Abdul Kader Saadi is the managing director of Glee Hospitality Solutions. The Briton, 42, of Lebanese descent, has developed 15 different food and beverage concepts for businesses in the last six years. His company finds the location, develops the menu, hires the chefs and staff, and decides on the decor and ambience to suit the venue and target audience. Mr Saadi first launched his career in the hospitality industry in Paris. After a move to London working as a project manager for the upscale Japanese restaurant chain Umu, he moved to Dubai eight years ago. He is married and has a 14-month-old son.
What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?
I make sure that weekends are spent with the family. I have a young son and I like spending time with him. I would love to say I have a weekend, but really it is only Friday, as my wife will unhappily tell you. I have a nice meal out on a Thursday but a satisfying weekend would be eating with my family members, relaxing and watching television.
What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?
Skiing and car racing have been my biggest indulgences through my growing-up years. I have booked to race at Yas Marina track three times and had to cancel each time because of work commitments or travel. I love skiing and try to go every year. I have just come back from a family skiing holiday in the French Alps. I plan to try the US ski resorts, which I have heard are beautiful, but for that you need two weeks off and I cannot give up that amount of time.
What can’t you live without?
My BlackBerry and my car, but only because it gets me to work. In the United Kingdom I drove a TVR Tuscan, but here I do not drive for pleasure. I have been trying to work on my Blackberry obsession for about a year now, with the help of my wife, and I can assure you I have a long way to go. I find that I need to be connected wherever and whenever. We employ 250 people who rely on me for the company’s success, so it is not a selfish addiction – it is a need.
What do you consider the secret to your success?
For me, hard work has been one thing which has made me what I am today. Add to that, putting an honest effort in whatever you do helps. I do my best every single time. Also, I cannot take the credit away from my international job experience as far as my entrepreneurial skills are concerned.
What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?
Understanding the business of restaurants would be prerequisite, and to add to the credentials one must have an understanding of budgeting. Once all these are covered, the person needs to believe that this business is the people’s business. Hence they need to put all our energies into making sure the quality of the food is impeccable and be proactive at customer service rather than being reactive. Being focused and committed goes a long way in our line of work. It’s not easy, as anyone can have opinions about food, design, and location, but it is critical to focus only on constructive feedback.
How do you achieve a work-life balance?
It is quite difficult. The business I am in requires me to work 24/7, but surrounding myself with capable and talented people helps immensely. To be honest, I have a work-life imbalance, but that is not a bad thing because I enjoy it. The company is growing and my family are well cared for. My wife believes I need more down time and to spend more time with the family, but sometimes that is not possible.
How do you relax after a working day?
Gym and sports activities help a lot. And I could not live without my skiing holiday. Chatting with the family and watching television soon after sums up my weekdays. My wife and I watch an episode of a box set every night as a chill-out time – it was Breaking Bad, but now it’s Game of Thrones.
If you weren’t managing director of this company, what else would you be doing?
Well, I always wanted to be in the hospitality division, so I believe I would most probably have been a hotelier specialising in the boutique hotel category. I travelled a lot as a child and saw some wonderful hotels. I plan to retire at 50, although I doubt I will, and maybe then I will open such a business.