December 28, 2018 |
Chris Barnes is the founder and managing director of Broadway Interiors, which he launched in the UAE in 1999. His work in the F&B industry include some of the most successful, talked about spaces in Dubai such as Lock Stock and Barrel, Inner City Zoo, Asia Asia, and Black Tap. His commercial projects also include the Gold LEED-certified RTA headquarters, the recycled TME showroom, the KHDA headquarters, and DP World’s headquarters. He began his career in the UK as a project manager with a national construction company, and earned the MCIOB qualification (Member of the Chartered Institute of Building) in 1991.
What incident led to your decision to open this business?
Purely a chance of fate. In September 1997, I visited Dubai on my way back from Hong Kong to see a friend who was working here. I was really impressed with what I saw and the people I met, which inspired me to return to work here in January 1998. I quickly realised the potential and requirement for a quality interior design and build company, and established Broadway Interiors.
What were the three biggest obstacles along the way and how did you overcome each one?
Communication. In a multi-cultural society such as the UAE, the common language of business can become diluted and misunderstandings arise. Mitigating these challenges is an ongoing discipline, and knowing exactly what can be achieved and gaining commitment to the same is key. You needed to take care to ensure your viewpoint is clearly understood and your vision realised exactly to deliver a standard of quality and professionalism, commensurate with recognised global standards.
Business set-up in the early days was extremely challenging for expatriates; however, the government recognised these challenges and addressed them through the incorporation of the free zones and business centres to support SMEs.
The economic crash of 2008-2009 posed all businesses unparalleled obstacles, but from adversity we drew strength, and our Manila design studio emerged as a result, proving that where some doors close, new doors open.
What were the three most rewarding moments?
Attending the launch party of Lock Stock and Barrel in Grand Millennium Dubai Barsha Heights in February 2016. At that time, LSB was a unique concept and direction for the F&B market and to see the reaction of the guests, and the local, as well as international recognition that followed was amazing.
Watching the escalating success of the Black Tap brand (as we now embark on our 10th project) since our first concept was seen in Jumeirah Al Naseem in February 2017.
Successfully delivering a five restaurant concept for Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre, which is presently under construction, with the first venues due for completion in early 2019.
What one piece of advice would you give fellow entrepreneurs?
Believe in yourself, follow your passion and your dreams. Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, is a place where you can achieve, if you apply yourself.
What are your thoughts on the future of the F&B industry?
Presently there is an over-saturation of F&B products in the market. Those that are more versatile and robust in their approach, who invest not only money, but time and energy in their business, are more likely to have a better operational model and success.