• Al Ahli Group opens Little Manila restaurant in Middle East

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    DESPITE all the tension in the Middle East, a Filipino-themed restaurant will be opening branches this year in various parts of the disturbed region, where millions of Filipinos are working.

    AL Ahli Holding Group, a Dubai-based conglomerate with diversified businesses from real estate to technology and entertainment, will open Little Manila, the first authentic Filipino-themed restaurant in the Middle East, in the United Arab Emirates.

    Little Manila features the popular products of six Filipino food and beverage firms—Binalot, Jay-J’s, Fruitas, Zagu, Fiftea, and Mochi Crème.

    Binalot is a quick-serve chain known for its banana leaf-wrapped dishes. Jay-J’s is a chicken chain; Fruitas, a tropical fruit shake chain; Mochi Crème, an ice cream brand; Zagu, a milkshake franchise; and Fiftea, a concept serving tea mixes.

    According to Al Ahli’s website, Little Manila was first opened in the firm’s Dubai Outlet Mall in October.

    This was after Al Ahli clinched franchise agreements with the Filipino brands early last year.

    Al Ahli Director Abdullah Mahmood said Al Ahli aims to open 20 Little Manila restaurants in the Middle East over the next five years.

    Little Manila initially targets the 2.5 million Filipino expatriates in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region, which include countries of United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman.

    “AAHG has chosen some of the best Filipino food and beverage brands for Little Manila to bring the popular cuisine from Philippines, to cater not only to the vast Filipino expat community, but also to those eager to explore the different gastronomic delights throughout the United Arab Emirates and in different international markets,” Al Ahli Chief Executive Officer Mohammed Khammas said.

    According to a report by TradeArabia News Service, a Little Manila restaurant branch will also be put up in Abu Dhabi.

    The Arab newspaper quoted Al Ahli international business development head Parvez Naqvi as saying that the company’s inaugural branch in Muraqqabat Deira receives 1,000 daily foot traffic, with some coming from as far as Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and other emirates of the UAE.

    The report said in line with the upbeat demand, the company is now ramping up Little Manila’s expansion.

    “The Satwa branch is to be completed in the second half, to be followed by the opening of the Abu Dhabi branch,” the Arab news service reported.

    “We are excited for the upcoming new Little Manila branches, which will offer the same flavorful concepts that Filipinos and many other nationalities like. Filipinos are fun- and food-loving people and they do go out with families and friends a lot,” TradeArabia News Service quoted Naqvi as saying. “We have about 1,000 customers per day which speaks of the great reception to this unique concept and good quality of food and service.”

    ”The walls of the new outlets will be festooned with snapshots of local traditions, showcasing the Philippines’ rich, colorful history and multinational influence that dates back to the colonial Spanish period,” the Al Ahli Group was quoted as saying. “Original Pilipino Music (OPM) is constantly played in the background, walking customers through memory lane or simply getting them into the groove.”

    TradeArabia News Service said Filipino patrons and other curious expats who want to sample the rich culinary heritage of the Philippines from Spanish, American, Japanese and Chinese influences continue to fill the restaurant any time of the day.

    Sheikh Mustafa, Al Ahli’s deputy general manager for Food & Beverage and International Business Development, said: “Little Manila is designed to give Filipinos a place where they can unwind and comfortably feel at home with its authentic Filipino food choices and an atmosphere that will remind them of the Philippines.”

    From its interiors to the service it provides, the restaurant offers a complete dining experience that ultimately makes the Filipino feel at home, TradeArabia News Service reported.

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