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SAUDI ARABIA - Economy

Ziad Kassabieh

Chief Executive Officer, Advanced Food Co.

Bio

Ziad Kassabieh is a visionary CEO and accomplished entrepreneur in the food and beverage (F&B) industry. With over two decades of experience in hospitality management, operations, and strategy, Kassabieh has played a pivotal role in shaping Saudi Arabia’s F&B landscape. As the CEO of Advanced Food Co., he led the company to unprecedented success, launching a portfolio of renowned brands that resonate with Saudi diners.

"To thrive in an increasingly competitive market, we are strategically leveraging our strengths and pursuing growth opportunities within the industry."
TBY talks to Ziad Kassabieh, Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Food Co., about developments in the sector, competition, and expansion and consolidation plans.
Saudi Arabia’s F&B industry is the largest in the Middle East, valued at USD45 billion. How is the company capitalizing on this promising market?

Saudi Arabia has experienced significant changes in recent years, embracing a more open approach and positioning itself as a top tourist destination in the Middle East through Vision 2030. Advanced Food Co., established in 2017, recognized the potential of this promising market and set out to capitalize on the opportunities it presented. Our first brand, Harat opened in 2019, a Lebanese restaurant that offers a unique twist by incorporating Saudi influences into Lebanese cuisine. Inspired by the late 1980s to the present day, Harat aims to evoke nostalgia while providing a memorable dining experience for our guests. With a focus on Lebanese food, Harat has successfully resonated with Saudi consumers, becoming a popular choice for those seeking a fusion of Lebanese flavors with a Saudi touch. Building on our success with Harat, we introduced RUHI, a restaurant specializing in Indian cuisine. At RUHI, we strive to educate our guests about the diverse spices used in Indian cooking. To facilitate this, we have created a “spice library” in-store, allowing those unfamiliar with Indian spices to explore and learn about them. RUHI’s commitment to quality and exceptional dining experiences has been acknowledged by Time Out Riyadh, which recognized us as the best Indian cuisine restaurant in 2022 and 2023. Driven by our previous achievements, we expanded our portfolio with the launch of OXAR, a high-end steakhouse located in the Esplanade Mall. Collaborating with a Nordic design company and conducting extensive market research, we identified a gap in the market for a steakhouse that pays equal attention to appetizers and salads. To fill this void, we meticulously crafted a menu that offers a wide selection of cuts, alongside well-designed salads, and appetizers. OXAR stands out as a unique destination, providing an exceptional dining experience for steak connoisseurs. As the CEO of Advanced Food Co., I take pride in our strategic approach to capitalizing on the flourishing F&B industry in Saudi Arabia. With a market value of USD 45 billion, we aim to meet the evolving preferences of Saudi consumers by combining international franchises with homegrown concepts. Our goal is to contribute to the country’s tourism vision and establish ourselves as leaders in the industry.

In a market characterized by increasing competition, how does Advanced Food Co. plan to shape its advantages and grow within the industry?

To thrive in an increasingly competitive market, we are strategically leveraging our strengths and pursuing growth opportunities within the industry. We place a strong emphasis on quality, which serves as a common thread across all its restaurants. For instance, we entered a partnership with Maître Choux, enabling the opening of our first flagship pastry store outside of the UK in Riyadh. This collaboration is led by an accomplished Michelin-star chef, who has worked closely with us to develop a wide range of exquisite éclair flavors that resemble works of art. Additionally, we continually introduce 15 new menu items every quarter, showcasing our commitment to creativity. Another key aspect of Advanced Food Co.’s growth strategy is the creation of unique dining experiences. Doing so, Maitre Choux developed a brunch experience that meet the Saudis lifestyle, which has become a favorite among guests. We understand the importance of providing a luxurious and comfortable ambiance, encouraging diners to spend quality time enjoying their meals. This understanding of the market and customer preferences serves as a significant advantage for Advanced Food Co. To compete effectively, we. recognizes the importance of several factors, including the right location, concept, food quality, price range, positioning, and exceptional service. We ensure that all our brands meet these criteria, allowing us to cater to a diverse range of customers and preferences. Furthermore, we are committed to continuous expansion and brand development, driven by a passionate team that has been working together for several years. This cohesive team has played a crucial role in the company’s achievements across various areas such as operations, development, and marketing. Additionally, Advanced Food Co. maintains a dedicated marketing team that actively engages with the community, keeping a close connection with customers. This customer-centric approach allows us to stay attuned to market trends, preferences, and feedback, enabling us to adapt and improve our offerings accordingly. The team’s efforts contribute to fostering strong customer relationships, which are vital to the overall success of Advanced Food Co.

Can you share your expansion and consolidation strategy?

We formulated an expansion and consolidation strategy to drive growth and strengthen our market presence. our immediate focus is on expanding in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Khobar, encompassing the eastern and western regions of Saudi Arabia. Simultaneously, we set our sights on international expansion, with London being the primary target for 2024. our plans are to establish our Indian and Italian brands in London, aiming to open two locations by mid-2024. With a vision to reach a significant customer base of 15-17 million people in London, we aim to establish a strong foothold in the international market. While Riyadh remains a crucial location for the company’s flagship operations, we recognize the importance of diversifying our presence beyond a single city. As part of our expansion strategy, we also venturing into the catering sector by launching “Beyond Catering.” This catering company will enable us to bring its culinary expertise closer to customers and become an integral part of their events, such as parties, showers, and corporate functions. Beyond Catering will offer a range of experiences, including Indian, Middle Eastern, European, Italian, and steakhouse cuisines, leveraging our existing recipes and skilled team. This new venture is expected to uphold our legacy while further developing our business.

 

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