Learn about the Al Shiha family business to keep customers happy.
Founded in 1979 by Abdulaziz Al Shiha, Hospitality Development Group (HDG) began with Al Hamra Hotel in Dammam. Through their signature commitment and attention to detail, HDG grew into one of the most prominent hospitality firms in the Kingdom, providing a wide variety of services.
We spoke to Mohammad Al Shiha, CFO of the company, to find out more about where HDG stands today and what they have in store for the future. A graduate of Dhahran Ahliyya Schools, he went on to obtain a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from the American University of Sharjah. After working at the Saudi Hollandi Bank for three years, Al Shiha became the CFO of his family business with his brother Naji Al Shiha leading it as CEO.
We asked him about the most challenging aspect of his work. “Keeping consistency,” he answered instantly. He stressed on the importance of maintaining the high quality of his products or services.
He added, proudly, that the communication between the departments at HDG has been very smooth. “We invested in people. We believe that hiring people of high caliber will give your services a higher quality and that is the secret to success.” He divulges another secret later: HDG does not accept errors in service. Customer satisfaction is extremely important to them and they will even reduce margins just to ensure that they are providing the highest quality of services.
HDG has quite a few brand names in the food industry: Al Yacht, Red Dragon and their newest and most successful experiment to date, Lebanese fusion restaurant Beit Misk. There is currently one branch of the restaurant in Dammam and two under construction in Khobar and Al Ahsa. HDG aims to be a leader in the food industry in the Middle East. They plan to go international and even provide franchising for their brands.
They currently have eight hotels throughout the Kingdom and more in the planning and construction stages with the goal of having 25 hotels in the next two years. Al Shiha explains that they are currently targeting more remote areas such as Al Qaseem, Baha, Turaif as well as the more central Jeddah and Riyadh. He says it’s important to look for the demand, not the trend, and follow it, thus creating the trend.
Their most recent milestone has been a joint venture with Swiss International Hotels and Resorts. HDG will now be able to incorporate Swiss values and international quality to their services while retaining their signature style that cherishes culture and tradition. Swiss International and HDG share a passion for hospitality s providing the highest quality of services and ensuring brand distinction.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business?
The most important thing is planning, planning and planning. Go to the right people and allocate a good budget for this. After that everything is easy. Also, don’t copy others. Be innovative and come up with new concepts.
What would you advise someone who wants to work in the hospitality industry?
Start from a lower position and understand the business entirely. Train in the smaller jobs and work your way up. While I would definitely encourage people to go into the hospitality business as it pays well and there are a lot of opportunities, you need to be very patient.
What makes HDG different?
We provide a lot more services. We engage with the client in their day to day business activities. We pay attention to smaller markets because we believe in growing with small businesses. This does mean more overhead and more stress, but it’s working very well for us.
Your favorite dish from any of your restaurants?
Kibbeh bil Laban from Beit Misk.