A restaurant boss who will run six upmarket eateries at Dubai Expo 2020 has said there are still opportunities for hundreds, if not thousands, of staff to work in the hospitality sector there.
Naim Maadad said flight restrictions from the Philippines, a hiring spree in the Dubai hotel industry, and the need to have vaccinated employees made it tricky to fill roles.
He has paid waiters, chefs and servers 15 to 25 per cent more than the going rate to fill dozens of vacancies for the next eight months - and said there are still many opportunities on offer.
Waiting staff normally paid Dh3,000 a month can expect Dh3,450 at an Expo 2020 outlet, while a head chef earning Dh20,000 a month in Dubai, could expect Dh23,000 to Dh25,000.
The owner of well-known Dubai eateries Reform Social, Folly and Bistro des Arts, has just five weeks to get his restaurants up and running before the World Fair kicks off on October 1.
"The Philippines is our main labour market but the UAE is still on their red list and we couldn't get people in," said Mr Maadad.
"It's the same story with Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. Unless you already have an employment visa, you can't get in."
Mr Maadad said he had to explore new markets to fill the 450 jobs he had on offer - most of which are now filled thanks to an extensive recruitment drive over the summer.
"There is a shortage of talent across the city because restaurants and hotels are recruiting anyway, ahead of the winter season ramping up," he said.
"We found many of our staff in Central Asian countries – 'the Stans' – like Kazakhstan. But the shortage has pushed up wages.
"New staff can't just come in and start working straight away. It takes two to three weeks to get their Emirates ID, and only then can they get their first vaccination. They need to be double jabbed to work at Expo."
Restaurants from world-famous chefs coming to Expo
Thousands of staff have been hired to work for Expo and each of the country pavilions, of which there are more than 180.
The site will also have more than 120 independent restaurants and food stands, many chosen by the organisers from outlets already established around the world.
These include Adrift Burger Bar by celebrity chef David Myers of Los Angeles, who has run Michelin-starred restaurants.
Mr Maadad's chain Gates Hospitality will operate this restaurant, along with five other mid to upper-range outlets, where prices will average around Dh120 ($32) for a main course.
"We have a hip Italian out of New York called Scarpetta, which will include a burrata bar, and a branch of the Thai street-food chain Long Chim by Australian chef David Thompson," Mr Maadad said.
"Also a fine dining Indian restaurant from London called Kutir, with Michelin-starred chef Rohit Ghai at the helm, plus an all-day bistro concept called The National by Armenian-American chef Geoffrey Zakarian, which will serve approachable American cuisine."
The food and drink offerings are designed to enhance the visitor experience at Expo 2020, but many of the brands are expected to use this opportunity to gain a foothold in the Middle East.
"Expo is a chance for global brands to showcase what they have on offer in the UAE, with a view to staying long-term in the market," said Mr Maadad, who is excited about the legacy of the world fair on food and drink in Dubai.
"Expo is going to set a new precedent for food in Dubai, it's going to elevate the market to the next level."