Lonely no more in Shangri-La

Make new friends over dinner at the Shangri-la, Dubai; (left) Haechler

GUESTS at the Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai, don't need to spend their evenings alone anymore.

The hotel has created a new dinnertime experience, Interactions, aimed specifically at individual business travellers looking for lively conversation and company over dinner, relaxed networking and a local resident's insider tips on the city.
A maximum of 10 guests can participate and a minimum of
just one, who are joined by an expatriate member of the hotel's management. Each night a different restaurant is allocated for the dining experience, whether it be French-Vietnamese at Hoi An, Modern Moroccan at Marrakech, Seafood Euro-Fusion at Amwaj or Cantonese at Shang Palace.
Available to in-house guests only, each guest is billed separately. TTN caught up with general manager Bernard Haechler for the details:
What prompted the launch of Interactions?

Interactions was an idea that we collectively developed after a few of our team had been on business trips alone. Five-star hotels have great restaurant offerings but all too often single travellers, particularly women, dine alone in the privacy of their room or choose to go outside of the hotel. In addition, Dubai is still a very popular destination with many first time business visitors. Interactions is designed to encourage business people in similar situations to visit our outlets in a relaxed and informal manner and at the same time provide other people to converse with in an environment where individuals would feel comfortable and at ease.  

Is this likely to a group-wide initiative? What research went into its launch?
No, it is not a group wide initiative. We informally polled a variety of travel trade media contacts as well as regular business travellers about the idea especially when we were deciding whether or not to have a member of staff at the dinners. The feedback was very helpful and positive.

What does the hotel expect the initiative achieve?
Redistribution of revenues, away from in-room dining to our outlets as well as driving awareness of our F&B product and perhaps even putting like-minded business people in touch with each other.

Why has the hotel taken it upon itself to play matchmaker?
The hotel is not playing matchmaker at all. Interactions is not a dating service, this is strictly a business networking dinner event for in-house guests on a regular basis.  

What sort of response have you seen so far?
Given that Interactions only commenced in March, it is a little too early to comment, but we anticipate only positive results.  

(Interactions costs Dh150 per head, and is available Saturday to Thursday nights.)