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.

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.

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, Executive Director – Private Equity, Regulus Capital Limited, Cayman Islands & Regulus Consultancy, DMCC & General Manager & Board Member Al Faris Restaurant LLC – Exclusive Developer of Johnny Rockets in UAE & Oman

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 developed brands like Subway, Charley’s Philly Steaks, Whittard of Chelsea, Bateaux Dubai, Second Cup Coffee and a host of UAE bred concepts in the Middle East, Africa and CIS regions.

Previous roles include General Manager – F&B Division at Al Madani Group of Companies, General Manager – Franchise Operations & Development and Board Member at BinHendi Enterprises LLC and Senior Franchise Business Specialist at ADNOC Distribution among others.

George has a graduate degree in Hotel Management, a Post Graduate Degree in Tourism Management and is currently pursuing a Masters in Journalism & Mass Communication.

Board Seats

Diamond Lifestyle Limited

Gulf Pinnacle Logistics Limited

Al Najah Education Limited

Al Maha Integrated Services 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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.