Islam Mahdy – Founder, IM Hospitality

With over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry, Islam holds a BBA in Hotel Management with a specialization in Events Management from Les Roches Switzerland, complemented by certifications in WSET and Cvent.
He has a rich history of managing operations, leading teams, and driving revenue growth at luxury 5-star hotels and independent fine dining restaurants in Portugal, Dubai, Switzerland, and Thailand.
With a proven ability to cultivate a positive work environment and inspire high performance, his expertise has left an indelible mark on the industry.
He’s the founder of IM Hospitality, TheMenues and Samzkraze making an impact in the UAE F&B industry.

“Can you tell us a bit about your childhood and what you think were your inspirations and influences that made you what you are today?

“My journey into hospitality began during a family cruise to Luxor and Aswan in Egypt in 2003. The cruise lasted for four days, and I vividly recall this trip. While other kids were busy playing games and using the pool, I found myself venturing into the back of the ship and entering the kitchen. The organized chaos unfolding before my eyes fascinated me. I started exploring the kitchen and encountered one of the chefs, dressed in a white jacket, black pants, and a checkered white and black chef tie. To my surprise, he was the Head Chef.

Rather than asking me to leave, the chef decided to give me a tour of the kitchen, showing me the different sections from the cold kitchen to the pastry section. At the end of the tour, I received a chef hat and was welcomed to return to the kitchen anytime. Excited, I showed my family the hat and explained what had happened. Throughout the cruise, I visited the kitchen multiple times a day, conversing with the chefs and observing them prepare dishes.

During meals, we had a dedicated waiter solely for our table, a level of service not extended to other tables. I assumed the chef had instructed the staff to take special care of us. The trip continued to exceed my expectations. When the cruise concluded, it became clear to me that I wanted to enter the hospitality industry to create the same joy I experienced for others.”

“You’ve founded IM Hospitality, The Menues and Samzkraze. Could you share the inspiration, the vision behind starting these ventures and the impact they’ve had?”

“It all began with Samzkraze, essentially a sauce blog. In 2019, just as COVID was emerging, I noticed a significant surge in the blogging world, especially in the food sector. With more people working from home, there was a spike in page views. Capitalizing on this trend, I decided to start my own blog dedicated to creating everyday sauces. I documented the process, filmed it, edited the videos, and published the recipes on my website and social platforms. Drawing from my passion, I aimed to share my love for creating restaurant-grade sauces at home, providing this knowledge for free.

Building on the knowledge I gained at Les Roches, I was inspired to establish a consultancy firm named IM Hospitality. This firm focuses on assisting restaurants and hotels in creating their F&B brands, offering operational support, and more.

We are currently working on the final touches for The Menues. This user-friendly Software as a Service (SaaS) concentrates on Menu Engineering, encompassing all stages from creating items to analyzing data. Currently in the testing phase, The Menues is set to launch by the end of December this year. I’m enthusiastic about this project, born from my passion for menus and my identification of various pain points in the F&B industry. I believe this solution is a step in the right direction.”

“With your experience in managing operations and leading teams, what leadership principles do you believe are crucial in cultivating a positive work environment and inspiring high performance?”


“I firmly believe in the concept of “Showing the Way” at work, which essentially means leading by example. Managing people can be challenging, especially when dealing with individuals from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and personalities. By demonstrating the way and leading through action, there is minimal room for misinterpretation, and expectations are more likely to be met, if not exceeded.

I prioritize hiring quality staff with genuine and authentic personalities as it significantly contributes to fostering a healthy work environment and positive work culture. My belief lies in hiring for personality rather than skills. While skills can be taught and acquired, personality is ingrained in one’s DNA and is less likely to change. To inspire high performance, it’s crucial for every team member to feel empowered and be assigned specific tasks. Providing them with the space to make errors and learn from mistakes allows for growth and development.”

“Your educational background includes a BBA in Hotel Management and Events Management. How have your academic learnings from Les Roches Switzerland contributed to your success in the dynamic field of hospitality and events?”

“I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to attend Les Roches. The experience has had a profoundly positive impact on both my personal and professional development. Even today, I attribute much of my success in the industry to the valuable lessons imparted during my time there. Les Roches has proven to be one of my greatest assets.

The unique structure of our academic year, which combined practical and theoretical learning, allowed me to seamlessly blend both approaches and apply them directly to the industry. This dual-method approach has been instrumental in shaping my skill set and prepared me well for the challenges in my field.”

“You’ve worked in Portugal, Dubai, Switzerland, and Thailand. How has exposure to diverse cultures and markets influenced your approach to business and creativity in the hospitality sector? How has it shaped you as a person?”

“Working in various countries has enriched my understanding and perspective, making me a more empathetic person. Experiencing the world from different vantage points has been enlightening. I find joy in traveling and exploring new countries and regions, as it opens up new ways of thinking and instills humility by highlighting our small place in the vast ecosystem.
Operating in diverse areas has also fostered creativity in me. Having insights into how the hospitality world operates in different parts of the globe allows for a more comprehensive and innovative approach. Each experience contributes to a broader understanding, enhancing adaptability and creativity in the ever-evolving field of hospitality.”

“Could you share details about any challenges that you faced in your entrepreneurial journey and how you overcame them?”

“When I initially launched IM Hospitality as a consultancy, I encountered challenges in lead generation and persuading people to utilize my services. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the situation, with many restaurants and food establishments closing their doors permanently. Faced with this reality, I had to rethink my strategy to adapt to the current trends and challenges.

I pivoted my services towards a more digital approach, focusing on scalability. Instead of targeting a shrinking market, I directed my efforts towards those still operating during the pandemic. Understandably, people were hesitant to spend money amid the uncertainty about the future. This prompted me to work on three simultaneous ideas: Samzkraze, IM Hospitality, and The Menues. The concept was to diversify my offerings and appeal to a broader range of markets concurrently.

While it may be perceived as challenging and time-consuming to work on multiple ideas simultaneously, I believe that having your eggs in multiple baskets and diversifying assets increases the chances of surviving this difficult stage. There might not be an ideal playbook, but by staying motivated and driven, it’s possible to achieve anything and overcome seemingly impossible challenges.”

“As the Treasurer of Les Roches Alumni Association, how do you contribute to the hospitality community, and what role does community involvement play in your professional life?”

“I was entrusted with the responsibility of managing the funds and their distribution for the Les Roches Alumni Association. This role plays a crucial part in facilitating the continued networking and engagement of the alumni community on a global scale. By fostering connections among current and future alumni within our industry, we contribute to the strength of our community, yielding positive outcomes both personally and professionally.”

“Considering your journey from working in renowned establishments to founding your own ventures, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the creative and hospitality industry, especially those based in the UAE?”

“Don’t measure your success against others. Follow your dreams and remember that everyone has a unique timeline for achieving success—some start earlier, while others are late bloomers. The key is to identify your goal, stay dedicated, and remain focused until you achieve it. Consistency is crucial.

Don’t hesitate to change paths during your journey. You might have studied to be an engineer, but midway through, you may discover changes in your passion or goals. Go with the flow and keep in mind that what is meant for you will come at the right time in the end.”

“Any life lessons that you would like to share with our readers?”

“Enjoy every step of your journey; don’t take it too seriously. Remember to smile and be kind to others. Create meaningful connections along your life’s path.”

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