Diana Rysbaeva, owner of SHI Restaurant, shares her F&B journey, including her goals, challenges, and expectations for 2024 and beyond.

Tell us about your journey. How did it all start?
 I’m delighted to take you on the incredible journey that led to the establishment of SHI Restaurant on Bluewater Island and the exciting venture, MOLI by SHI. As a mother of three and a businesswoman since my late teens, my journey is one of passion, dreams, and seizing opportunities. Dubai, a city I’ve cherished for a decade, became the stage for a transformative idea during the challenging days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic, which brought my family to Dubai for an extended period due to online learning of my childrens, turned a whimsical idea into reality. As Bluewaters started to get developed, I was going for running there. The first time I saw the area, I was blown away by how beautiful it was. I knew that I had to live here. I started running here every day. Dreaming about how I wanted to live and work in this area. While having dinner with my husband on Bluewaters, we playfully joked about opening a restaurant in the empty unit next door. That conversation sparked a relentless vision, and in January 2021, I walked into the Meraas office. Pointing directly at the chosen unit, I signed on the spot. I chose contractors and it took us four months to build SHI.

Choosing Chinese cuisine for its intricate flavours, SHI became a dream realised. Under the guidance of Chef Li Yuan Hui, formerly of Hakkasan Mumbai and Qatar, SHI represents a culinary journey with a Michelin-style finesse. Fully licensed, SHI offers a curated wine list, Asian-inspired cocktails, and an exclusive upstairs bar and lounge area.

Navigating the pressure to perform for Instagram, I crafted a minimalistic style for SHI’s Instagram page. In Dubai, where the audience leans towards maximalism, the challenge was to balance popular preferences with SHI’s essence. It’s not about gimmicks; it’s about delivering great food, an electric ambiance, and impeccable service.

The journey continued with the opening of MOLI by SHI, adding a classy, contemporary twist to traditional Chinese dishes. Located in Dubai Hills Business Park and designed by 4SPACE Architecture & Interior Design.

Can you tell us what are distinct features of Moli?
A Culinary Marvel MOLI by SHI, our latest culinary venture, is not just a restaurant; it’s a sensory journey that brings traditional Chinese flavours into a contemporary realm. Here are some distinct features that set MOLI apart:

Versatile dining spaces: From cozy tables for couples to spacious circular tables designed for communal enjoyment, MOLI ensures a welcoming atmosphere for every occasion. The inclusion of a lazy Susan at some tables adds a playful touch, allowing diners to spin and share dishes seamlessly.

Classy contemporary twist: MOLI takes traditional Chinese dishes and décor, infusing them with a classy, contemporary twist. The aim is to offer a dining experience that marries the rich heritage of Chinese cuisine with modern aesthetics.

Inspiration from China: The design of MOLI draws inspiration from the heart of China, creating an ambiance that reflects the cultural richness and vibrancy of this culinary powerhouse. Every element is thoughtfully curated to transport guests to the heart of China.

Glamorous venue: Located in Building 4 in Dubai Hills Business Park, MOLI promises to be a glamorous venue. The design, courtesy of 4SPACE Architecture & Interior Design, ensures that every corner is Instagram-worthy, inviting guests to capture and share their memorable moments. MOLI is crafted with meticulous attention to detail, ensuring that every aspect is visually stunning. From the décor to the presentation of dishes, we’ve created an environment that caters to the social media era, where guests can capture and share their dining experiences.

Contemporary culinary delights: The menu at MOLI is a fusion of tradition and innovation. Expect a tantalising array of contemporary interpretations of classic Chinese dishes, crafted with precision and flair by our talented culinary team.

Exclusivity: MOLI offers an exclusive dining experience, where guests can indulge in the richness of Chinese cuisine in a sophisticated and intimate setting. It’s not just a restaurant; it’s a destination for those seeking a refined and unique culinary adventure.

Diana Rysbaeva

Many new food and beverage concepts are emerging in the business hospitality sector. What differentiates your brand from the competition?
Warm hospitality is very important to us; from the time you enter our doors, you can expect to be greeted with real warmth and kindness. Our attentive and knowledgeable staff discusses the nuances of each dish and recommends the best wine combination to enhance your dining experience. We strive for unique fusion food and individualised services, and the elegant setting creates an immersive experience. In Chinese, the word “MOLI” stands for jasmine, which represents the moon’s secrets, purity, and femininity. This cultural dimension adds another layer to the dining experience, fostering a relationship that goes beyond taste.
We actively seek and value feedback, which serves as a driver for continual improvement.

