A Bikers Cafe with no bikers – an Emirati breakfast and local modeling hotspot

If you're after a taste of local cuisine come on down to Bikers Cafe. And no, you don't need to be a biker

If you’re after a taste of local cuisine come on down to Bikers Cafe. And no, you don’t need to be a biker

Imagine your typical biker. Most likely a he, about 120 kilos plus and built like a reinforced brick wall. Add in the long hair, and the leather gear (at the least the leather jacket). And then there’s the bike, a roaring Harley Davidson or a feast-your-eyes chopper. Who doesn’t love bikers?

And so imagine my delight when my wife declared one weekend morning, “we are heading to the Bikers Cafe!” While I’m not a biker, I was looking forward to the breakfast menu. Bikers Cafe is the only place I’ve come across where there’s a full local Emirati breakfast on offer. Me and the wife arrived at the Bikers Cafe which is within walking distance of Mercato Mall on Jumeirah Road fairly late in the morning at 10.30am. While the place itself wasn’t too hard to spot (look for a motorbike on the pavement), the first surprise was the lack of bikers at the cafe. We were greeted by a sea of white and black and I’d found where the local community comes on a weekend for their breakfast and Chai Kerak.

After grabbing a table (warning – on the weekend be prepared to wait for a seat) we poured over the menu and plumped for a Royal Breakfast which is apparently called so after a local VIP ordered the dish. While the price, at 180 Dirhams for the two of us without drinks, was excessive the dish featured all the local favourites which I love from Bahrain. Khameer, traditional bread which is often spiced with saffron and cardamon, was on the plate, as was Chebab, a small pancake I always associate with Scotch pancakes.

And then there was Balaleet, which simply put is a vermicelli and egg omelet which is a favourite (no one does this better than my mother-in-law), and Nakhee or spiced chickpeas and fuul beans. I also spotted raqaq, a paper-thin unleavened bread, and Emirati crepes also known as Mahalla. We sampled a date flour mixture which I know well from Saudi.

The cherry on top for both of us was the Chai Kerak – a mixture of sugar, tea, milk and cardamon – which was exquisite. However, we are both used to drinking Kerak from a paper cup rather than crockery. And again, the prices weren’t cheap at about 20 Dirhams a serving (I always pay a couple of Dirhams in Bahrain for the privilege).

While the food was undoubtedly worth a trip to Jumeirah, I think that most of the crowd were there to do a spot of modeling. If you’re looking to people watch and understand more about the local community then the Bikers Cafe is the place for you (you can check out the website and the menu here). As for me I’m looking forward to heading back to Bahrain to enjoy a local Bahraini breakfast at a fraction of the price.

Is your organization listening or talking to anyone?

I attended a fascinating event this week in Riyadh (that’s not something I often say). The Saudi Brand and Communication Summit offered attendees a chance to discuss and share their own communications and marketing experiences. While there do seem to be companies out there who listen to their marcomms staff, the feeling I got was that companies need to do much more if they want to reach out both to their customers and employees.

A number of presentations were excellent. Possibly most impressive was Colin Hensley, Former General Manager of Corporate Affairs & Planning, Toyota Motor Europe, who talked about his experience of the recall crisis that affected Toyota last year. Equally impressive were Piers Schreiber, Vice President, Corporate Communications & Public Affairs of the Jumeirah Group who was discussing how to position a luxury brand across multiple markets, and Olaf Brinkmann, Group Communications Executive Manager at Saudi-based electrical manufacturer alfanar when talking on business to business comms. The irrepressible Saudi-based marketing consultant Said Aghil Baaghil shared his views of what Saudi companies think of marketing (this man certainly holds no punches when he describes the lack of understanding among Saudi business owners towards marketing as a discipline).

Each and every one of the speakers stressed on the basics, namely that a brand isn’t just a slogan or a logo. A brand is your company’s vision which has to be lived by every single employee in the firm. While the speakers were probably preaching to the converted what was striking was how all of them mentioned the same challenges: getting management on board; explaining to executives the benefits of effective communications; trying to find local talent.

Having worked in marcomms for a fair few years in the Kingdom I can relate to their frustrations. All too often companies, even multinationals, simply go out and sell. They’re rarely interested in educating customers, to create pull marketing that’ll result in the customer approaching them. Even on an individual basis, executives are unwilling to talk externally to the media. I was once told (only recently, I may add) that we don’t want to attract too much attention, it may get us noticed by the wrong people. It can be even more frustrating working with marcomms people outside of Saudi, who don’t understand the difficulties we go through in getting anything done over here.

Communications and marketing can and do do wonders for a company’s perception, positioning and profits. Some of the examples shared by the speakers were remarkable. Jason Ong, Area Director, Middle East & Africa at the Singapore Tourism Board explained that visitor numbers to Singapore increased by approximately fifty percent following the roll-out of their last marketing campaign. While it’s always a struggle to quantify return on investment for marcomms activities, a brand that sells products such as Apple, Nike, or Nokia is priceless.

As communicators the main problem we face is understanding. Why spend money on marketing or communications, I was often asked when I was on the agency. It’s simple. My job is to sell your firm, both internally and externally. As individuals we aim to make positive impressions on those we meet. We should do the same as companies. Communications and marketing are not wishy-washy undefined disciplines. They’re roles that are essential to the well-being and growth of any company.

I’m looking forward to next year’s Saudi Brand and Communications Summit in Riyadh. Why? Partly because of the insights of the speakers. Also because I enjoyed networking at the event. I’ll be most interested in hearing if we’re making any progress in getting our management to understand why marketing and communications are so important. Fingers crossed we’ll make headway here, but as cynical as I am I’m not holding my breath for any epiphanies between now and then.