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Home    Gaucho opens doors in Dubai to offer Argentine experience     Details
Gaucho opens doors in Dubai to offer Argentine experience

Ryan Hattingh likes his steak medium rare and he is hoping there are plenty of people out there with similar tastes. If that does prove the case, it will be a job well done as the first Gaucho restaurant opened at the Dubai International Financial Centre yesterday.

Hattingh heads the international operations at the chain, which specialises in South American cuisine, especially Argentine steaks. A privately-owned business that came into being in Holland in the late 1970s, Gaucho cut its teeth in the UK market and now believes the time is opportune to acquire a more global exposure.

But why hone in on the Middle East when the brand is unrepresented in prime European markets? "The brand is very niche and we don't do the massive rollouts — we do one or two a year," said Hattingh.

Gaucho on


Mature market

"In the UK, we are covered with 12 locations, but Europe is quite a mature market and a much tougher environment. As for the US, they don't allow imports of Argentine beef — which is what we use exclusively — because the cattle are vaccinated.

"For us, the Middle East expansion is more of a tangential expansion and it was four years ago that we decided to get in." The first outlet opened in Lebanon last November, and now Dubai joins the network, with both locations owned by Gaucho UK.

"DIFC is a free zone and the environment has a lot of ties with the City of London where our brand has a recognisable face," said Hattingh. "Yes, there were a couple of other locations we did look at, but if you look at the better restaurants in DIFC, they are doing good business.


"People make them a destination because of the quality. DIFC at the moment is one of the most happening places and has almost got a City of London feel to it. If you deliver on the promise of what people expect, you stand a good chance."

Unlike the majority of international F&B concepts that make it to these shores, Gaucho plans to keep it directly owned.

"I believe when you go in with a franchise, policing something is not nearly as much fun as managing and running it on one's own," said Hattingh. "Having a franchise, you are opening yourself to people diluting the brand. In the F&B industry, it can prove hugely detrimental.

"We are not copy-and-paste and certainly not a flat-pack concept."

Personnel costs too were sizeable. "The staff we took needed to have worked within an European environment," said Hattingh. "What we are trying to do is bring a London feel and vibe to the new locations."

The brand owners are looking at a three-year timeframe to see a profit from the investments. In between, more locations could be opened up, with Abu Dhabi and Doha prime candidates. At a later date, Cairo and Turkey could make the cut.

Even additional locations in Dubai could be a possibility, but they would need to have a "similar experience to DIFC".

Variety: Much more than beef

That Gaucho only serves Argentine beef is an article of faith with the operator.

"If you eat meat, fish or chicken, it's important you know where it's coming from and know that the animals have been well taken care of," said Ryan Hattingh. "More importantly, fed in the best natural way possible and ours are fed on grass.

"If you look at the Argentine way of cattle farming and because of the amount of land they have, they don't need to put the animals in pens. We have five different cuts of meat coming from Argentina and only from our 30 designated farms."

But aren't steak lovers tucking in less wholeheartedly given the raging debates over healthy eating? "I don't necessarily agree that being a vegetarian immediately translates as being healthy," said Hattingh.

"Having said that, steaks are about 25 per cent of our business, the rest is fish. We make the Latin sushi — Ceviche — that is raw fish salted and skewered with lime and various elements added to it.

"But we will not sway much from what Gaucho does best."


 Source: Gulf News

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