Arabian Hospitality
Investment Conference

Part of FHS

25-27 September | Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island


Mert Askin - Advisory Board Insights

Please introduce yourself & tell us your thoughts on the key opportunities and learnings for our industry in the past year?

Mert Askin: Hello. I am Mert and I'm recording this today from Harare in beautiful Zimbabwe. So very excited to be here. I am President of the food and beverage division at Azadea Group. We operate a number of franchise brands across 8 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. And this operation involves more than 2500 team members. and around 100 units across the countries. Well 2020, it was a long year. Definitely. It's started great in January and February and then we all faced the pandemic and everything that came with it. We had a lot of learnings. I believe these learnings are going to help us be stronger in the coming years. Definitely. We did validate again. The most important thing which is taking care of people and that involves our guests and our team members. We learned to understand the changes and adapt fast. We learned to understand also the importance of anticipation so we followed global developments, to be ahead of the game as much as possible. We worked closely with the various stakeholders and the suppliers or the landlords or other institutions, government or non-governments to endure the difficulties. Definitely we were all impacted. It was a tough year and yet I'm actually today proud, very proud of the teams because they were very resilient. They were all very resilient and they reacted positively to the calming tone of our voice. We were quite in touch, in frequent contact with all team members at the store or in back offices. Both on the commercial side as well as in the people side, on the human resources side. The focus was on the controllable. So there were a lot of things that could not be forecasted or anticipated. Yet there were other things that could be controlled. So this was our focus. We certainly intensified like many other players, the efforts on the online fronts via delivery or retail ecommerce. These two areas were relatively more uninterrupted throughout the year. Unlike the dining, And restrictions on dining. And at the same time we did adapt to the changing regulations on this front on the dine-in front, definitely all with the focus on health and safety

Many are calling this period the Great Reset. In your view, how should the industry build back better & rise together?

Mert Askin: So it says many are calling this period the Great Reset. I have not heard this expression before, although it is true in one way or another. Definitely there is. There has been a lot of reset over the past year. Several of the changes that we've seen over the year are here to remain I believe. Menus that were very large are now menus with a focus, which I personally like. Menus with a focus on what the guests really want and how can we improve the quality that we deliver? How to continue solving the frictions in our operations from order taking to payments, how to be faster in adapting our setup? Our menus, the entire offering. I believe we need to continue asking these questions to ourselves jointly, and we will definitely emerge out of this. I have no question about that. It is also important to build alliances formal or informal, not only to achieve better economies of scale or negotiation power, but really to jointly understand and respond to consumer needs.

What key topics do you want discuss with the industry at AHIC in September?

Mert Askin: So the following are the key topics that I'm looking forward to discuss at the event. One. Continued growth of online versus dining and how to operate these both jointly and profit. Two - technologies that will help us operate more efficiently and give more convenience to the guests. Three. How to be ready for similar future pandemic or events that might impact the industry as severely as this. And four, what does it take to have global standards when it comes to the industry?

Why are you joining the GRIF community at AHIC 2021? What are you most excited about it?

Mert Askin: I am looking forward to attending GRIF. I believe it's one of the rare platforms global platforms where we all come together as operators. I'm very excited to listen to professionals, understand their issues and how they are tackling them. This is something I look forward to. And also I'm looking forward to be inspired by the various attendees, colleagues and listen to their discussions, which is a regular happening at GRIF.

Who should join the event and what topics should be highlighted?

Mert Askin: I think we need to continue involving as many stakeholders as possible from the various elements in the value chain because we all work together and we make it together. happen or not. Having some analysis on trends that are shaping the industry. I think this is very important. And definitely share data and statistics from across the globe. This is something that adds always value.

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AHIC Talks Episode 7: Ian Ohan & Food Sheikh