Dubai restaurateur feasts on the good life

Kunal Lahori has the best of both worlds in his working life - he is an executive director at the family business and a restaurateur on the side.

Kunal Lahori, founder and CEO of Pret To Go. Sarah Dea / The National
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Kunal Lahori is the executive director of Palmon Group, a family business covering a range of sectors including logistics, retail, security and business storage solutions. Mr Lahori, 31, from India, is also a restaurateur – he is the founder of El Sur, a Spanish restaurant in the Westin Hotel and the chief executive of Pret To Go, a new venture with the first outlet opening in DIFC soon. The father of a three-year-old daughter, he has lived in Dubai almost his entire life.

What are your favourite things to do on the weekend?

My weekend is usually reserved for some me time and family time, that involves playing with my daughter in the garden or taking her to a beach, as she loves water. On Friday evenings I like to try one of Dubai’s many restaurant openings, to help keep up with the rapidly growing food scene. On Saturdays I’ll head to my restaurant, El Sur, for a relaxing Spanish brunch with friends, before making time to catch up on some work before the week starts again.

What do you consider to be your favourite hobby?

I am a foodie and so I’d have to say that is my main passion. I’m also an avid traveller and collector of cars. I have been known to travel to many cities just to try out the different restaurants there. I also take a road trip every year with a group of my friends, I just got back from Scotland and the United Kingdom where I drove about 1,770km, nearly the length of the UK. I always wanted to be involved in the food industry and this has led to the launch of both El Sur and now Pret To Go. I’m very happy to have stepped into this industry.

What can’t you live without?

I couldn’t live without food – alongside friends and family with which to enjoy it.

What do you consider the secret to your success?

I’d say it was my attention to detail, to ensure that every last element is considered. I am also a very organised and planned in everything I do, I can be very persistent, and I believe persistence is one of the most important qualities to be successful. In recent years stepping into an industry that I haven’t necessarily known as well as others, the support from my friends and family is truly humbling. Anyone who has been through it will know that opening any new business can be a very stressful time, but also so rewarding. The feeling you get when watching an idea in your head transform into an actual space is indefinable. I also truly value the never-ending support of my wife and family.

What advice would you offer others starting out in your business?

Follow your gut instinct. I have found that usually the first thought that comes to you is always the right one, and would encourage people to act on it without much deliberation. I would also encourage entrepreneurs to not start anything they don’t truly believe in or deeply know about; starting your own business is a commitment for years to come, if not for life, and sometimes this aspect is overlooked. It has to be a passion, so that it does not become work.

How do you achieve a work-life balance?

That’s always a hard one to strive for, since I am a self-confessed workaholic and perfectionist by nature, which can make me very demanding. However I tend to take a few trips per year to switch off and will invariably come back recharged and ready to go. Travelling around the world and absorbing every part of what different cultures have to offer is something I love, and it actually makes you much more creative and open minded for business. It also helps in my industry where I can experience new tastes and ingredients, which can be incorporated in my ventures.

How do you relax after the working day?

My favourite thing to help me switch off is to play with my daughter. I also like to catch a comedy movie at the home theatre after a long day at work as it makes you switch off for a while and have a laugh. When I feel like I have worked hard enough I treat myself to a good meal at a fine dining restaurant, which is at least three-four times a week!

If you weren’t running your businesses what else would you be doing?

Luckily for me besides being involved in the family business I am also following my passion by being a restaurateur. So I have the best of both worlds. I can be my very structured business and workaholic self for the Palmon Group and enjoy the more lifestyle element of founding F&B ventures.

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