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Nestled among lush greenery and rather inconspicuous signage, BB Social Dining is a three-story restaurant located in Gate Village at the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC). The local concept is located in a space that was once an art gallery, which has created an intimate and original atmosphere, with its spiral staircase, black and white floor tiles, mustard upholstery, banquettes. and its comfortable tables and an outdoor dining area. Terrace. Much like the Arabic word from which its name is derived (“habibi”), the restaurant wants to embody harmony and love in its community, which is why BB calls its cooking style “social dinner”.

BB social dinner

Spero Panagakis, co-founder, BB Social Dining

Merging culinary inspirations from the East, West and the Middle East, BB encourages its diners to design and share their dishes which consist of baos, bowls, bites, barbecue specialties and, yes, of distinctive desserts. And in order to cater for a variety of preferences, the restaurant promises an inclusive approach for all kinds of diners, with its offer including vegan, vegetarian and meat dishes.

BB is the product of a founding team bringing six decades of hospitality: Chef Alex Stumpf in charge of the kitchen (who was Peyote’s former chef), while Shabnum Stumpf and Spero Panagakis (both former Zuma alumni) ) handle everything else concerning the Company. As co-founders with diverse expertise, the trio noted that very early on they favored the definition of distinct roles within the F&B brand in order to avoid any conflict of responsibilities. “We are convinced that as owner-operators, we must appreciate all developments when building local brands in order to support them 100%,” says Panagakis, who has positioned himself as the man of the avant-garde.

Co-founders Spero Panagakis, Alex Stumpf and Shabnum Stumpf
Source: BB Social Dining

“Each of us has our own talent, and we thrive on leading different teams, so they appreciate that. Each department has a certain set of skills that impact the business just as much as the next department. The co-founders are also keen to develop the skills of their team, stating: “It is important that you train your employees in each department. In this way, you create a cultural teamwork and understanding, so that the brand is always on. avant-garde, and not just one department per team.

This is clearly an aspect that the co-owners place great importance on, Panagakis stressing that BB is the result of teamwork, dedication and inclusiveness. “We are not a sole proprietorship, we all work together and we have created something unique that our clients love. The company also prides itself on avoiding a silo mentality, with each team member knowing the business inside out to keep operations running smoothly.

“It also means that whenever there is an area for growth, it is immediately recognized and implemented. This strategy also explains the modus operandi of the management. “A good leader always recognizes that he is as good as his team! Says Panagakis. “Our leadership strategy reflects our branding strategy: we want to create a community for our team, where they have the ability to be creative and playful, while also working.

Having an innate sense of community is also what the state of the co-founders makes BB stand out among the crowded F&B space in the UAE. “We are always convinced that within each community, there is a place for everyone. By design and concept, BB fits at a price that was new to the market and allowed a wider reach on a demographic that had not yet been tapped.

Source: BB Social Dining

As a restaurant and social bar located within the vibrant DIFC community (home to a variety of high-end, mid-range, and casual licensed eateries), the BB team has sought to build its reputation on the basis of its remarkable menu and charming ambience: “Our main focus was to offer an all-inclusive, non-exclusive menu, supporting the fine mid-market category, and a menu catering for all occasions – from an experience. formal culinary at your daily business lunch or afternoon break… It was about creating something that was “needed” in the market, and we knew customers would appreciate it. “

Of course, as with any business, the journey was not without a hitch. One of the biggest obstacles for the team came during the construction phase of the restaurant. “We are built on three floors, and there is extension civil works that had to be done in a specific way to comply with the regulations,” says Panagakis. Ultimately, this delayed the project for six months. “This obstacle and delay had a ripple effect, as the rents are still payable even if we don’t trade.”

The silver lining? The co-founders took the opportunity to learn the importance of doing due diligence no matter what they saw, heard or recommended. And this is the advice that Panagakis wants to share with its upstart colleagues: “Always make sure you do your homework on all vendors, owners and look for every dotted line on every offer to make sure you are protected. the process to avoid penalties. or charges that are beyond your control.

This prospect of constantly learning while facing hardships has proven to be useful as the brand grapples with the impact of the COVID-19 crisis of 2020. According to research data from EatApp, nothing but ” in March 2020, restaurants in the region saw an overall drop of 60% in the number of customers. . “With constant fluctuations in numbers, restrictions and this pandemic being totally unprecedented, we have had to learn as we go. It has been a learning curve for all of us.

Source: BB Social Dining

It should be noted that it was as part of the UAE’s lockdown mandate that the brand diversified its revenue by launching a delivery and takeout service using a cloud-based kitchen space. With optional food delivery, the brand was able to reach a wider audience and introduce the restaurant to potential customers, which was usually only possible through word of mouth. “Thanks to our partners at Deliveroo, we were able to not only open two other satellite brands -Soule Soups and The Little Katsu Shop – but also to expand these three brands to our new satellite kitchen on Hessa Street.”

The brand’s new approach from kitchen to delivery has thus not only strengthened BB’s presence, but has also ensured sufficient cash flow to survive under the strict restrictions that come with having dinner guests. Panagakis adds that being in the UAE has proven to be advantageous, as the country’s government quickly dealt with the situation from the start. This means BB was able to reopen earlier than most, which has had its pros and cons. “As a business, while we want to get out of this situation as quickly as possible, as a community restaurant, we also have a social responsibility to our customers to do our best. We want BB to be a safe space for those who come to us.

Given the current environment, it can be easy for entrepreneurs to feel overwhelmed by the challenges they may face in this area, but Panagakis always praises the MENA market for its F&B scene. “It just keeps growing, there is so much diversity and a sense of community that you can’t find elsewhere in the world. Although, of course, like everywhere in the world, the region presents its own set of problems. To this, Panagakis advises, “You really need to educate yourself about all the rules and regulations in advance to avoid any delays or penalties that may result from errors or a seemingly minor detail overlooked. Other than that the people here are helpful and there is always someone ready to lend a hand.

With that in mind, is there still time to start a business in the MENA region? Panagakis replies in the affirmative. “I think the time is better than ever to start a business here. Obviously, with caution though. It is important for new local businesses to identify and take advantage of market gaps.

Source: BB Social Dining

Related: From Japan To Dubai: Founder Ahmed Tahnoon On Creating Spheerz To Serve Japanese Takoyaki


1 / Find a niche and stick to it “It should be true for you and something you know the customer will appreciate. “

2 / Divide and conquer “When you co-found a business, create clear boundaries and separate roles. This will lead to smoother operations and no crossover. “

3 / listen to your customer “What do your customers want? How do you give them what they want? Answering these kinds of questions helps build customer loyalty.

4 / Your team is your backbone “It’s impossible for a business to function well without a good team in place. Choose people who reflect your values ​​and who really understand the message you are trying to get across.

5 / push the limits “Whether it’s building a three-story restaurant at DIFC or starting a home-based business, being creative and taking a calculated risk can lead to a great result. “

Related: With the creation of the Restaurants Business group, Dubai Chamber steps up its support for the city’s restaurateurs

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