Nadia Shah, CEO and founder of Drip Burger

Nadia, 36, is an entrepreneur and hotelier of English and Pakistani origin, born in London, raised in Ireland.
She graduated with a BA in Fine Art, and ventured into her first project at 22yrs old, Starlit Jewellery, which went on to become a renowned brand across Ireland.

1. Tell us about your career, and how you arrived at Drip Burger…
I come from a hospitality and food and beverage background. I worked alongside my dad since moving to Dubai in 2013.

We ran a family business, a four star hotel apartment chain, Grand Midwest Hotel Apartments, with multiple banquet halls, restaurants and even Dubai’s first dry nightclub.

I grew up working for my dad in his multiple award-winning restaurants and food concepts in Ireland from burger joints back in the 90s to steakhouses and Indian restaurants.

I’ve had a colourful career, being my own boss since graduating with a degree in Fine Arts from Ireland and I always had a keen sense of entrepenuerialism.

I started my own jewellery business in Ireland and wanted to continue something of my own when I arrived here. But Dubai life and work with the hotels where I was GM took over until things slowed down during Covid.

I was already working on a food concept in Ireland which I had created and set up with the family, Philliez Kitchen, but now it was time to do something of my own.

While looking to bring Philliez Kitchen, a philly cheesesteak concept to Mall of Emirates, I decided Dubai needed a wholesome, gourmet burger option. Something that wasn’t typically fast food, that I wasn’t going to feel bad after eating or guilty about, and that people could eat in a food court that wasn’t McDonalds, Hardees or KFC.

And so I realised a bit of a gap, and started working on Drip. I explored the market and collated my inspiration. The name came to me one night when I couldn’t quite sleep. I woke up at 6am and just had this dream, which gave me a name, Drip. I even drew the logo on my phone that night and thought to myself, this is something I need to remember.

2.Tell us more about Drip Burger
Well, it started with a simple idea and then followed with a dream, which grew momentum and then became a physical cloud kitchen in Arjan. And that’s where it is today.

Our first branch is a quirky little restaurant inside another restaurant. We opened in June 2021 as a cloud kitchen inside another restaurant to start small. We soon realised everyone wanted to try our burgers first hand, so we started having more dine in customers than delivery.

The demand grew for dine in, so we worked out an agreement with the owner of the restaurant to have a shared seating area, then added our own signage as well as outdoor seating. This is how it currently is today, a bit quirky, as a restaurant inside another restaurant.

3.What makes it different?
Well, first is our set up that sets us apart. You can find us inside more restaurants as we grow. This adds a uniqueness to every location, as you don’t know what you will find. We are opening our next location in Media City inside a restaurant at Arenco Tower on the 11th of December.

So the question when we started up was, how then do you differentiate yourself from every other burger brand out there?

Everyone does the standard American burger, plastic American cheese, and their homemade sauce, but no one does anything for a more cultured audience.

We live in Dubai, a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures.

There is nowhere better suited to cater to such a mixed audience, with arguably advanced palettes. So we went with a menu and concept that feels like home, that gives you nostalgia.

Be it flavours from Lebanon to an Emirati twist, we serve the taste of Dubai between two buns.

You will find pistachio milkshakes, free Karak on tap for everyone and quirky names like the Chamak burger which calls on the Emirati youth culture where the burger is topped with Flaming Hot Cheetos and Chips Oman.

We have something for everyone. Asians have the Haar burger which has a kick of spice, lemon and a fiery sauce, and then you also have a very British style burger which is aptly named ‘His Highness’, where we use authentic Cheddar cheese, a ‘bacon’ and onion jam, fried onion rings and Irish Kerrygold butter on a brioche bun.

Aside from that, we pride ourselves on service. Our goal is customer service excellence. When you walk through the doors you are greeted with a smile and ourstaff go the extra mile to keep you happy and entertained.

4. What drives you to get up in the morning?
I am especially excited about seeiing my dream come to life and I believe it’s happening at the moment.

The excitement of growing the brand and achieving great work with my team who have excellent experience which they are bringing to the table.

I’m enjoying being able to step out of operations and do what I really love which is to come up creative ideas, solutions and concepts together for the business. I enjoy being busy – with balance – and love to see passion turn into reality.

5. Should we be eating burgers?
Yes! I’ve eaten so many this past year. We’ve created something tasty, juicy and wholesome. Enjoy them! We don’t have anything processed in there, we are aware of all the ingredients inside, and I would personally consider it a healthy meal.

The only thing to avoid is fried oils. This means fries and fried chicken. We’re working on coming up with solutions that can offer our customers what they want, fries, but without compromising their health.

The goal is to create a community brand that grows with consciousness and the needs of our customers. This means addressing gluten free options, vegetarian and vegan, as well as the quality of the products and things we injest, which means examining our cooking process and the oils we use.

Being sustainable isn’t just a trendy word for us to use, it’s a real objective of ours.

6. What’s the most luxurious meal you’ve eaten?
Luxury to me is about the quality of the food, the ambience and the company we keep while eating.

I’ve eaten many expensive meals, but I think the real luxury in eating comes from going back to our roots, eating with our hands to enjoy the full experience, and eating something directly from the garden to table.

The luxury of knowing the quality, the value, where it came from, what it means, learning about the culture and history of that food, and ideally it being fed to you by someone who is imparting that information to you is wonderful.

I had a wonderful experience in Uzbekistan where I learnt how to cook plov, from my friends aunt. That was one of the best meals I had because it was rich in culture, community, flavour and ingredients. We sat afterwards in her kitchen with some friends,full bellied.

7. How will Drip Burger develop?
We’re opening more locations as kitchens to expand our delivery reach, and as dine in restaurants with the hopes of eventually finding our own flagship store in the coming year.

We’ve grown the Drip team from one senior member to five coming with experience from Cloud Kitchens, Pickl, Salt, House of Pops, Zomato, and Yango Delivery. We are currently covering four events per week and expect this to grow a lot more this season. You can find us at Ripe Market every weekend, Happening at the Harbour from now until May, as well as big events like Expo Winterfest, Liwa Festival, Dubai and Abu Dhabi Sail GP Week as well as lots of community events at schools and workplaces.

Are you looking for collabs and partnerships?
We are a community brand so focus on a lot of community-led initiatives which includes collabs and partnerships with schools, sports teams, large and small community events, as well as corporate catering. This can be anything from sponsoring the kids’ F1 teams to showing up at their winter souq event, or sponsoring volleyball teams at ENOC. We’re also doing our part to support Palestine in the war against Israel. We’re showing our support by donating our launch sales to them, and doubling it from our side for our launch in Media City.

Why have so many famous people dropped into Drip?
They’ve dropped in because they’ve heard good things. Word of mouth gets around and people really enjoy how we’re doing things differently. We focus on the customer experience, and this sets us apart.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Football, volleyball, self-work (meditation, reading, writing, learning), networking, hiking, volunteering, social groups like brotherhood dxb, the WCGA women’s career group, Food For Thought the hospitality networking group, going out and dancing.

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