Photography that inspires a hunger for the best

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In China there is a saying: You eat first with your eyes, then your nose, then your mouth…

How true this is. When you open a menu and there is nothing but text you have to work hard at visualising what the dish would look like, and even harder to imagine the taste. On the other hand think of the times you have been tempted to over order by the mouth watering images appearing in the menu.

As a specialist food photographer I never tire of telling the story of Riaz Kassam from
Kampala, Uganda. About 20 years ago he had landed in Dubai and launched his first restaurant – NAWAB, in Bur Dubai, serving North Indian and Moghlai dishes. He was struggling. His problem was that while he had a half decent crowd of Indians for Lunch, his evening collections were pretty poor. He was desperate to reach out to the Local Emarati population who visited the mall where the outlet was situated, but somehow could not be enticed to come in.

Some one suggested my name to Riaz Bhai, and he asked to see me.

After a brief conversation I suggested that he put up Posters of his food out side the shop and print a pictorial menu in Arabic. He found me expensive. I offered to find him a young photographer who would charge less, but he was not willing to go to any one else. “I am told you are the best and you have to do the shoot,” he insisted.

            “I am told you are the best and you have to do the shoot,” he insisted.

We managed to work out a deal that worked for both of us, and I shot every item in his menu. The posters appeared out side the restaurant, and the Emaratis and other nationalities started to trickle in. To make it easier for them to order their meal, the menu showed an image of each dish next to its description in Arabic.

 food

The number of customers increased steadily and he counts many Emiratis as among his most loyal customers. “It’s very easy for them now,” he says, “They remember what they liked, point to the picture and say give me that.” Its as simple as that.

This is where my experience over the years helped to solve a client’s problem.

It was the exact same result that I had managed for the Oceanic restaurant at the
Welcomegroup Sea Rock hotel in Bandra, Mumbai, in 1980. I had conceived, photographed and produced the menu along similar lines. It won the Best Menu Design Award from the Federation of Hotels & Restaurant’s Associations of India at their National convention. Quite a feat considering all the top Advertising and Design Agencies from across India were also competing. And the restaurant recorded a 40% increase in billing in just three months.

17 years on, Nawab restaurant’s menu hasn’t changed. He still uses the same pictures from all those years ago. I guess the concept of “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” applies perfectly. Today the Nawab chain has grown to 14 outlets in 4 countries and talks are on for a Franchise model for investors who are wanting to get on the gravy train, literally!

Now that is what I call a WIN – WIN situation.

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