The Baker & Spice brand is poised to take over the GCC, with a spate of new openings and an eye on further expansion.
After opening its fifth Dubai location at the Gold & Diamond Park in January 2017, a 110-seat outlet will open in Kuwait at the end of this week, on Thursday, March 23.
Located in the new cultural centre next to the Kuwait Opera house, the brand’s director of operations André Gerschel dubbed it a “great, beautiful, modern location” and added that this is the brand’s second venue in Kuwait after its opening in Souk Sharq in early 2016.
Gerschel said the openings in Kuwait made complete sense for the brand which strives to support all things local. He told Caterer Middle East: “Kuwait is actually very avant garde. In many ways, given the population dynamics and that we feel we are a GCC brand, opening two branches in Kuwait meant testing ourselves as a GCC brand in a country where 50% nearly of the population is local.
“That’s quite different compared to other GCC countries, and offered an interesting and dynamic challenge. The principals are also Kuwaiti, and I think given how proud they are of the brand… having something down the street only made sense.”
After Kuwait will come a 90-seat branch of Baker & Spice in Bahrain’s Al Seef Mall, scheduled to open at the end of April this year. Gerschel commented: “We are really excited for this branch given its proximity to Saudi Arabia – and it gives us a chance to expand on the notion that the GCC has brilliant local production of vegetables. We go where the farmers go – that has always been our mandate.”
The brand’s ethos of ‘fresh organic local homemade’ will not change across the new outlets, confirmed Gerschel. “As an example you'll never find salmon on our menu as it’s not a local fish. Even the leather we purchased for our newly renovated Souk Al Bahar branch was upholstered with locally tanned non-chemical, all natural camel leather from Abu Dhabi. Customers won’t even notice, but we do.”
The team behind Baker & Spice personally visit the dozen and more UAE farms the ingredients come from to ensure best practices are followed, and for Gerschel, it’s a point of pride that chefs in the country eat and shop at Baker & Spice, with the Farmers’ Market in Business Bay always busy.
“What will change is the shape and style of our branches. We have different personalities: à la carte, restaurant, cafés, and ‘grab n go’. The point is for us to reflect the versatility of the brand and of course the talent of the nearly 300+ staff GCC-wide under the B&S ‘coat of arms’,” he said.
Gerschel confirmed that other locations on his radar for taking the Baker & Spice brand further include Abu Dhabi in the near future, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar in the long-term. He said: “We are in the midst of an ambitious but cautious growth phase. We have been a fairly stoic and loved brand for quite some time in the GCC.”
“It’s time for us to push our boundaries; we are always actively looking further afield. We are a Mediterranean kitchen focused on seasonal local ingredients. North Africa and Turkey and the Levant make a lot a sense and have brilliant access to ingredients,” he added.