Food and drinks are the main highlights of any restaurant. What are some of the unique dishes which are recommended to try?
At our culinary haven, we take immense pride in curating a symphony of flavours that not only tantalise the taste buds but also transport diners to the heart of authentic Chinese gastronomy. Try Prawn Har Gau, Chicken Xiao Long Bao, Yun Nan Style Wild Mushroom, Wensi Tofu Hot & Sour Soup, Crispy Angus Beef Eggplant Roll, Traditional Squirrel Sea Bass, Kungpao Cornfed Chicken and Hofan Noodles with Wagyu Beef, among other dishes.

How much do you depend on word of mouth and social media?
At MOLI by SHI, we recognise the influential role that word of mouth and social media play in shaping perceptions and creating memorable experiences. Our approach is a delicate balance that intertwines traditional recommendations with the dynamic influence of the digital age.

Word of Mouth:


  1. Organic Advocacy: We value the authentic enthusiasm of our patrons. Positive experiences translate into organic advocacy as satisfied guests share their culinary adventures with friends, family, and colleagues.


  1. Creating Remarkable Moments: We understand that the best marketing is a remarkable dining experience. By consistently delivering exceptional service and innovative cuisine, we aim to create moments worth talking about.


  1. Community Engagement: Actively engaging with the local community fosters a sense of belonging. MOLI strives to be a place where patrons not only dine but feel connected, sparking conversations that extend beyond the dining table.


Social Media:

  1. Visual Storytelling: In a city like Dubai, where aesthetics matter, we leverage social media platforms to visually tell the story of MOLI. From enticing dishes to the glamorous venue, our digital presence reflects the essence of the brand.
  2. Strategic Content Creation: Our social media strategy is not just about posting content but creating strategic narratives. We showcase the uniqueness of MOLI, engaging with our audience through captivating visuals and insightful captions.
  3. Responding to Feedback: Social media is a two-way conversation. We actively listen to our audience, responding to feedback, and using it as a tool for improvement. This not only builds trust but also shows our commitment to continuous enhancement.
  4. Maximising Trends: Staying abreast of social media trends allows us to tailor our content to what resonates with our audience. From hashtag campaigns to interactive stories, we aim to keep MOLI top of mind in the digital realm.

In essence, while we cherish the timeless power of word of mouth, we also embrace the opportunities presented by social media to connect, engage, and share the unique story of MOLI by SHI. Both avenues are integral to our identity, contributing to the vibrant tapestry of culinary experiences we offer.

How technology is enhancing the consumer experience?
Technology plays a pivotal role in enhancing the consumer experience at MOLI by SHI, where innovation meets culinary excellence. By embracing these technological advancements, MOLI by SHI aims not only to meet but exceed the evolving expectations of our tech-savvy patrons. Our commitment to innovation ensures that technology seamlessly integrates into the culinary narrative, contributing to a memorable and cutting-edge dining experience.

What are some of the trends you see impacting the hospitality industry?

Sustainability and eco-friendly practices: Embracing environmentally conscious initiatives, such as reducing food waste, sourcing local ingredients, and implementing eco-friendly packaging, aligning with growing consumer demands for sustainable dining options.

Digital transformation: Integration of technology into various aspects of hospitality, including contactless ordering, digital reservations, and personalised guest experiences, to enhance efficiency, convenience, and safety.

Culinary innovation and fusion: Experimentation with fusion cuisines, blending diverse culinary traditions to create unique flavour profiles and experiences that cater to the evolving palates of modern diners.

Health and wellness focus: Rising interest in health-centric dining options, with an emphasis on nutritious ingredients, transparent labelling, and menu offerings that cater to specific dietary preferences and restrictions.

Personalised experiences: Customisation of guest experiences through data-driven insights, personalized recommendations, and tailored services that cater to individual preferences and enhance guest satisfaction.

Local and seasonal sourcing: Embracing regional flavors and seasonal ingredients to support local communities, showcase culinary diversity, and offer fresher, more flavorful dishes that reflect the essence of the locale.

Immersive ambience: Creating immersive dining environments that engage the senses, captivate guests’ attention, and provide memorable experiences beyond just the food, incorporating elements of design, lighting, and ambiance.

Inclusivity and diversity: Embracing inclusivity and celebrating cultural diversity by offering diverse cuisines, welcoming environments, and inclusive practices that cater to guests from different backgrounds and identities.

What difficulties come with maintaining a restaurant business?
Running a restaurant business, while rewarding, comes with its share of challenges. At MOLI by SHI, we proactively address these difficulties to ensure a seamless and exceptional dining experience for our valued guests. Here are some of the common challenges and our approach to overcoming them:

Operational efficiency
Challenge: Maintaining operational efficiency amidst high demand and fluctuating customer flows.
Approach: Continuous staff training, streamlined kitchen processes, and strategic scheduling to optimise operations and ensure timely service.

Supply chain management
Challenge: Navigating supply chain disruptions, ensuring the availability of quality ingredients, and managing costs.
Approach: Building strong relationships with suppliers, diversifying sourcing options, and staying agile in response to market changes.

