When Artem Login founded L’ETO in Soho in 2009, he never imagined he’d be bringing the concept to the UAE just a few years later. But with Artem’s formula of quality ingredients, clean presentation and devilishly good-looking cakes, that’s exactly what’s happened. As the young entrepreneur prepares to open even more outlets, he takes time out to speak with editor Rachael Perrett about developing the original concept and the navigating the UAE’s food and beverage industry.
Where did the L’ETO concept come from?
I grew up in a family of food lovers, and my father is quite experienced in restaurants. The idea came in London in 2009. At that time it was a fairly free market and a lot of places were empty. I found a small space in a prime location in Soho, London and without thinking much, the best thing I could do was a café because of [my family’s background].
The space was quite awkward; it was basically just a square space but with a
long window so we decided to create a display with cakes.
A cake is something that’s really easy to sell to people, especially if it’s well presented. At the time of opening, we tried to play with the presentation in the window and this is what really helped us progress with our brand without much marketing.
L’ETO now has 12 branches across London and the UAE. How has this original concept of a café developed over the years?
The café is where we started. We proceeded to open a few more branches around London; these were also small takeaway coffee shops until we got to location number four in Belgravia, London, and we had a kitchen there. Having a kitchen gives you possibilities to expand your offering; we upgraded our design and this was the next step where we really proceeded into being an upmarket café-restaurant.
After we opened five branches in London, in the UAE we had a fantastic opportunity to get an amazing place where you aren’t restricted with planning or the size of the premises – as long as you can afford the rent, you can come and do it. So this is where we started to be a real restaurant.
When you opened your first outlet in Soho, did you expect this success that would lead to international expansion?
No, to be honest. I tried to do my best in terms of quality and to make sure that I’m giving a great experience to customers. There are a lot of regulars and people thank us every day for that coffee or cake, and you really start learning their taste – this is what gives you that sense of satisfaction.
Even if you had asked me three years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined myself being in the UAE, but that’s what’s happened.
Were you familiar with the UAE dining scene before you set up here?
I wasn’t familiar with it until I came here myself. [A lot of people] recommended that I come and try out Dubai, especially as in London we have a lot of customers from Gulf countries. I was amazed by how open and business friendly the country is. I calculated a few numbers to see how it would work and it seemed to be promising so I decided to invest here.
When planning the UAE outlets, how much did you have to adapt the concept to fit the local market?
We didn’t have to adapt too much in terms of the food offering. In fact, we were striving for it to be the same as London. We brought the same team and the same equipment because of the following we had among the GCC crowd in London. When they see London brands opening in the UAE they want to experience the same thing.
As we’ve progressed, we’ve developed the menu more. We have bigger restaurants, bigger teams, bigger kitchens, bigger everything – because as you can imagine, in the UAE everything is bigger, better, stronger, higher…
As a restaurateur, what do you think of Abu Dhabi’s dining scene?
I definitely think Abu Dhabi’s dining scene has grown, and I have had a number of requests to open L’ETO in a few developments. I definitely think Abu Dhabi is trying to develop as a global tourist destination in its own unique way as the capital of the UAE, with the heritage, the culture, the sea, and it’s populated by more locals than Dubai. So you can feel that authenticity. In terms of our cafes, Abu Dhabi is more family oriented. People in Abu Dhabi are also a lot kinder in terms of feedback!
As the founder of L’ETO, tell us what your favourite menu item is…
My absolute favourite is violet açaí latte. In terms of cakes, I adore the caramel layer cake. It’s one of our oldest items but the way it’s presented and tastes is amazing.
By Rachael Perrett