Welcome to the Emirates Man instalment of ‘How I got my job as…’ where we speak to some incredible entrepreneurs and businesspeople both based in the UAE and globally to find out about their career paths that led them to where they are now; what their daily routines look like; the advice they’d give to those starting out; and the hurdles they’ve had to overcome.

This week we chat with Mahmood AlKhamis, founder of Moon Slice, who thought of the concept after seeing a gap in the market for high-quality pizza done right. “I wanted to partner with Chef Reif to create a menu that brings the best ingredients and best craftsmanship in a cool casual setting,” Al Khamis said.

After innovating and pushing the envelope, he rebranded the space in Al Wasl and recently opened a new location in Sharjah to embrace a new visual identity.

Emirates Woman sat down with the brand’s founder to learn about his approach to business and how he’s changing the culinary landscape in the UAE.

What was your favourite subject at school?

Growing up, I always wanted to be an athlete, so naturally, all sports and PE classes were the way to go for me. When not playing rugby or soccer, I enjoyed foreign language and science classes quite a lot.

What was your first job?

I started working quite early as I landed a highly-covered position at a bank while still attending my classes at the University. It was quite challenging managing a busy class schedule, social life and back-and-forth commute to the bank but this experience really taught me a lot.

What eventually brought you to Dubai?

I was born and raised in Dubai.

What inspired you to enter the food space?

After graduation, I continued my career in banking, with a focus on global markets and investment. At that time, I was also traveling quite a lot and experiencing a lot of really cool concepts all around the world. It brought a lot of inspiration to me and I started to really want to create something special that is homegrown. So, after a few highly successful years working at big-name international companies, I decided to venture out on my own and pursue hospitality full-time. I partnered with my high school best friends and we opened Origami Sushi in 2014. It was quite a ride ever since.


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A post shared by Moon Slice (@moonslicepizza)

Talk us through the concept of Moon Slice.

The idea of opening an artisan pizza space came to me during the early days of the pandemic. I always thought the pizza market was lacking in Dubai, where the options were either fast-food pizza joints or high-end Italian restaurants. I wanted to create a concept that serves really high-quality creative pizza done right. I decided to partner with Chef Reif to create a menu that brings the best ingredients and the best craftsmanship in a cool casual setting. As you can see now, the idea blossomed into a brand that is now well-loved not only around Dubai and UAE, but also internationally.

What are the key elements of your role?

I see myself as a visionary first and foremost. The best ideas and inspiration come to me when I travel or drive around Dubai. Being born here, I really got to see how the city grew and developed throughout the year. I am really proud of the booming local market and homegrown concepts that are now not only competing, but winning over the international franchises. I want to create more and bring more value, more delicious food and more jobs to my city. Of course, in addition to the creative aspect of my role, I spend a lot of time with my partners and go in depth on all areas of our business. We review the budgets, brainstorm marketing ideas with the team and always visit new potential locations. We are all hands-on leaders and enjoy spending time with our team.

Talk us through your daily routine.

My daily routine varies day-to-day as I am currently involved in a number of different projects. Typically, I am out of the house and on the way to grab a quick coffee and start my meetings at 9AM. During the day, I am either sitting in meetings, answering calls from the crew, visiting new locations or meeting with vendors. I often have lunch on the go but do try to have a sit-down dinner with either friends, family or my partners. We often frequent our own concepts or try to check out new restaurants in Dubai to always keep up with what’s happening in the market.


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A post shared by Moon Slice (@moonslicepizza)

What advice do you have for anyone looking to follow in the same footsteps?

The main advice would be to just start. As an entrepreneur, you learn as you go so there is no perfect time for anything. What you think is the way to go today might change a year from now, so it’s okay to evolve and constantly reinvent yourself. That is why, I am not afraid to push the envelope when it comes to my concepts. We rebranded Origami Sushi after 8 successful years as we debuted a new hero location in Dubai Mall’s Fashion Avenue. We worked with the best interior designers to make the space really special. We revamped Moon Slice branding after a year. There is always room for improvement and room to grow and challenge yourself.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

To do my own thing and pursue hospitality full-time. It’s been an amazing ride ever since I exited my corporate life.

And what is the worst?

To look at what others are doing. I think it’s important to know what’s happening in the market but still have the vision and the guts to do your own thing. I am known to do the unexpected, such as opening in not-so-traditional locations or switching up the interior, branding or visuals for my brands.

What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Being put in a box. My partners and I want our concepts to speak for themselves and we want to appeal to a larger audience and all nationalities, both in Dubai and internationally.

What are the future plans for your brand?

Moon Slice recently opened a new location in Sharjah, which embraces a new visual identity. We also have exciting expansion plans within the UAE as well as internationally.

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Images: Supplied