Moscow-raised Alexander Orlov travels the world overseeing a restaurant empire
Week in the Life: Global jetsetter with appetite for hard work
As president and a founder of Bulldozer Group, Moscow-raised Alexander Orlov travels the world overseeing a restaurant empire. His Dubai investment and brand management hospitality company has opened high-end venues in the Middle East, US, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Hong Kong and, in Dubai, successfully launched international brands including Novikov, Cipriani, Downtown Toko, Movida, VIP Room and Sass Café. The 46-year-old former film producer was recently in the DIFC to open Crab Market restaurant. Here he tells The National about his week.
It depends where I am, but here I’m working Sundays. We’ve been focusing to open Crab Market and have a lot of meetings. I spend days in the venue, fixing issues, to coordinate everybody. If you want to have a successful restaurant you should be involved in all details, every lamp, starting from design and ending with the kitchen. Crab Market is a new concept I created. I have in mind already how it should look. Usually I am creating all my concepts. Cipriani already existed, but I have created a lot of restaurants in my life.
Usually weekdays, if not travelling, I wake up about 10am. I exercise, then go for business meetings. If here, I’m swimming in the sea. If not in a sea location I do yoga or jogging, around 30km per week. I workout every day; it gives me more energy. I do some boxing, gym. Typically every business day I have a lot of meetings, with partners, my team, with managers, chefs. Bulldozer means something very strong, something that goes straight, never stops. Our goal is to develop in the UAE and to grow in other markets like the US, Asia, London maybe. We developed a lot in Dubai. I have an apartment on Palm Jumeirah. It’s important to live in a quiet area. In Moscow I live outside the city, the countryside; it helps me recover. Our work is very stressful. After work I like to forget about any issues and focus on myself, my sport.
The restaurant business is complicated. To control this business I travel a lot, every week. In each city I have a base, my apartment, my team, office. Hong Kong is too expensive so I live in a hotel, all my luggage in the Four Seasons, like an apartment. Same in New York, in a hotel, and London. I come to the airport 30 minutes before take off because I have a boarding pass and that’s it; I’m travelling without luggage, only a small bag. Time is very valuable. This is my lifestyle; I’m moving city to city, stay around five days to one week in one place. I fly commercial. Maybe in the future I will buy a private jet. I decide my schedule. I have teams everywhere and a lot of international calls, video meetings. I should be where a new restaurant is opening. They can’t open without me.
We’re expanding a lot. This year we open two or three more restaurants in Dubai; a Japanese restaurant in Dubai Mall. We’re negotiating to get the same concept in Nakheel Mall, Palm Jumeirah. In DIFC we have a good location to put a Chinese restaurant. It is one of the best areas. We do research and brainstorming, think a lot before we get a location. A lot of information is coming every day.
Sometimes I have a very long day. When we create a new menu with chefs we can spend until 2am in the restaurant. For us it is time to create our own brands here. That’s why we created Crab Market, BASE nightclub also. It’s more interesting to develop your own brands. I can’t say I have a favourite. Each is important for me. We will open (a restaurant), then I leave for a few days, then come back… I keep control maybe for two or three months after opening. I am very active like that. If I’m not in Dubai I speak with my team every day, so I keep controlling. I am tough with my employees, with everybody. In this business you should be tough; it’s only one way.
In the morning, usually, I communicate with everybody in different areas. At the end of the day I spend one/two hours communicating with the US, for example, countries in different time zones. Friday I’m working with other countries, video calls. A good restaurant for me is profitable, first of all. To be profitable there should be a lot of things like design, atmosphere, food, service and if they connect … concept and pricing is also important. I’m very open to suggestions. I like modern art, am a collector, I have a lot of paintings, some sculptures. I’m looking for something different in my collection. I like DIFC, there are a lot of galleries; it is very contemporary. There is Art Dubai, then Hong Kong Art Basel. I keep in mind these dates and make my schedule.
I try to keep Saturday and Sunday as days off; I meet friends, spend time with my children; in Russia, some in Britain, studying. Sometimes I’m just chilling. I find it easy to switch off. I do sports. Everywhere I have shoes, sports wear. Sometimes I look at new competitor restaurants, new concepts, but usually I am in my restaurants dining, keeping an eye on service, food, everything; everywhere. Staff should see the owner controls them.