Koen Theunis

Koen Theunis
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My love affair with the hospitality industry started when I was in my teens; every weekend I saw my mother, who was a great baker, put home baked cakes, bread and all sorts of other sugary things on the table for us to indulge in… week after week. It was my first call to attend the secondary hotel school where I learned all about cooking, service standards and all other technical knowledge whether it was beverages, hygiene regulations or stock control. Thanks to a rather challenging apprenticeship during my last term in one of Belgium’s top kitchens, I knew that I didn’t want to become a chef full time but I loved the hotel and restaurant environment. I was fascinated by how big hotels and busy restaurants could run so flawlessly even though they were looking after so many people’s experiences at the same time; I decided to start my Bachelor degree in hospitality management in Antwerp in 1989 and graduated 4 years later. The intention and my dream at the time was that I would work hard to move up the ladder to become a hotel GM of a luxury hotel brand one day. My studies brought me to London in 1993 where I was fortunate enough to work for some of the most reputable names in our industry; The Dorchester Hotel, Intercontinental Hotels, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts and The Goodwood Hotel Group. After more than 10 years in London, an opportunity offered itself in 2003 when I was asked to move to Dubai to become part of the pre-opening team at Madinat Jumeirah, a 1,000 bedroom resort with dozens of restaurants and event space large enough to host concerts for a few thousand people. I can still remember today that it took me about 2.5 seconds to say, “YES!”. A whole new world was waiting for me to explore. My learning curve continued to grow and grow, even after I left hotel operations in 2005 and moved as F&B manager to Dubai Golf, then into a corporate operations role at Emaar Hospitality Group in 2007 and eventually as Director of Operations at one of the boutique restaurant groups in Dubai in 2011. It was during these times that I was mostly exposed to start ups of new projects and overlooking the operations of multiple restaurant concepts. I knew then that a hotel GM job was definitely not for me but F&B development and starting up new ventures was what I really wanted to do day in day out. I set up my own agency in late 2012 and we have since been involved in multiple projects in Dubai, KSA, Bahrain but also in the Maldives and as far as Grand Cayman Islands and the Bahamas. For over 20 years I had worked for good companies in good management positions, went through good times but also not so good times, but the experience I gained during all these years is now invaluable for what I enjoy doing most.

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