Cravia abhors ‘me too’ concepts. Passionate about food, it likes to create true culinary value, providing its guests with ‘wow’ experiences in good taste. After a decade of serving millions of loyal customers with its much-loved franchises Cinnabon, Seattle’s Best Coffee and Zaatar w Zeit, the company has used its intuitive and growing understanding of the region’s multi-cultural population to invite people to embark on an inspired culinary journey at The Steak Bar, its own signature brand.
“Everything we do at Cravia is unique and different. Our franchise brands are different from the run-of-the-mill, me-too concepts. But after 13 years of being involved with franchise operations we wanted to create our own brand. We felt we had gained the right level of expertise and know-how and built the right kind of infrastructure over the years to launch a non-franchise brand. We saw a niche in the market for a good steak offering. That’s how we conceptualised The Steak Bar,” recalls Walid Hajj, CEO of Dubai-based Cravia.
“Dubai currently has two kinds of steak houses – fine-dining restaurants that serve good steaks in a formal set-up but where the preparation time is high and casual-dining places that offer good value but suffer in terms of quality. We wanted to bridge the gap by offering high quality steaks that are competitively priced, swiftly prepared and served in a friendly and casual environment. We needed to create a special environment to cater to the taste buds of avid steak connoisseurs, paying attention to every detail to ensure the perfect dining experience,” he asserts.
The man who transformed Cravia into one of the fastest growing F&B organisations in the region since its inception in 2001 went about the job meticulously, first conducting extensive research to procure the highest quality steaks, choose the right location for his first outlet and create the perfect ambience to lure a discerning clientele.
“We managed to find a reliable supplier in the US who provides USDA Prime Grade, 100% certified Black Angus beef, a variety that constitutes less than 1% of the beef exported by the US. That’s not all. Our supplier follows the most meticulous quality standards to process the beef before despatching it to the UAE, using exclusive ageing techniques to preserve flavour. The beef is processed in a dry room to soak the fat, making the meat more tender and flavourful. That makes our beef cuts, 100% halal certified, simply the ‘best of the best’,” shares Hajj.
Creating the right ambience to provide the perfect steak experience required – well, creativity. “When you walk into The Steak Bar, you first meet our South African butcher, who helps you select your choice of steak – fillet or t-bone, and notes your preferences – how thick the steak should be, how tender, how flavourful … He then cuts your selected piece of meat and takes it to the grill. Meanwhile, you choose a seat near the grill to watch your steak being cooked over premium hardwood charcoal, brushed with olive oil and seasoned with our blend of sea salt and fresh ground pepper,” Hajj continues.
That’s the beauty of The Steak Bar. Everything is done before your eyes, everything is transparent – from the meat displayed in the fridge to the oven where it is cooked and even to the dish-washing area. It’s a first-of-its-kind set-up in Dubai.
Hajj had another ace up his sleeve to give The Steak Bar the edge over the competition. “We linked up with American chef Paul Morris who not only takes care of the steak side of the business but also helped us evolve a focused menu. That includes side dishes cooked daily from the finest ingredients – freshly cut French fries, light and fluffy mashed potatoes, a selection of seasonal vegetables and our signature desserts, not to mention our house sauces to complement the steak. Our breakfast menu is a winner, comprising omelettes, pancakes, steak and eggs, among other items. That’s what makes The Steak Bar a unique proposition,” he emphatically states.
The Steak Bar’s first location in Dubai is in DIFC. Spread across 600 sqft, it has 20 seats in the main area around the bar and will soon start an outdoor seating arrangement that offers another 35 seats.
“Since we are small area-wise, we wanted to design the interiors in a manner to intrigue passers-by and lure them to the restaurant. Once inside, we knew we could immediately make them feel comfortable. So we collaborated with Lebanese designer Gregory Gatserelia, who has built several award-winning restaurants in Lebanon. On a visit to DIFC, he noticed a plethora of art galleries there. So he wanted an artistic element woven into the design. He visualised a copper-hued, cubed ceiling with the grill in the middle of the restaurant, treating the grill’s hood as part of the ceiling and designing it to look chic and attractive. The marble on the wall is also a special variety and the bar stools are from Italian designer Poltrona Frau. Overall, the design came out very simple yet elegant,” Hajj elaborates.
“We maintain the highest standards of hygiene and sanitation at The Steak Bar. Our American chef has helped us put in place a standard operating procedure that is followed from the time the restaurant opens till we close. It specifies what kind of gloves needs to be worn while handling fresh meat and other such aspects. In fact, our staff has undergone food safety training that certifies them as professionals in the food and beverage business,” he points out.
Hajj says DIFC was a natural choice to locate The Steak Bar, because it’s in sync with the brand’s product offerings. “High-income professionals work in this area, most of them aged between 25-and-40 years. They are people always on the go, looking for a place to have a quick bite. So they appreciate what we have to offer. In fact, our offer to DIFC was a steak bar predominantly serving breakfast and lunch to office-goers. Plus, being a brand new concept, we wanted to focus on our core offerings and test the waters by satisfying our guests in a quick manner,” states Hajj.
“Our second location at The Beach, opposite Jumeirah Beach Residence, will be bigger and offer breakfast, lunch and dinner. Construction is on at the site and, depending on when the mall is inaugurated; we are looking to be operational by the beginning of next year. We will then sit down to analyse the response we receive and fine-tune and improve the concept, if required. Only then will we plan an expansion. We are looking to set up two more locations in the UAE by 2014 and are also exploring the possibility of licensing and franchising within and outside the country. Our end goal, as ever, will be to wow our guests,” he concludes.