Qatar has one of the fastest growing economies in the Gulf region, and many of its most innovative institutions are based in the business district.
And with an estimated 1.5 million football fans heading to Qatar in November for the World Cup, there are plenty of smart companies keen to show foreign visitors what the country has to offer.
A dining experience for the whole family
How many times have we all found ourselves in a shopping mall food court, trying to choose where to eat? Well, now there is an app for that.
The Tornado Tower in West Bay is home to a virtual food court where you can browse the menus of multiple restaurants and pay in one transaction.
it’s called and experience And it’s not your usual lunch spot – it’s more like ten restaurants in one.
Ali Nasser Al Saadi, its creator.
“The virtual hybrid food court is basically where we operate different brands under one roof, where a customer can come in and order from different kitchens under the same transaction,” he explains.
Think of a dining hall. Mom wants pizza, dad wants salad, and the kids want pasta. The difference is that all the trademarks here at AND Experience are owned by Ali Nasser Al Saadi.
The adventure began in 2015 with Mini Pancakes in The Pearl District, a family-friendly residential area built on artificial islands north of Doha.
It took about a month for word to spread, Saadi said, but when it did, it wasn’t long before he made 2,000 mini pancakes every 10 minutes.
“It was a very new thing in Doha,” he recalls. “To have a diagonal concept, especially running a business and being right there on the floor. So, I was flipping pancakes and being the cashier and everything. And it evolved.”
This success led him to open the AND Café. Then the epidemic struck. Saadi needed a five-year rental plan. It was then that he had the idea of turning his coffee shop into a central kitchen. It is literally a cafe to “experience a new dining” or “try and try”.
“So we had your breakfast,” Saadi said as he took us on a tour. “We have your coffee, your pasta, your sliders, your wings and also empowering other people – business people where we have West African cuisine. So, we take the brands that people want to open and we help them develop those brands by offering them a website, a kitchen, a chef and tools appropriate for them to expand their business.”
In most kitchens, a chef must master a single menu. But here, there are ten different menus for the team to prepare – from salads and burgers to Italian and Senegalese cuisine.
Food bloggers put the AND experience to the test
Dion Lobo and Ian Marx started their food blog Five years ago. The husband and wife duo regularly visit new restaurants in Doha – and put them to the test.
“When we came to Doha, social media was not a big thing,” Dion says. “Over a period of time, it has happened and all over the world, people are interacting more with food bloggers because they are more attractive and you can connect with them rather than the critic.”
So we invited Dionne and Ian to try the AND Experience. Their verdict:
“You can’t go wrong with butter chicken,” says Ian. Butter chicken was amazing.
“The fries were great,” Dion says. “Totally different, not the usual potato.”
“They were so sweet,” adds Ian. “It was perfect. Did you see my mouth drooling?”
Saadi believes his success is part of a broader trend.
“I think people are starting to move away from international franchises and chains to having the ability to learn from others and create similar things in a better way,” he says.
Al Saadi hopes to be cashless early in the new year and is also working on developing an app where you can place your order, get a table number, and have your food delivered as soon as you arrive.
Not bad for a business that started as small pie stalls, just a few years ago.
vegan business empire
How to build a vegetarian business empire? Well, there is one man in Qatar who knows better than others – Ghanem Al-Sulaiti. Founder Inbat Holding She created seven successful vegan companies – from restaurants to skincare.
“I didn’t come from a business background,” he says. “I had to learn everything from the beginning. I had to kind of immerse myself in the process. So the beginning was very exciting. We were trying to create a space that could inspire people, that could revolutionize the way we eat in Qatar, because we felt that People in Qatar weren’t aware when it came to our eating habits and how food affects our health Locations We’re talking about two fully functional spas We’re talking about 250 employees and members of our team I always tell people Doha is now the friendliest city For the vegetarians in the world. I’m comparing it to New York, Los Angeles, London and Paris, because it has 13 locations of vegan restaurants across the city.”
Ghanem believes that a vegetarian diet is more than just a diet.
