The Independent Food Company - A Women-Led F&B Organisation Revolutionising Dubai's Dining Landscape With Innovative Concepts

Trailblazing tastemakers Amal Al Marri and Deem Al Bassam’s journey to becoming the most influential female duo in the Middle Eastern F&B space.

01 April 2024

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Amal Al Marri and Deem Al Bassam. Image credit by About Her

In the vibrant culinary scene of Dubai, Amal Al Marri and Deem Al Bassam, two pioneering Emirati women, have transformed dining experiences through their Independent Food Company. Despite lacking prior F&B background, they have earned recognition as influential figures in Middle Eastern culinary circles. Their journey began with a bold decision to venture into uncharted territory within the hospitality industry. Rejecting conventional franchising models, they founded their U.A.E.-based company driven by a vision to create innovative dining concepts. Their mission to revolutionise Dubai’s dining landscape and beyond has set them apart as trailblazers in the industry.

Chicken Strips at SALT. Image credit: SALT via Instagram

Delectable spread at SALT. Image credit: SALT via Instagram 

“We create concepts from scratch, and we don’t believe in franchising,’’ Amal Al Marri says in an interview with Luxhabitat. “This is not very popular, especially in this part of the world. We believe that franchising doesn’t give us the freedom and flexibility. Creating a concept and having that freedom is important in entrepreneurship. That’s why it’s called Independent”.

Salt by the Beach. Image credit: LuxHabitat

They have been trendsetters creating a food movement that celebrates the open spaces of the United Arab Emirates with simple, yet premium dining experiences. From food in the parks (where they hide the key in the park to gain entry into their restaurant) to shacks on the beach, to now a hotel in the works. Taking people outdoors instead of dining in malls are concepts new to the Middle East. Their philosophy is simple–create brands with purpose. From the inception of Switch in 2008 to Salt in 2014, every concept under their umbrella has been meticulously designed to offer not just food but an experience—a lifestyle that resonates with the community.

Pioneering Concepts

 Salt Dubai’s Kite Beach. Image Credit: TimeOut Dubai

Salt, perhaps their most iconic venture, began as a humble food truck on Dubai’s Kite Beach, challenging conventional dining norms. Through innovative marketing campaigns like the #findsalt movement on social media, they engaged with their audience and shaped the brand accordingly. Salt became more than just a place to eat; it became a destination—a lifestyle movement that transcended culinary boundaries. Today Salt is a multi-outlet brand across the Middle East

Top: Switch, Parker’s. Bottom: Grind, Somewhere. Image credit: The Independent Food Company  

Their other ventures, such as Switch, Parker’s, Somewhere, Public, and Grind, each tell a unique story. From Switch’s vibrant ambience designed by Karim Rashid to Parker’s nostalgic pop-ups in neighbourhood parks, every concept is infused with creativity and purpose.

 Salt x Skims collaboration by the beach. Image credit: Skims

Amidst challenges Amal and Deem remained steadfast in their mission. They defied norms, introducing concepts like food trucks and outdoor dining spaces that were unheard of in the region. Their perseverance led to regulatory changes, with food trucks becoming legalised—a testament to their influence and impact on the industry. Their dedication to community engagement is evident in their collaborations and partnerships with global brands like Kim Kardashian’s Skims and Rihanna’s Fenty, bridging cultures and creating memorable experiences for their patrons.

Deem is an experienced food entrepreneur with a degree in marketing and a passion for culinary creations. She has an eye for recognising gaps in the region’s restaurant scene and has mastered the implementation of the “you eat with your eyes first” adage. Amal is a designer and event creator and believes in bringing people together through simple, yet innovative culinary experiences. 

Amal Al Marri and Deem Al Bassam at the Most Innovative Companies Awards 2022. Image credit: SALT

Their success is a testament to the growing influence of women entrepreneurs in the Middle East. Female entrepreneurs are going to supercharge the economies of the Middle East, as the share of women in professional and technical jobs will more than double by 2030, according to a report by McKinsey & Co.

As they continue to expand their footprint across the UAE and Saudi Arabia, Amal and Deem remain committed to their core values—innovation, authenticity, and community. With each new venture, they push boundaries, challenge norms, and inspire others to dream big. In a world where conformity often stifles creativity, The Independent Food Company stands out as a testament to what two passionate women can achieve when they dare to dream differently. As they carve their path in the culinary world, they aren’t just creating brands– they are shaping a culinary revolution—one delicious concept at a time.

Author: Pooja Thakur

Pooja Thakur is a senior journalist, writer, and editor with over 20 years of experience in print and digital media and in creating custom content for periodicals. She has been a long-serving senior reporter at Bloomberg News covering areas such as real estate, stocks and personal finance and inventing across markets with a focus on Southeast Asia and India. In her free time, she enjoys scuba diving, rucking and finding the newest watering hole in town.

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