UAE: Wild Peeta is UAE’s first fusion shawarma restaurant with the interiors reflecting the social side of its owners, with elements such as the Thought Wall and Twitter Wall.
Two Emirati brothers, Mohamed and Peyman Parham Al Awadhi, started Wild Peeta, and used social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, to advertise themselves and created a fan base before anyone tasted what they had to offer.
Mohamed is the voice behind @wildpeeta on Twitter and said its customers and Twitter followers are what he calls “Goam Peeta” (“tribe of Peeta” in Khaleeji).
“We have democratised our brand and see our followers as our invisible board members, who influence our business decisions on an ongoing basis,” he said. With this mindset, they used social media to ask its tribe what the interiors of its first outlet in Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) should look like.
Members of the public were invited onto the premises before its opening to give their opinion on how it looked and what could be tweaked. Wild Peeta founders posted questions and polls online to ask people what they wanted to see in their ideal restaurant.
The idea for Wild Peeta came to the brothers a decade ago. “As part of our business plan, we had to visualise what it would look like, but we couldn’t afford an interior designer,” said Mohamed.
He said it was important to them to have an Emirati identity, which is why pop art donated by UAE national artists adorns the walls.
“We did everything in our power to draw out the Emirati element — through the art, through ourselves as we work at the outlet, and through the music ambience.”
The predominant colour scheme is orange and green. “We chose those to reflect fast, healthy food. There is also some white and a lot of browns that’s represented in the furniture,” said Mohamed.
He added, while the restaurant’s design had to reflect its Emirati roots, he wanted the outlets to be seen as an international franchise to counterbalance the sentiment in the region, where locally made items are not seen as qualitative as compared to what is imported.
The DHCC outlet has since closed, and two took its place: one called Wild Peeta Open Space (OS) at Dubai World Trade Centre and a fast food stand at the Deira City Centre food court.
When the first outlet in DHCC opened, Mohamed said it was just a matter of painting the walls and putting up frames, since they did not have an interior designer.
The Wild Peeta OS opened in April 2011 and Mohamed said the interiors of the second outlet was even more special than the last. The aim of the OS was to create a community space for people to use without any obligation to spend money. One of the brothers’ friends, Randah Taher, a lecturer at the Architectural Engineering department, Sharjah University, asked if there was any way she could help.
Her students were then given a chance to design the new outlet. Taher put together a team of 15 pupils to conduct sessions to generate ideas for the design. The process took five months, with the students discussing ideas for people who wanted to sit at the restaurant for an extended period of time.
“They discussed everything – from the layout and access to simple things like power plugs and having tables specifically produced on what they were going to be used for,” said Mohamed.
An integral part of the Wild Peeta outlets is the Thought Wall, a large pane of glass that is used by people to write on with marker pens.
Mohamed said this came about thanks to Wild Peeta’s followers, who wanted to write messages on the walls. He said people use it to leave drawings and messages for each other including poems, and areas for children to write on the lower half of the wall.
Groups such as the Twitter Book Club and EmiratesMac user group have also held meetings in the restaurant and use the Thought Wall as a brainstorming tool.
Even though the OS was redesigned, elements of the earlier store, like the colour scheme and pop art are retained in this space.
The students also visited UAE-based interior design firm, GAJ, which gave the budding designers advice on their work.
Mohamed said initially, the layout for the Wild Peeta OS had fixed, functional areas, but were advised by GAJ that since the restaurant’s name is “open space”, it would be more interesting to have an open floor plan. Now, nothing is fixed in the restaurant, with customers free to move around at their own leisure.
Another element of the interiors is the Twitter Wall. Using a projector, an entire wall is filled with tweets from Wild Peeta’s followers when they mention the restaurant and/or any events happening there.
Mohamed said aside from the design, staff use the Twitter wall to check feedback on their service. “It’s a virtual and transparent feedback board. We’re totally open about it and plan to have it in every future Wild Peeta outlet.”
In addition to the two outlets in Dubai, the brothers want to open 100 venues by 2015 in the GCC.
Now that the restaurants have been successful, the Al Awadhis’ are rethinking their interiors again. Currently in the concept design stage, they have retained the London-based firm, Born Design, to carry out a complete makeover of Wild Peeta Open Space.
“This redesign is taking place because we evolved so much. I think we grew out of our image one or two months after opening, and now look like a franchise. Wild Peeta was everything you felt but not what you saw. We’re going to change that now,” added Mohamed.