“Veganism is a kind of lifestyle, that’s why I call it a movement because it doesn’t stop at food,” he says. “It goes beyond that. It goes to the farms. It goes to the way we treat animals, to the way we dress every day. So I think being vegan means being the best version of yourself right now with the current global situation.”
One of Ghanem’s websites is evergreen organic In the Gate Mall. It combines a built-in store into a restaurant.
“So the idea here was to create a sanctuary for people who walk into the mall, you know, surrounded by plants and greenery,” he says. “Evergreen is an all day dining experience. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. We have about 70 items on the menu. But at the same time, we have a nice supermarket. The idea is to encourage people to buy local because we have a lot of local produce and we collaborate with local businesses and local farms to provide Really good food.”
Also in the Gate Mall is Mylk, a vegan ice cream and chocolate shop.
“We tried to design it in a way that somewhat reflects the beauty of Scandinavian design,” Ghanem says. “But at the same time, make sure that it reflects simplicity and allows people to enjoy a different kind of space when it comes to vegetarians, and it doesn’t feel like a vegan place. But for us, that’s kind of the point behind the concept.”
There’s a full serving offering: Green & Go, for getting what you need quickly, Evergreen where people can take their time a little more, and Mylk for desserts that are still healthy.
“It’s a corporate ecosystem, so every business complements the other,” Ghanem says. “Green & Go is for people on the go. On the metro, Evergreen is like relaxing on the weekend. Mylk is more when you feel like sweets and want to satisfy some kind of craving. So every concept is kind of in the right place for the right audience.”
Prepare for the legacy of the World Cup
With an estimated 1.5 million football fans heading to Qatar in November for the World Cup, there are plenty of opportunities for smart companies to take advantage of foreign visitors keen to experience what the country has to offer.
Back in 2015, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy The organization responsible for planning for Qatar 2022 has issued an open invitation to companies to develop projects that could eventually play their part in the FIFA World Cup. This initiative was called Challenge 22.
“We wanted to inspire the people using the FIFA World Cup and have their products and services be part of the overall journey and the actual tournament itself,” says Ahsan Mansour, Director of Fans and Ambassadors Interaction at the Supreme Committee. “Hopefully after that, people will also continue to look at mega-events as inspiration for innovation.”
solar paving stones
12 regional companies were eventually announced as winners, including SunPave. Co-founded by engineer Mohamed El-Gamal, the idea is unusual: solar panels you can walk on.
“What sets our products apart is that they allow the freedom to install solar panels without obstructing or tampering with space usage,” he says. “So you don’t have to install frames, put regular boards on them and mess with the landscaping and site structure. Instead, you can just use them as paving stones and your space is still usable.”
As part of Challenge 22’s legacy, Al Thumama Stadium The SunPave solar panels will be installed before the FIFA World Cup in a designated area outside the stadium.
“During the World Cup period, the stadium management decided that part of that force would be directed towards operating an electronic charging area where people could sit down to relax a bit and perhaps recharge their devices,” says Mohamed.
Another challenge: 22 projects are planned to meet the needs of visitors in a different way Tourist app ViaVii. Originally created in Lebanon, it offers visitors a one-stop shop to access various local attractions.
“It is an experiential marketplace platform where curators can list their experiences online,” says ViaVii Operations, Faiha Sahirah.
“We connect those who want to look for new things, find unique and adventurous things to do that you can’t really find anywhere else and be able to meet someone who can provide these services for them.”
local artist Rima Abu Harb The partnership with ViaVii was contacted last year.
“For the sake of FIFA visitors,” Rima says. “I will do more workshops for them to create their own designs from their minds. Because I feel like what I’m aiming for and all I do is I want people to explore their imaginations.”
The company works with curators that are simply not found via Google, such as Mohammed Al Sulaiti whose boat trips are powered entirely by word of mouth, or a local farm offers family days out.
With only a few weeks to go until the world’s biggest sporting event kicks off, and millions of eyes on Qatar, all of the Challenge 22 winners are hoping their businesses will meet a market need that extends long after the tournament is over.
And for a great view of the business district, there is no better place than Helipad at the JW Marriott Hotel.