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Interview: Mustafa Turgul on growing Roberto’s

The restaurateur talks about a decade of success and international expansion plans

Mustafa Turgul got his start in the industry at the age of 18 in Cesme, a well-known seafood restaurant in Izmir, Turkey. In 1987, he joined Mares, a five-star hotel in Marmaris, Turkey, where he worked as a head waiter in one of their outlets until 1996. He then joined the launch team in Bice Istanbul where he met the Ruggeri family who, he says, moulded and motivated him. After working in Bice Istanbul for five years, he became assistant restaurant manager and then moved to Dubai to manage Bice before joining the founding team at Roberto’s. Ten years later, he’s still at Roberto’s as brand ambassador and director of business development, looking forward to the next decade. Connecting Travel caught up with him to talk about the achievements that have defined his career.

Connecting Travel: You’ve been with Roberto’s since it launched. What has been your proudest moment?
Mustafa Turgul: When we opened Roberto’s in DIFC the trend in Dubai’s restaurant scene was for big groups, hotels or investors to bring in global restaurant brands and to simply press play. We wanted to challenge this thinking and create something original, new and independent that was born in Dubai. I’m so proud of what the team has achieved over the last 10 years, and so excited for the 10 years ahead.

CT: Who was the most memorable guest you’ve served?
MT: Roberto’s is known as a dining destination that is top of mind with global tastemakers including the likes of Bill Clinton, Lionel Messi, Jennifer Lopez and international royalty.

Roberto's is celebrating its 10th anniversaryRoberto’s is celebrating its 10th anniversary

CT: Roberto’s is celebrating its 10th anniversary. How has the concept evolved in the last decade?
MT: Roberto’s has always evolved to match Dubai’s appetite. Roberto’s was one of the first venues in the city to create a multi-faceted experience that incorporated a vibrant entertainment programme, a world-class cigar lounge and a stylish cocktail bar to marry with our critically acclaimed food offering. Roberto’s retains the integrity of our original vision, but we’re always looking for new ways to bring our products to people, such as Roberto’s at Sea, our private yacht experience, or Roberto’s at Home, our luxury meal kits.

The constant is the same unparalleled standard of service. Whether enjoying Roberto’s at home, at sea or in our DIFC restaurant, diners can expect the same sublime dining experience

CT: What is the key to longevity on Dubai’s F&B scene?
MT: In a city with so many new restaurants and dining concepts, few stand the test of time and continue to attract guests after the launch phase. To achieve this customer loyalty, a restaurant must create a culture. Roberto’s is well-known for excellence in the kitchen, elegant dining-room service, a vibrant lounge, splendid terraces and an always-buzzing bar. Aside from that, our restaurant has always been a leader in design. In 2018, we had a renovation that amplified the iconic Burj Khalifa views, revamped the subtle luxurious interiors, and enhanced the lighting fixtures to create greater ambiance.

The Enrico Bartolini Brunch is part of the concept's continually evolving offeringThe Enrico Bartolini Brunch

CT: Is Robert’s adopting sustainable practices?
MT: Our philosophy is zero waste. We use biodegradable containers, work with local farms and purchase from sustainable sources. We are conscious of our footprint, and without compromising on quality, we source as much of our ingredients locally as possible.

We are seeing a growing demand for vegetarian and vegan options, so we developed a vegan menu that has been very successful. We were one of the first fine dining restaurants in DIFC to do this and will always try to lead by example.

CT: What effect do you think the arrival of rankings such as Michelin Guide and MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants will have on the region?
MT: With the arrival of these new guides, we will see the growth, development and maturity of Dubai’s hospitality industry. We already have homegrown concepts with clear identities and unique messages. The quality of the Dubai dining scene will improve even further. While in the past, most of the restaurants were adaptations of original brands created elsewhere, we now have brands belonging to Dubai. Some establishments will be able to upgrade their venues to be part of the list or at least to be considered. We will be able to attract talents from other countries and meet their expectations of growth and exposure.

At Roberto’s, we have a clear vision and strategy of where we would like to be moving forward and we’re working with the team to achieve those goals

Sleek interiorsRoberto’s is set to expand regional footprint

CT: What are you working on next?
MT: Building on the success of the last 10 years, we have exciting developments in the pipeline to ring in the next decade. In the spirit of reinvention, our team is proud to announce two outstanding projects in our DIFC venue: the new premium lounge with cocktail bar, and the makeover of the ‘Cortina’ terrace, which will take place by the end of 2022.

We expanded in 2019 to Porto Montenegro with the opening of Roberto’s Mare, and our international portfolio will expand further still with more openings in 2023 in The Ritz Carlton Amman, Jordan; St Regis Doha, Qatar, and St Regis Muscat, Oman. In addition, we will branch out to major international hubs across the world. Recently, we opened our Asian head quarters in Singapore and will open Roberto’s Singapore in 2023.

For more information, visit www.robertosrestaurants.com

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