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A Family Firm Steeped In Flavours Of The Middle East

Dina Foods, which celebrates its 30th birthday in 2022, specialises in authentic, handmade Mediterranean foods, including artisan flatbreads, savouries and confectionery. Their well-equipped manufacturing facilities in Park Royal, London, operate to the highest safety standards and are constantly audited by BRC, IFS and third parties.

The company proudly holds the highest accreditation for food safety including BRCAA+, IFS Higher Level and is Sedex Registered. The London-based family company is operated by the three Haddad brothers with the business being a leading supplier both in the UK and internationally.

Paul Andrews spoke to Mr Suheil Haddad, Managing Director and founder to find out more about their family business journey.

When was the business founded?

March 1, 1992

What does it do?

Dina Foods is a multi-national supplier of Mediterranean foods, including artisan flatbreads, savouries and confectionery.

Tell me a little about the history of the business?

My brother Amin Haddad and I first came to the UK early in the 1970s, with Fadi Haddad and Samir Haddad joining us in the 1980s. We set up one of the first Lebanese restaurants in the country, Fakhreldine in London’s Mayfair. It could accommodate up to 220 covers and very quickly Fakhreldine became a destination venue, the place to eat for authentic, tantalising and traditional Lebanese food.

Soon after, we also opened Lucullus, a seafood restaurant in Knightsbridge; Noura, a Lebanese deli and shop in Knightsbridge; and Adonis in Fitzrovia, a casual dining Lebanese restaurant.

One of the unique concepts behind Fakhreldine, was that as soon as a guest arrived the kitchen would be alerted and the chefs would produce on demand warm, freshly baked Lebanese bread – Khobez. This would be produced in the on-site special flatbread oven so that it would be ready for guests when they sat down at their table. The Khobez would then be served with olives and salad, followed by a mezza spread. Each guest dining at the restaurant would be treated as part of the family, eating the fresh authentic food and be part of the unique Lebanese hospitality in the heart of London. More and more customers asked where to buy the Lebanese flatbreads to take home, as they could not get them anywhere else.

When we sold Fakhreldine in 1990, our vision was to be able to deliver the flavours of the Middle East straight to consumers’ homes and Dina Foods was launched as a bakery in 1992. As sales grew, we transitioned from being restauranteurs to running Dina Foods full time. It was a steep learning curve, going from restaurants to food manufacturing, we had to learn quickly.

Dina Foods now operates from three dedicated factory spaces at the Park Royal estate in North-West London and employs around 160 people. We sell an array of flatbreads, baklawa and savouries such as falafel, across the UK and 18 European countries. Products can be found in restaurants, cafés, supermarket chains, airlines and wholesalers, in the UK and Ireland and around Europe.

Are there any other family members working in the business?

Yes. My brother Fadi Haddad is manufacturing director and Samir Haddad is engineering director. Our brother Amin, who was a talented chef, has sadly passed away. We also have a number of other family members, including some from the next generation, working with us.

As a multi-generational business, what has helped your firm stand the test of time?

Dina Foods’ business was built on the foundations of a reputation for quality and service which we had established in the restaurants. We started as a niche business selling the Lebanese flatbread, the Khobez and our now trademarked Paninette® flatbread, and we have grown organically from there. The credibility of the Haddad family name has always been key, customers know they can trust us.

There is a very strong work ethic in the business. In thirty years, we have been through a recession but we have always been resilient. Our supplier and retailer relationships are key, and we value our staff. We have 160 staff now, and many have been with us for decades. During covid we did not make any redundancies and looking out for our staff members was a priority. Senior staff members have been with the business on average for 18 years, with all staff encouraged to develop their careers through training.

Do you build the family ownership into the marketing and brand narrative and if so, how?

The business has been built on the dedication and hard work of the family, and our values of quality, service, integrity and credibility are closely linked to that. Our family heritage and the authenticity of our products is vital to Dina Foods as a brand.

What do you think makes working in a family business special?

We are all passionate about the business and dedicated to it. It is an integral part of the life of the family.

As you are working with your family, the time spent together is a blessing. We always come together at lunchtime and eat together, to catch up and chat.

Seeing the business grow over thirty years has been incredible. We feel a great sense of pride when we see our products on sale in the retailers.

What are the pros and cons associated with working in a family business?

In our family business, we have always stayed close to our roots. Decisions can be made very quickly as there are fewer corporate layers to get through. There are clear lines of decision making, everyone knows who is responsible for what. If someone needs something, such as a new piece of equipment, they can get a prompt result. This also means that we can respond quickly in a crisis, which stood us in good stead over the coronavirus pandemic.

Food manufacturing is an around the clock operation. The business has always demanded long working hours, seven days a week. You have to be on call in the night if a machine breaks down. It’s all hands-on deck, everyone lends a hand if a new contract comes on or there is an issue to deal with.

We all carry the responsibility for the family, the business and our employees with us in everything we do.

Is there a next generation in the wings?

The next generation has been steeped in the business since childhood. Members of the next generation are now working in the business, including my daughter Wilda, as Project Director.

What advice would you give to anyone in the next generation considering joining their family firm?

I believe it is important for the next generation to work somewhere else before joining the family business, to get grounded, to prove themselves in a different environment, and to take their knowledge back into the family business.

If you could sum up the family business in three words, what would they be?

Innovation. Authenticity. Quality.

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