experiences at the same time; I decided to start my Bachelor degree in hospitality management in Antwerp in 1989 and graduated 4 years later. The intention and my dream at the time was that I would work hard to move up the ladder to become a hotel GM of a luxury hotel brand one day.

My studies brought me to London in 1993 where I was fortunate enough to work for some of the most reputable names in our industry; The Dorchester Hotel, Intercontinental Hotels, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts and The Goodwood Hotel Group.
After more than 10 years in London, an opportunity offered itself in 2003 when I was asked to move to Dubai to become part of the pre-opening team at Madinat Jumeirah, a 1,000 bedroom resort with dozens of restaurants and event space large enough to host concerts for a few thousand people. I can still remember today that it took me about 2.5 seconds to say, “YES!”.

A whole new world was waiting for me to explore. My learning curve continued to grow and grow, even after I left hotel operations in 2005 and moved as F&B manager to Dubai Golf, then into a corporate operations role at Emaar Hospitality Group in 2007 and eventually as Director of Operations at one of the boutique restaurant groups in Dubai in 2011. It was during these times that I was mostly exposed to start ups of new projects and overlooking the operations of multiple restaurant concepts. I knew then that a hotel GM job was definitely not for me but F&B development and starting up new ventures was what I really wanted to do day in day out.

I set up my own agency in late 2012 and we have since been involved in multiple projects in Dubai, KSA, Bahrain but also in the Maldives and as far as Grand Cayman Islands and the Bahamas.

For over 20 years I had worked for good companies in good management positions, went through good times but also not so good times, but the experience I gained during all these years is now invaluable for what I enjoy doing most.
Our commitment at RBnH Solutions to our clients is based on delivering creativity, long-term sustainability and transparency for all our projects.

We strongly believe that successful ventures are built like pyramids: from the foundations upwards and every little detail and cornerstone fulfills a vital function for that pyramid to grow taller.

James Le Gassick, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Advanced Food & Hospitality Solutions

James Co-founded Advanced Food & Hospitality Solutions with a view of helping all parties involved to improve and / or grow their F&B Business, specalising in franchising, Concept Creation and Creating Food & business Solutions.
With 20 years’ experience in the Hospitality, retail and leisure business in the UK with running operations and development within the licenced trade sector with JD Wetherspoon and leisure sector with Moto and contract catering sector with Sodexho before moving to the GCC. Now in the Region since 2008 he has specalised in launching into market and expanding in excess of 20 food & Beverage brands & Concepts with a mixture of franchised and own brands and has opened in excess of 70 outlets within the GCC ranging from all food service styles from Michelin star chef backed outlets to counter service brands and everything in-between.
He has over 10 years’ experience in C suite & Director positions and has full P&L accountability for over 25 years.

He has vast experience in heading up Operations, Marketing, Concept Creation, Project Management and build, Business Development, Supply Chain as well as running Brand Feasibilities for some of the large multiple Companies in the market such as Al Shaya, Landmark, Jumeirah Restaurant Group and his last corporate role was CEO with More Café and the Artisan Food Manufacturing Business Intelligent Foods.

James has had the honor to work both as a franchisee as well as develop brands and franchise them across the GCC as well as spearhead expansion within a food manufacturing business through a HORECA strategic plan and export food products across the GCC market.

Vishal Pandey, Director, Glasgow Consulting & Founder, Middle East Food Forum (MEFF)

Vishal is a Dubai based Growth + Competitive Strategy expert who has lived and worked in the UK, India and across the Middle East. He has over 15 years of experience across the Middle East, Africa and the Indian sub-continent in consulting, market research and sales & marketing across a diverse set of industries.

Previously with Deloitte Consulting’s Dubai offices, he was part of a team responsible for strategy and operations assignments across the Middle East and North Africa region. He has also worked for a Dubai-based regional market research and advisory firm in addition to working with Colliers International, Oberoi Hotels & Resorts and Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces.

Vishal has worked on hundreds of b2b research + strategy engagements mostly across MENA and South Asia region. He is a recognized Growth + Competitive Strategy expert and has been numerously interviewed on the subject. He contributes frequently to several regional and global publications in the areas of growth and competitive strategy, policy, retail and real estate. Vishal holds an MSc in Real Estate and Regeneration from the University of Glasgow, a UNWTO Themis degree in Tourism and International Cooperation for Development from The George Washington University and a Degree in Hotel Management. He is also often invited to be a speaker at key Middle East and South Asian foreign investment, innovation, growth strategy and retail industry conferences.