Bulldozer Group manages several dozen restaurants in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, Miami and Dubai. In Dubai, they are well known for projects such as Cipriani, Novikov, Scalini, Toko, Sass Café, Eshak, Socialista, Movida, The Hobo club and many more to come this year. Most recently, they launched a franchise of the globally renowned late-night spot for the rich and famous, 1 Oak in Dubai.
With over 20 years of experience, Alexander Orlov has brought many projects to life and now leads the systematic development of restaurant chains all over the world. Bulldozer Group began its expansion in the UAE in 2013 by opening TOKO Downtown and Sass Café, after their roaring success in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. This year they have opened a new seafood restaurant named Crab Market in Emirates Financial Towers DIFC, and are working on a Greek restaurant GAIA, and renowned Russian concept Mari Vanna… and that’s only in Dubai!
We met with one of the founders of Bulldozer Group Alexander Orlov to learn more about his incredible personality and his success secrets.
Alexander you started as a restaurant entrepreneur quite early back in 1999…How did you come up with the idea to open your first restaurant?
It happened by accident really, as some of the most important things in life do. At that time I had the right partner and the right location, so we decided to try our luck. I didn’t have any big plans in mind to be honest.
My first restaurant was the Old Tokyo in Moscow’s city center and the concept was not chosen accidentally, I have always admired Japanese cuisine. Back in those days it was quite an exotic food experience and we didn’t have that many competitors. I wouldn’t mind opening a restaurant in Tokyo itself (laughs).
You have managed to build a wide chain of approximately 80 restaurants globally, including Miami, Dubai, Moscow, Hong Kong, etc.. Do you have any dream destinations where you would love to open a new restaurant?
Yes, for me it would be London but it’s quite hard to find the perfect location, as everything worth investing in is occupied and there are long waiting lists for commercial locations. To be honest, we have been searching for the right place for several years, with no luck so far.
You have so many restaurants, do you have a favourite one?
I don’t have any favorites, all of them are my babies and I’ve been trying hard to make each of them perfect. However, there are projects that we have to spend more money and energy on. For example, Dubai is the most expensive city we have invested in so far, as the price of rent and gourmet products are far more expensive than they are in Moscow.
What role to you play in the new restaurant projects or do you prefer to delegate?
I only delegate the routine activities to my professional team of managers from all over the world. In fundamental decisions such as concept, design and menu, the senior management team and I always take a leading role and make sure everything goes according to plan. In each of our restaurants, I always taste and choose the menu myself, and sometimes even visit the suppliers to ensure we get only the best and freshest ingredients.
Where does you inspiration come from?
I travel a lot, and try to find something fresh and catchy to implement into new restaurant projects. Now I travel mostly for work to USA, Russia, Kazakhstan, the MENA region and Asia. My last exotic trip was to Peru, but I went for business purposes. I’m looking forward to my trip to Galapagos Islands with His Highness Prince Albert and would love to visit Argentina in the near future, as I’ve heard it’s a great gourmet destination.
Also, I am trying to listen to more professionals in the field, and people with greater experience, and I would say my inspiration comes from incredibly talented team. You have to work with the best only. One mistake can cost you everything so it really pays to be a perfectionist.
What is business for you as a form of art?
For me, my restaurant business starts with creativity. Opening new restaurants gives me the opportunity to apply all of my ideas and develop something completely new. It brings me great pleasure and satisfaction to see the results of my work, and I can say I’m a happy person to be able to do what I love. Of course, it brings stress sometimes, as it’s a tough business and you always have to be up to date with everything. From my point of view, it’s one of the toughest businesses in the world, but I still love it.
What is your main business goal?
To have my restaurants in every capital city in the World. Everywhere from Tokyo to New York city.
What is your secret to success?
I don’t think that I have any kind of secret. I believe there are many restaurateurs who are more successful than me. I just love what I do. I love to cook, but unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity to do so for quite a while. I believe that I have an exceptional taste and passion for food and perhaps a good ability to recognize really talented and creative chefs. You might call it a success secret.
What are your top three favourite cuisines?
Japanese, Italian and Central Asian. Very unusual (laughs).
Do you have any plans to open a Russian cuisine restaurant abroad?
Yes, we are opening a franchise of the popular Russian restaurant, Mari Vanna in Dubai’s DIFC this year. It’s quite popular back in Russia and in such cities as London and New York. It’s not exactly traditional Russian cuisine, I would rather call it a modern Russian concept so it will make a great addition to the UAE culinary scene.
Let’s talk about your latest restaurant, Crab Market
Sure, it really is a one of a kind concept, as we are bringing the best seafood from all over the world, at quite a good price. Our unique, signature dish is Kamchatka crab from Russia, well known as the best crab in the world for its rich and tender texture. We also have some delicious fresh fish and seafood dishes on the menu, such as a the Tartare Mezza which blends tartare with hummus and babaganoush, which will be really popular with the local community.
We wanted to develop an international seafood menu with some special dishes for our beloved local clients. We will also support the local industry by using local seafood and fish in our menu.
Our main focus is crab, as you may have guessed. Guests are able to choose their own crab, and have it cooked exactly to their preference. Once cooked, the crab will be served with one of our five signature sauces, giving our guests the ability to design their own dish.
What is the unique selling point of Crab Market?
First of all, it’s a combination of quality and price. Nowhere else in the city can offer such high quality fresh seafood and especially Kamchatka crab at our affordable prices.
How did the collaboration between Crab Market and the number one Russian chef Vladimir Mukhin begin?
We have been in talks with the White Rabbit family, where Mukhin belongs, for a long time about collaborating for a project in Dubai. When it comes to the best Russian chef I have no hesitations, as Vladimir Mukhin is very well-known and respected globally, and ranks 23rd World Best Chefs. Interestingly he was also the subject of an hour-long episode of the popular Netflix series Chef’s Table. He definitely knows how to create real magic in the kitchen.
And what is your favourite Crab Market dish?
My favourite dishes include the Kamchatka Crab with black pepper sauce, the Cauliflower Carpaccio and the Crab Catalan salad, followed by our modern take on Honey Cake.