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With a dash of determination, a cup of courage and a spoonful of partnerships, businesswoman Leena Al Mannai hopes she has the recipe for success when it comes to helping develop and grow the food and beverage sector in the kingdom.
The mother-of-three, who is passionate for cooking and all things kitchen related, is offering restaurateurs, aspiring entrepreneurs and existing businesses a melting pot of services to support their vision from providing advice and support to linking them with experts and organisations within the field.
Leena, founder and CEO of Culinaire & Beyond, the authorised licensee of The Next Idea [International] LLC, a global hospitality and restaurant consulting group based and registered in the US, said: “I’m not a consultant. I am a business owner providing connections for starter-up companies, entrepreneurs and other businesses that want to make their restaurant concepts a reality.
“Think of it this way. If you wanted to build a building, you’d go to a contractor or an engineer. If you are seeking to obtain a certificate or academic degree, you’d go to a university but if I was an entrepreneur and I wanted to open a restaurant or a food and beverage outlet, where would I turn to first? So I said, what we need to have is a body, or an entity, that would make it easy for people like me - whether I am a start-up, an existing business or an investor, to give them guidelines, to mentor them and to develop a road map for the future.”
Leena has linked up with Tamkeen, a semi-governmental organisation in Bahrain tasked with making the private sector the key driver of economic development. Culinaire & Beyond is also part of the Rowad Partners programme which supports entrepreneurs at all stages of the entrepreneurship business cycle. The programme, launched in 2015 and was developed, designed and currently managed by the Development Services Team at Bahrain Development Bank, provides coaching, training, incubation, funding, mentoring, partners and networks.
Leena, who has a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and an MBA, explained: “If someone walks through my door today with a new or regular restaurant idea, I will tell them how I could help them. I’d link them to the right organisation to suit their needs and also work with them to develop the idea, gain the support they need and the budget. Then I’d assist them in executing it and taking it forward.
“I want people to know that being a part of the hospitality and food and beverage sector is an honourable profession. My team can take people through the stages. Even if it’s an existing business that requires rebranding and refurbishment, that is also under our umbrella.”
Aside from assisting in the growth of the sector, which would also play a role in attracting more tourists to the kingdom, Leena would love to see unique Bahraini restaurant brands expanding abroad.
“We have a lot of creative people who are very talented and have great ideas. I would like Bahrain to be recognised as a trendsetter. We have the capabilities, the talent and the younger generation is amazing.”
A few months ago, Leena set out to inspire, support and encourage new businesses by staging the first Restaurant & Hospitality Forum in Bahrain, which was held under the patronage of Shaikh Khaled Bin Humood Al Khalifa the CEO of Bahrain Tourism & Exhibitions Authority.
The two-day event attracted local as well as international industry leaders. The CEO of The Next Idea, Robert Ancill and Thelma Weaver, senior consultant of The Next Idea and Philip Gay, CEO of Triple Enterprises, joined the forum which received rave reviews.
Leena added: “We had six weeks to develop this forum and it was a challenge, but I’m proud to say we were able to develop it and it was fruitful.
“The feedback warmed my heart. People were hungry for something like this, from entrepreneurs to existing businesses, suppliers and vendors.
“We developed a platform and we are happy to have started it and are anticipating as well as hoping to lead it in the future.”
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Leena Ahmed Al Mannaim, Business Bay, Seef, Bahrain.