Caramel Restaurant & Lounge in Nairobi, opened by Dubai’s Caramel Group in June in the first international setting for the chain, has experienced a surge in subsequent custom, as highlighted by a colourful article by the New York Times.
Marketed as a casual fine dining venue, the restaurant is conceptually based on the Caramel club in Las Vegas, which is part of the Light Group that was 50%-purchased by Mohammed Al Hashimi, head of Zabeel Investments and Caramel founder, in 2008.
Complete with a private lounge, humidor for cigars and imported waiters, it could be argued Caramel is selling novelty as much as food and drink to Kenya’s aspiring urbanites, but either way, word is spreading like wildfire.
“I think it’s going to work,” one female patron told the New York Times. “Where else in this country are you going to get a mzungu waiter?” Mzungu is the Swahili word for a foreigner.
Jim Moaddab, COO of the Caramel Group, had said Kenya was “the perfect investment landscape” because of its “strategic location, natural assets and human resources,” though in light of the selection criteria for staff in Nairobi, this last tenet seems a tad questionable.
Nevertheless, Dubai most recent offering represents but one example of a growing slew of international F&B and consumer brands now steadily descending on the Kenyan capital, and if novelty and imports are what Kenya’s custom wants then it is no doubt what they will get.
In the broader scheme of things, Al Hashimi notes that Caramel’s long-term growth strategy will allow it “to be on the constant look out for new locations around the world,” but judging by the reception in Nairobi, there is more than a possibility that more future locations could be in Africa.