Infusing a Japanese Flair with Traditional Baking – Mahmoud Ismail & Yamanote Atelier
Yamanote Atelier is a Japanese bakery that fuses traditional baking goods with Japanese flair, creating a unique combination. Yamanote Atelier makes a wide array of delicious baked goods, from pastries to sandwiches and coffee to tea, all with imported Japanese ingredients. We interviewed Mahmoud Ismail, the Head of Marketing at Yamanote Atelier, to learn more about it.
He is a passionate leader with strong communication skills. In addition, Mahmoud Ismail has a digital marketing background that helps him keep on assisting in developing Yamanote Atelier on digital platforms.
Yamanote Atelier is growing exponentially under Mahmoud Ismail’s and the team’s hard work. The bakery also has a social media presence on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Learn more about Mahmoud Ismail and Yamanote Atelier through our interview below.
Explain the background of you and the company in detail.
I’m the Head of Marketing at Yamanote Atelier Japanese Bakery and Cafe. I originate from Palestine, but I was born and grew up in the UAE. I joined Yamanote in 2019. Yamanote Atelier is a UAE home-grown business with a local spirit to deliver the tastes and culture of Japan and France through baked goods and elegant cafe culture, yet with simplicity. From Dubai to the world, we are elevating the bakery experience to the next level, combining Europe’s favorite baked goods with Japan’s famous touch and skills in a Japanese atmosphere achieved through both branding and interior decoration.
What are your goals?
As a home-grown brand in the UAE, our bigger picture is to expand the brand in the UAE, GCC, and Middle East markets. Another one of our goals is to maintain the quality of the brand image. So, we consistently offer our valued customers superior-quality products and service by following Japanese bakery techniques and friendly service culture.
What do you feel is your biggest strength as an individual or company?
My biggest strength is the team and the things I built for the Yamanote. I carefully considered every detail of the team while I was building it. Our team is super diverse in terms of a multitude of people from various backgrounds and nationalities. I would say that it is why we continuously invest in our team to retain and attract the best out of them. As for marketing, we have everything in-house to build and promote our brand. We also have enough outsourcing to do the needful for us.
What was the path you/your company took to get to where you are today?
Since founding the Yamanote nine years ago, it has been growing rapidly to address the increasing demand for Japanese delicacies among different nationalities. Along the journey, we chose the best among the best staff to work along the way.
Why did you start (or want to be the head of) this company?
I have always known I had a passion for marketing. However, my journey in the marketing industry started way before I joined Yamanote. I started working in the marketing field 10 years ago, especially in the hospitality industry. But, I joined Yamanote in 2019, and I saw this brand as a classic, unique, and extraordinary brand that originated in the UAE.
Everything about the Yamanote, from the menu to the atmosphere, felt so special to me. So, Yamanote Atelier, the first home-grown Japanese brand in the UAE, was a perfect fit for my desire. I remember the brand I met in 2019 was different than where we are now. We have developed many areas, from the menu to careers and the establishment of the brand. However, I would say that the style of working at Yamanote helped me grow in my role and develop my understanding of marketing in a broad area.
My current role spans the entire marketing aspect of the company. I am responsible for supporting the company’s growth and helping to form and implement our marketing strategy throughout the operation. I manage everything from our website to content, social media management, email, analytics, and many more. Furthermore, I enjoy getting involved in every aspect of our marketing, encouraging consistency across all channels to create a seamless customer journey.
What have been the biggest challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest challenge I had to overcome was to build an innovative, extraordinary, and creative team to work for Yamanote. It was a unique opportunity for me where I had to build my own team to do the best for the brand.
Give us one word that describes you best.
I’m a dreamer. I love creating things from nothing.
What makes you excited about Mondays?
My Monday mornings are always motivated by my belief in my work. Not only on Mondays but every day, I’m excited to change something in my work.
What do you value most about your culture and vision?
Yamanote Atelier has the most diverse employees regarding origin, culture, religion, and ethnicity. So, I always carefully consider this diversity while working as one team for one goal to bring the best out of it. So, my values are centered around the cultural differences I see daily.
Tell us about a project that forced you to be innovative and creative.
In 2020, when the pandemic put all of us at risk, we needed to create a smooth delivery system from the existing delivery for Yamanote. However, it required a significant amount of development. Nevertheless, in less than 25 days, we were able to build a very strong delivery and communication system and marketing solutions to ensure that the customer has a Yamanote experience in the comfort of their home.
What are your company’s strategies, and how do they stand unique from those of your competitors?
We are dedicated to producing the highest quality foods for our valued customers. Furthermore, we have a unique team of Japanese chefs creating bread and pastries using the most outstanding Japanese techniques, which makes us unique among other Japanese bakers. We have also created a workspace where our working environment provides a positive culture and continuously improves the standards and well-being of our employees, making them believe that Yamanote is the healthiest place to work.
The Yamanote Atelier is a comfortable, attractive Japanese restaurant located on prime and prestigious streets and locations designed to make our customers feel as if they are enjoying Japanese delicacies in a Japanese aesthetic. Each outlet’s decor and interior are centered around the custom-made Japanese touch. The energy and atmosphere of the restaurant are high and draw the instant attention of the customers in no time. We bake five times every day. Our baked goods are all fresh, and our ingredients are 100% from Japan. In addition to our menu, we offer a wide range of confectionery products and catering services.
What key values helped you overcome the roadblocks and challenges in your career? Tell us about a memorable incident in your leadership.
There are often roadblocks when it comes to effective marketing, from branding to generating demand, but the right focus with the right decision helped me to overcome those challenges. There isn’t one specific occurrence that strikes out as memorable. However, I have discovered that nothing inspires your team more than witnessing its leader stay resolute and unwavering in the face of the most challenging situations. Besides, to set an example for my team, I always train them to be ready for the future challenges ahead of them.
How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see yourself creating that change?
We have a bigger picture of the company’s growth in terms of locally and internationally. We are also planning to open many more outlets in the UAE, and we will soon be opening our first Yamanote franchises in Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Also, we will be developing our menu to offer our customers consistently superior quality products and experiences by continuously following Japanese bakery techniques. We are also creating a change in the brand image in terms of marketing for a better experience for our valued customers.
Where is your leadership going? What benefits do your clients get from your company in this competitive world?
As a marketing manager, I feel responsible for stretching my team to reach higher standards. So, I carefully guide my team one-on-one. I collect their individual goals to bring the best out of them. Also, I make tough calls by negotiating, drawing out, and resolving tensions to unlock diverse thinking to run our operation smoothly. We offer our valued customers the most delightful experience through our outstanding Japanese delicacies.
What are the services, solutions, or products offered by your company on par with the current industry standards? Tell us something about your upcoming products or services.
Yamanote Atelier, with 12 outlets across the UAE, is now getting ready to open its first franchise in Qatar and Saudi Arabia by the first quarter of 2023! It’s a big step for Yamanote, where this local brand opens its arms to the external world outside of its comfort zone. Also, we are constantly developing our menu for a better customer experience with the consultation of our expert Japanese chefs.
Connect with Mahmoud Ismail on LinkedIn.