After tasting success with Terra, Emirati restaurateur's next courses are even bigger

Rashed Al Tayer talks opening more restaurants and a one-stop leisure community hub in Dubai, and reveals what number he'll stop at

Rashed Al Tayer opened Neighbors in 2017 and Terra in 2021 to be followed by Italian restaurant Oppidan and a seven-venue complex in Al Quoz this year. Photo: Outset
Powered by automated translation

'I don’t cook, but I love to eat,” says Rashed Al Tayer, the Emirati restaurateur behind eateries such as Neighbors and Terra.

We're sitting inside the Jumeirah branch of Terra, the thick foliage of the rustic venue filtering the harsh sun. “We have more than 200 plants in here,” Al Tayer points out with a smile.

Al Tayer's love for Terra is almost palpable, like a proud parent. Despite studying finance, the Emirati entrepreneur seems to have a natural flair for the restaurant industry.

“I studied in San Diego and graduated in 2013. I came back here and worked in my family's real estate business for about two years, but it felt a bit boring to be honest,” he says. “I decided to do something more in the lifestyle scene.”

Towards the end of 2017, Al Tayer opened Neighbors, a cafe and bakery also in the bustling Jumeirah district. Over the years, the venue has become a go-to community hangout spot in the Dubai district.

“I wanted to expand Neighbors and elevate it, and then I saw this location,” he says, referring to Terra. Keen to open a full-fledged restaurant in the affluent residential community with its low-rise villas and townhouses, Al Tayer decided to forgo his expansion plans and experiment with a new concept.

Terra opened in 2021 and was an instant success. The restaurant serves Mediterranean cuisine, with a broad influence owing to Al Tayer's travels across Europe.

Last year, he brought Terra to Abu Dhabi and, just a few months after its debut, the restaurant was included in the coveted Michelin Guide.

“Next year, we are going to open a third Terra,” he says with a cheery grin.

Despite his nonchalant demeanour, the Emirati entrepreneur has a quiet intensity about him. For example, he tells me how he poured his energy into tasting dozens of coffee beans before opening Neighbors. “Back in the US, I went on a food tour trying about 18 different types of beans in two weeks to get ideas,” he adds.

Everything he learnt from opening Neighbors, Al Tayer used when launching Terra. His attention to detail was sharpened by “experience and many mistakes”.

At Terra, he makes sure his personality shines through in every aspect. “One of my favourite things about opening a restaurant is buying furniture, cutlery and all that,” he says. He adds that guests can experience a part of him “from my favourite food to my style”.

The future

Aside from Terra and Neighbors, Al Tayer also owns the Boston Lane cafe at the Courtyard in Al Quoz. And there are plenty of more projects in the pipeline.

Oppidan, a casual Italian restaurant, will open on Dubai's Al Wasl Road in the next few months.

“I believe there is a gap for casual Italian venues, and I also really love Italian food,” he says.

While the menu is not yet finalised, Al Tayer says it's going to be of the same calibre as Terra, but with a focus on Italian cuisine. He plans to sell fresh handmade pasta at Oppidan, for example, which people can take home to cook.

Perhaps his most ambitious venture so far is CMPLX, pronounced “complex”, a lifestyle hub comprising seven concepts set across 3,000 square metres of land in Al Quoz.

The vision is simple, says Al Tayer, to create a one-stop shop for the community. “You can eat there, organise meetings, work out and even do your hair,” he explains.

Three out of the seven planned venues at CMPLX are in-house. One of them is a “much-elevated version” of Neighbors. In addition to the barber shop and two fitness studios (one for low-impact workouts, another for high-intensity classes), there will also be a boutique selling fashion and homeware, plus a leasable events space.

It's a project that seemingly makes perfect sense for Al Tayer, who still considers real estate his main hustle.

To manage his growing businesses better, Al Tayer has also created Outset, a unifying company that houses all his lifestyle ventures.

This is only the beginning for Outset, he says. “My aim is to have a maximum of 10 to 12 restaurants, and then I will stop,” he adds. “I want to tap into Asian food soon.”

Updated: May 22, 2024, 1:13 PM