Interviewee: Chef Nouel Omamalin
Food Startup Help has reached out to several business owners, chefs, and experts in the food industry to see how they’re adjusting to the changes that coronavirus has imposed on this industry. We have conducted an interview in a Q&A format.
For today Food Startup Help is featuring Chef Nouel Omamalin, Innovation Pastry Chef/Owner of food consultancy Nifty Chef, LLC. In this interview he explains how UAE is responding to the pandemic and what he looks forward to once this hardship is behind us.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: What is happening in your business now given the COVID-19 virus? Are you still able to work?
My business has taken a sudden and steep dive indefinitely wiping out my calendar of activities for the next six months. As weeks progressed and the quarantine repeatedly extended, it was becoming more uncertain.
As an immediate solution, I have strategized two things:
I am still able to provide deliverables to a few of my long-term partners in the business.
However, there is still that element of fear things may halt for some time if the lockdown crosses over a period of two months.
I need to be able to do quick changes and be more malleable to new situations cushioning the impact of the pandemic.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: What are your hopes for the near future in terms of your work?
The food industry is a very resilient industry. Hence, it will always be a bright future ahead.
I am still excited for what the future holds because, if anything, this pandemic or any seemingly cathartic episode for that matter will usher in new business models and new industry paradigms. In short, there is something to learn from it and companies will come up with new ideas.
In my case, I have realized how important it is to capitalize on the long-term rather than taking in projects for short-lived gains. I have already begun investing in certain projects where I have a stake in that business. When that business grows you grow, too! It’s a way of earning passively. The pandemic has made it clear the way to survive the uncertain future is to be prepared NOW.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: If we had not had the virus change our lives, what had you been seeing as the most important food/beverage related trend(s) in what you do?
As far as the Middle East is concerned, I believe businesses here will continuously capitalize on two things:
Food trends will remain driven by social media, most especially Instagram. Consumers will always look for the next best instagrammable moment and businesses will unceasingly be challenged to come up with more clever ideas to outdo the competition.
The need for menus catering to niche markets such as vegan, keto, paleo or low-calorie food will steadily grow and eventually push conventional operations to accommodate these dining lifestyle metamorphoses.
Cafes offering specialty coffees will hit a plateau in certain regions. However, this will not stop entrepreneurs and coffee connoisseurs from coming up with new ideas and concoctions to keep the market alive. In response to a tightening competition, more and more roasteries will open.
Lastly, old favorites will resurface such as doughnuts, cookies and soft serve ice creams. New twists on these nostalgic items will keep the market entertained.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: What do you think was driving these trends in the food//beverage industry or educational system? What did people want?
Social media and the prevalence of wireless technology.
Life is at our fingertips. It challenges businesses to be highly creative and quick-witted. The market will rely heavily on the visuals they see online and this pushes business owners to innovate 24/7.
People want to be entertained and they want to experience new things. For businesses to survive, they must keep their market share excited or they risk being abandoned because there is a better dining place next door that is more unique and fun.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: Do you have any specific hopes or expectations for what will happen when we get through the economic impact from the COVID-19 virus? What do you think people will want?
Firstly, business owners need to realize they need to have a strong conviction in what they are investing in. If they’re simply opening a shop because they have the means to open one, this won’t be sustainable. There will be a series of bad decisions resulting from the lack of basic understanding or “love” for the F&B business. This results in a weak structure that can be easily swept away by any similar gigantic event in the economy. Even before the pandemic struck, it was already clear how feeble these copycat businesses have become.
Secondly, businesses need to strike a balance with the inventory of their menu. I always advise new investors to limit their range of products to give them room to continuously surprise the market while also keeping their stocks minimal. As a corollary, the manpower requirements will also be much less making it easier to manage setbacks avoiding having to do a laying en masse.
Thirdly, it is imperative business owners learn how to manage expansions via franchising or otherwise. Again, this connects to that tempting choice to haphazardly expand to capture a larger market without realizing this can be detrimental to the brand’s future if the first outlet is not yet mature or strong enough to stand as a brand.
FOOD STARTUP HELP: Is there anything else you would like to add, or for potential food industry professionals, entrepreneurs, students, and/or your customers to know.
In regards to the market, people will be more keen to order online more than ever. There will also be an increased demand for healthier items - in the real sense of it. Focus is more on organic items from fruits to vegetables to sweeteners.
Vegan or vegetarian dining may gain an increased following as more animal rights activists will use COVID-19 as the main agenda in discouraging people from consuming animal products.
There may also be that remnant stigma to crowded places. Design-wise, restaurants or cafes may need to provide a more spacious seating arrangement providing “social distancing” amongst their patrons.
Innovation Chef/Owner, Nifty Chef LLC
Instagram - @chefnouel
+971 4 587 4313 | +971 56 847 7400 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd., Downtown Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Follow along with Chef Nouel Omamalin on Instagram and his hashtags at @chefnouel