Our Correspondent / Emirates Business
Only a handful of companies in United Arab Emirates can be compared to the growth and diversification which Abela & Co has achieved over the last 50 years. This brand name would instantly come to mind when there is any mention about the food management service industry in the region.
Established in Dubai by its original founder Albert Abela in 1967, Abela & Co is now catering to the growing industrial and oil sector in the Emirates. Today, the company, which is 100 percent Emirati-owned, is a leading food service management company and its owner have some really good numbers to tell a staggering success story.
Abela & Co boasts of supplying 43 million meals every year. They are offering food products, made of 40-tonne beef, 80-tonne chicken and 220-tonne rice, almost every month. There are over 3,200 employees, who are responsible to manage 24/7 operations, 365 days a year.
Over the year, the company has strategically positioned its kitchens, two in Dubai, one in Abu Dhabi and one in Fujairah, which all work seamlessly together to cater to over 100 clients spread across a diverse range of sectors including hospitality, educational, healthcare, industrial, oil and gas, banqueting and retail.
The year 2005 was a landmark year for Abela & Co as it became the first catering company in UAE to voluntarily obtain certification in “Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point” (HACCP). Its commitment to food safety was further cemented when it achieved ISO 22000:2005 certification in 2013.
“None of this would have been possible and we cannot be the company which we are today, if we do not have these amazing people in our company. They are the key drivers of the business, all of whom share the same passion and commitment that underlines our ethos of making our customers happy,” said CEO, Abdulkarim Hannawi.
The company has invested extensively in training and equipping its staff, who are sent through various levels of training programmes, which help them to enhance their skills further. This learning culture was epitomised when they achieved recognition as an approved Food Safety Training Center under internationally renowned “Highfield Awarding Centre for Compliance” (HABC).
While the food catering side of the business is certainly core to Abela & Co long term business success, its relatively newer retail and franchise operations has been able to give them a different and more exciting dimension to how they operate. Given that its first real venture into this space only happened in 2008, today the company owns and operates close to 30 retail outlets – from coffee shops, cafes, Arabic, Lebanese and international restaurants, demonstrating the immense opportunity that this industry has to offer.
Sandella’s Flatbread Café, which had previously only franchised its F&B business inside the US, partnered with Abela & Co and used its considerable resources, client base and know-how to open its first overseas store. Today, Abela & Co operates over 17 stores in the UAE and Sandella’s can now also be found in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, India and Malta. Abela & Co has also formed strong ties with Swedish furniture maker Ikea, through its partnership with Al Futtaim Group, a relationship which has lasted for nearly two decades in UAE and more recently has stretched as far as Qatar & Egypt, amalgamating the dining experience inseparables with all Ikea customers around the world.
When asked about future growth plans, Hannawi said that in addition to expanding their retail business, they are also focused on the Northern Emirates, supported by the opening of their latest state of the art kitchen facility in Fujairah.
“2017 will be a milestone year for the company as we celebrate 50 years in business. This has been an amazing journey thus far, which has seen its fair share of buoyancy and we are confident that with our experience, supported by our committed shareholders, loyal customers, suppliers and of course our amazing team, we can continue to reshape the food service management industry in UAE and the region” said Hannawi.