Property development firm recruits leading food and beverage expert Duncan Fraser-Smith to head up new business venture – an ‘industry disruptor’ in the making
The First Group has launched a dedicated F&B business that will introduce new and established restaurant brands to Dubai, some of which will be global firsts.
In a move that marks significant expansion for the Dubai-based property development firm, the new division will fill the gap in the market for affordable lifestyle-driven dining concepts, as demand in the midscale and upscale hospitality sectors starts to boom.
Heading up the new venture is one of the region’s leading F&B experts, Duncan Fraser-Smith, who was recently appointed Director of Global Food & Beverage for The First Group.
Fraser-Smith will draw on his extensive experience defining and developing unique high street and hotel-based bars, cafés, restaurants and lifestyle outlets to pioneer “industry-disrupting concepts” that are designed to take Dubai’s dining scene by storm.
The dedicated F&B business will create fresh brands and bring new and established franchises to the city, with the first outlets to be rolled out at properties developed by The First Group including Wyndham Dubai Marina, Metro Central in Barsha Heights and the soon-to-open TRYP by Wyndham Dubai, also in the Barsha Heights precinct.
“Dubai’s F&B sector is booming, but while the budget and high-end dining scene are well served, the midmarket is not as well catered for. The First Group’s new venture bridges this gap,” commented Rob Burns, Chief Operating Officer, The First Group.
“Just as demand for the midscale and upscale hotel sector is gaining pace – a market we are targeting with our expanding portfolio of hotel properties – so consumer appetite for affordable dining has never been so strong.
“Our F&B division, spearheaded by one of the region’s most respected and experienced hospitality experts, Duncan Fraser-Smith, will introduce industry-first dining concepts to Dubai, meeting demand for innovation, value for money and ‘eatertainment’.”
The UAE’s F&B market was valued at more than US$11.7 billion in 2015, according to KPMG’s Hungry for More? 2016 UAE Food & Beverage Report, citing data from market research firm Euromonitor.
This figure is set to rise to $13.2 billion by the end of 2018, achieving an annual growth rate of 4 percent, while revenue growth is likely to outstrip outlet growth by around 30 percent as tourism arrivals rocket in the lead up to Expo 2020 Dubai.
The First Group aims to capitalise on the F&B market’s predicted growth, as well as the related escalating demand for midscale and upscale hotel offerings in Dubai, with its new restaurant and bar models.
Top priority is to “re-position” existing outlets currently dealt with by The First Group’s asset management division, TFG Asset Management, with one at Metro Central and three at Wyndham Dubai Marina, as well as positioning the three new offerings at TRYP by Wyndham Dubai.
Then, in Q2, 2018, when The First Group officially launches its third hotel property, The One Dubai Marina, it will wow the market with a global first, Fraser-Smith revealed.
“We’re keeping details under wraps for now, but it will be an industry-disrupting concept, the first of its kind, not only in Dubai, but internationally,” he said.
“Dubai is one of the best places in the world to launch new restaurants and bars because you are catering to a market of people who love eating out. We want to provide them with something out of the box; casual, mid-range bistro-style concepts that are fun, affordable, but above all, serve fantastic food and deliver great service.”
The First Group’s F&B division aims to launch 30 new outlets in the coming years and will look to franchise its most successful brands thereafter.
“We will work very closely with hotel owners and operators to create new concepts that meet market demand, managing all aspects of the operation, from idea conception and outlet design to staff recruitment and training,” said Fraser-Smith.
“We will help them carve a niche in a market that’s brimming with opportunities, whetting the appetite of residents and visitors looking for casual places to drink and dine that don’t break the budget.”
Fraser-Smith speaks with authority having spent the past 24 years in senior hospitality industry roles spanning Australia, Asia and the Middle East.
Over the last 10 years he has worked in the Gulf, overseeing the launch of several high-profile restaurants aligned to globally-renowned Michelin Star chefs.
His recent success stories include Jason Atherton’s Marina Social and Greg Malouf’s Cle. Fraser-Smith was also involved in the concept creation and execution of Intersect by Lexus, situated in Dubai International Financial Centre’s (DIFC’s) Gate Village.
“Duncan has a proven track record bringing like-minded established brands, operators, owners and investors together to create industry-defining food and beverage concepts,” said Burns.
“We are confident that his expertise will provide owners and operators with concepts that blow the competition out of the water, boosting their revenue and exceeding their expectations.”