OmanPride: Khalid Al Suweid, a restaurateur full of creative juice

More sports Monday 27/March/2017 18:28 PM
By: Times News Service
OmanPride: Khalid Al Suweid, a restaurateur full of creative juice

A beautifully euphoric feeling lingers in my mind whenever I meet young, local people with an inspiring story to tell, and this time I had the pleasure to meet one of the most successful, yet down-to-earth creative minds, Khalid Al Suweid, a 27-year-old restaurateur who brought to life Muscat’s three most-talked about restaurants.

Khalid has always been passionate about the art of making food, as well as styling, and his taste for good food has been the drive for his business. But what sets this young man apart from other restaurateurs in Muscat is that he does not just open businesses and hire staff, but he becomes the business, as dining in his restaurants has a vibe of its own, a vibe that sparks a good time beyond food. For he truly puts on a show for the guests and ensures that a good amount of entertainment is in place. Khalid is a perfectionist to the bone. His projects are handled entirely by himself, from concept, interior design and theme selection, to engineering the menu. He is a true superman, full of creative juice.

Khalid was born and raised in Oman. Growing up, he took pleasure in being part of extracurricular activities in school, where he had opportunities to showcase his creative skills. He designed stalls, directed events, and became the head of his school’s food committee. At the age of 20, he graduated in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in international business from Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

After returning to Muscat, he worked as a marketing employee at an airline for a number of years, before embarking on a food-full journey to become a great restaurateur, and his own boss, too.

How did his journey start? The idea of opening a restaurant was sparked while he was studying in Australia. He knew that having his own business would be a dream come true. He sought his parents’ blessing and went ahead with the business. Being an advocate for independence, he restrained himself from accepting a helping hand from his parents, as he felt that it was something that he wanted to do by himself. He did his homework, reached out to the right funding service, and started hunting for a location for his restaurant.

At the age of 22, Khalid opened his first restaurant, Love At First Bite, a high-end eatery specialising in soul food and fusion bites. The restaurant was inspired by love stories expressed in the form of food. At that time, there was little-to-no support for small businesses in Oman, but that did not stand in the way of Khalid reaching his goal. “I view my restaurant business as a show, it has to go on,” he explained. His first diner had only three waiters and three staff in the kitchen.

As word spread about his opening night, the six staff were preparing to serve 300 people who were queuing outside the restaurant, eager to get a glimpse into the world of Khalid Al Suweid, a wonderland he created out of love. The restaurant became a commercial success. Remembering his first night at the restaurant, he recalls, “I was 22, I didn’t know how to run a restaurant, but I had the passion for it,” Khalid said, adding, “I had to call 13 friends to come help out, it was a circus... scary.”

After six months operating his first restaurant, he quit his job to open his second restaurant, Volare, an upscale pizzeria that serves Italian delicacies, including the popular New York-style pizza.

Starting his second business was tense, as it was right after he left his day job and he faced personal issues, which resulted in a somewhat sinister, Godfather-inspired concept for the restaurant, “I was in a very dark place at the time, and the concept for Volare reflected that”. The restaurant was open for business in only 38 days, with an extravagant launch that had living statues, jazz music, and a hint of glamour. It quickly became his second hit restaurant.

After a few years, a new concept came to life called Graffiti Burger Bar, a burger boutique that inspires freedom of expression. The concept of this restaurant is well executed, raw, and alive. It showcased Khalid’s originality in his ideas. He wanted to put his own graffiti in his burgers, and that’s exactly what you get. There’s golden and charcoaled buns, and my absolute favourite, edible flowers.

All three restaurants have one thing in common, they ensure an added value for the diner, which keeps them coming back for more, be it entertainment or food. And, his concepts are largely influenced by emotions, memories, people, stories and phrases, among other things, and they have a subtle blend of sarcasm and intended puns throughout the menus. Giving an example on Love At First Bite’s menu, “The menu, itself, is like a story book. It has all the things you’d experience when in love, but we’re talking about the love of food,” he explained.

Another interesting fact about Khalid is that he does not consult with professionals, “I do it with so much love, if it’s done by professionals, it will look professional, but that sense of belonging would not be present, because it would be done by someone who’s been paid to do it,” he said.
Khalid is a soul who likes to do good and bring joy to one’s heart, using food. “Restaurants are so boring, they are very predictable, very routine-based, but food is not supposed to be boring or a routine, it’s suppose to entertain you,” he says.

Among his achievements, he won People’s Choice Awards and Best Business Concept at the Travelex Oman Tourism Awards for Love At First Bite in 2013. A year later, he won Best Trademark in the Gulf at SME’s GCC Summit in Kuwait. In 2015 he won Star of Business Award in Oman.

This has been a great journey for Khalid. And to him, it’s only the beginning of a much larger adventure. He’s an unstoppable force in the restaurant culture and industry, and has more than 18 concepts in his head waiting to be freed. From opening a small cafe at a corner in Qurum, to panicking at his first launch at 22, to winning awards on a Middle East scale, Khalid is without a doubt one of the most inspirational figures for youngsters to aspire to in Muscat. “I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of making food. I enjoy it, I live for it” he adds.
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