Is that one Mini or two?

Executives behind a local Mini car dealership and the Limetree Cafe discuss a partnership for a new showroom concept.
Drive thru: the partnership of Lime Tree Cafe and Mini adopted an open-door policy so customers can walk to each store easily.
Drive thru: the partnership of Lime Tree Cafe and Mini adopted an open-door policy so customers can walk to each store easily.

Walk in to the Lime Tree Cafe in Dubai's Media City and you can order a sandwich, a coffee and even a new car.

A shiny new BMW Mini to be exact.

Lime Tree, which is a popular chain of cafes among expatriates in Dubai, has teamed up with Mini to launch the concept of an all-in-one showroom and cafe in the UAE. It is the first such partnership for Lime Tree and Mini in the Emirates, although Mini has paired up with a Starbucks coffee shop in a showroom in Kuwait.

Corinne Bowker, the managing partner at the Lime Tree Cafe and Kitchen, says the partnership happened because she thought there were similarities with the Mini brand. "Mini is a premium brand with a quality product. The marketing and activity is quite unique," she says.

Lime Tree originally opened in Jumeirah and then expanded to Ibn Battuta Mall and Al Quoz. The cafe in Media City is the company's fourth and includes an open wall through which customers can walk into the Mini showroom. There, they can browse the new cars while waiting for their coffee.

"We are not just a car brand. We are a lifestyle brand, and we wanted this uniqueness to be reflected in our new Mini showroom," says Sarah Klippert, the manager for Mini in the UAE. "It is something that we had already discussed and we proactively approached the Lime Tree Cafe.

"It's very cosmopolitan and they offer high-quality products with a boutique approach."

Tarek Sultani, the managing director in the Middle East for Siegel+Gale, a global strategic branding company, believes the partnership is unique in Dubai because it features an international brand tied up with one that is home-grown and local.

"I would say Lime Tree is definitely part of the lifestyle of expats in Dubai, especially that beach culture on Jumeirah Beach Road," says Mr Sultani.

"It is a very confident brand; it stays true to its customer base. This is also the way we would describe Mini cars - they are not for everybody, but if you like it, you love it."

A year before the Mini showroom launched, marketers from the company approached the team at Lime Tree to open a cafe next to their show room. But Lime Tree wasn't looking to expand to another store at that time, says Ms Bowker. "We were concentrating our business on our catering division," she says. "It was not planned at all."

That is why executives at the cafe took their time considering the proposal and working out whether they could finance another shop. In time, they finally agreed to the partnership.

While the two brands have not made any financial commitments to each other, they have both agreed to keep an open-door policy so customers can walk to each store easily. Thus far, the partnership has worked out for both parties, with each reporting that more people have been wandering between the two stores.

"We attract people who would not have come to the Mini showroom otherwise," says Ms Klippert.

Published: August 2, 2011 04:00 AM


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