Stefan is MD-KSA and Group Strategy Director at Keane, providing the lead on strategic F&B consulting, master planning, and concept development for the company’s studios in London, Dubai, Bangkok, and Jeddah. He was previously F&B Senior Director at Marriott for the Middle East & Africa and founder/CEO of TRIBE; with extensive work experience in the retail space, being associated with malls such as the Mall of the Emirates and Yas Mall.
Stefan has over 300 F&B concepts to his name and brought brands such as Buddha Bar, Hakkasan, Pierre Gagnaire, and Embassy to the ME. He is a regular speaker on industry trends, a Visiting Professor at Emirates Academy, and was recently voted No. 4 in the Middle East on the Power List by Hotelier Magazine.
In Conversation with Mr. Stefan Breg, MD-KSA and Group Strategy Director, Keane
In a candid conversation with The Restaurant Times, Mr. Stefan Breg, MD-KSA and Group Strategy Director, Keane shares his thoughts on the emerging trends in the F&B industry and the future outlook of the restaurant business.
Stefan had an unconventional entry into the restaurant business. A biochemist by degree, he took up his first job with KFC and played a large part in inventing and creating the famed chicken nugget. The Chicken Waggon food truck concept was created in the mid to late 80s in Louisville, Kentucky, and Stefan was one of the two people that worked on it.
After a couple of ventures, Stefan found his way into the hotel sector and was one of the first few corporate F&B professionals to provide consulting services. There was a phase in the 90s when hotels struggled to compete and needed to get fresh ideas from the outside as they dipped a bit in terms of performance. His venture at Starwood, now owned by Marriott, was particularly rewarding with the brand having a turnover of $1.3 billion, making it one of the biggest restaurant operators in the region.
Food Becoming The New Fashion
A Deloitte report recently said that Food is becoming the new fashion. There was a time when fashion was the driver that brought people to malls in droves, but now it is food. According to Stefan, the elements of consumerism that crept into the restaurant sector were responsible for this shift. In the same way, while the fashion sector is fickle and fast-moving, the restaurant sector has also evolved.
Keane strategizes concept development for many clients and advises them on contemporary trends as things are changing rapidly in the restaurant fraternity
If you want to open a counter service or table service concept with a regular menu, you’ll probably fail because you’re going into a saturated market, into a market in a flux, where consumers have had their perceptions changed by the pandemic. It is recommended not to follow the same tactics that were being followed earlier as it can prove highly futile for your business.
Importance Of Technology In The F&B Industry
Despite the usual notion, it is believed that post-COVID fine dining will become bigger and better; as the rich become richer, spending capacity will rise. Stefen believes that Michelin restaurants and high-end restaurant businesses will continue to thrive because the wealthy will want to connect with each other, however, it is equally important for these formats to adapt and evolve. In the near future, the restaurant industry must embrace technology. The mid sector, the casual dining sector, has to take a long, hard look at every element of the interaction experience and consider adopting technology.
The Growing Interest Of Saudi Entrepreneurs In The Restaurant Sector
Keane brand undertook a research to get a better understanding of Saudi eating out behavior. Out of the 1000 people that they interviewed, the report suggested that more than half of Saudi nationals are likely to invest in a cafe or restaurant, which is at a much higher rate than any other country. The research was also undertaken to help them develop restaurant businesses in the Kingdom along with gaining insights about the eating out behavior. According to Stefan, Saudi Arabia is one of the most promising markets that is going through rapid growth, in terms of sector growth, tourism, and even liberalization. Not only are Saudis generous, but they also possess a superior level of entrepreneurialism.
The culture of entrepreneurship is emerging strongly in the Middle East. As an industry veteran in the sector, Stefan shares a positive message to young entrepreneurs entering the business.
Collate data and leverage the information for data-driven decisions. If you don’t want to seek advice from a restaurant consultant, gather information from other industry stakeholders. Be prepared to rip up your ideas and start again. Be open-minded and don’t be too channeled in your thinking.
Watch Stefan Breg, MD-KSA and Group Strategy Director, Keane