Staff retention and training
Challenge: Attracting and retaining skilled staff, providing ongoing training, and fostering a positive work environment.
Approach: Employee recognition programs, professional development opportunities, and a supportive workplace culture to enhance staff satisfaction and loyalty.

Customer expectations
Challenge: Meeting diverse customer expectations, preferences, and handling feedback effectively.
Approach: Regularly assessing customer feedback, implementing improvements, and maintaining open communication to understand and exceed guest expectations.

Financial management
Challenge: Managing financial aspects, including budgeting, cost control, and adapting to economic fluctuations.
Approach: Implementing robust financial planning, monitoring key performance indicators, and adjusting strategies to ensure financial sustainability.

Competition in the market
Challenge: Navigating a competitive market and differentiating from other establishments.
Approach: Regular market analysis, innovation in menu offerings, and strategic marketing to highlight unique aspects of MOLI by SHI.

Regulatory compliance
Challenge: Adhering to evolving regulations, health and safety standards, and licensing requirements.
Approach: Regular training on compliance, staying informed about regulatory changes, and maintaining stringent hygiene practices.

Marketing and visibility
Challenge: Effectively marketing the restaurant and maintaining a strong online and offline presence.
Approach: Leveraging social media, targeted marketing campaigns, and collaborations to enhance brand visibility and attract a diverse audience.

Adaptability to trends:
Challenge: Staying current with industry trends and adapting offerings to changing consumer preferences.
Approach: Regular market research, innovation in menu development, and a commitment to embracing evolving trends in the culinary landscape.

By acknowledging and proactively addressing these challenges, MOLI by SHI strives to create an environment where both guests and staff can enjoy a consistently exceptional dining experience.

What opportunities and challenges lie ahead for restaurateurs in the coming years?

  1. Technological Integration: Embracing innovative technologies, such as digital ordering systems, augmented reality menus, and smart payment solutions, to enhance efficiency, convenience, and the overall dining experience.


  1. Diversification of revenue streams: Exploring new avenues for revenue, including online delivery services, meal kits, and collaborations with food marketplaces, to tap into a broader customer base and adapt to changing consumer preferences.


  1. Focus on sustainability: Capitalising on the growing demand for sustainable practices by adopting eco-friendly initiatives, sourcing local ingredients, and implementing waste reduction measures to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.


  1. Personalised dining experiences: Leveraging data analytics and customer insights to tailor offerings, promotions, and services to individual preferences, providing personalized and memorable dining experiences.


  1. Culinary innovation and fusion: Experimenting with unique culinary concepts, fusion cuisines, and creative menu offerings to captivate diners’ palates and differentiate from competitors in an evolving gastronomic landscape.


  1. Community engagement and localisation: Building strong connections with the local community by participating in events, collaborating with local businesses, and showcasing regional flavors to create a sense of belonging and loyalty.



  1. Labour Shortages and staffing issues: Addressing challenges related to recruiting and retaining skilled staff, navigating labor shortages, and ensuring a positive work environment to maintain operational efficiency.


  1. Evolving consumer preferences: Staying attuned to rapidly changing consumer preferences, dietary trends, and lifestyle choices to adapt menu offerings and marketing strategies accordingly.


  1. Economic uncertainties: Navigating economic uncertainties, market fluctuations, and external factors that may impact consumer spending habits and restaurant profitability.


  1. Regulatory compliance and health measures: Adhering to evolving health and safety regulations, ensuring compliance with food safety standards, and adapting to changing requirements, especially in the post-pandemic landscape.


  1. Competition and market saturation: Facing intense competition in the market and addressing challenges related to market saturation by continuously innovating, refining marketing strategies, and maintaining a unique value proposition.


  1. Supply chain disruptions: Mitigating risks associated with supply chain disruptions, ensuring the availability of quality ingredients, and managing costs in the face of global economic shifts and logistical challenges.


  1. Rising operational costs: Managing and optimizing operational costs, including rent, utilities, and labor expenses, to ensure financial sustainability amid increasing overheads.


  1. Adapting to new dining trends: Staying abreast of emerging dining trends, including ghost kitchens, virtual dining experiences, and changing preferences for convenience, to remain competitive and relevant in the evolving culinary landscape.


In navigating these opportunities and challenges, restaurateurs must remain agile, innovative, and customer-focused to thrive in the dynamic and ever-evolving F&B industry.


What are your targets and expectations for 2024?
As we set our sights on the culinary horizon of 2024, SHI Group is not just navigating the year; we are shaping the future of dining experiences in Dubai and beyond. Dubai, currently reigning as the world’s top F&B destination, provides the perfect canvas for our aspirations and endeavours. Here’s a glimpse into our targets, expectations, and the culinary journey that lies ahead:

Current Culinary Landscape in Dubai: Dubai stands as the unrivaled number one place for F&B globally. The city’s commitment to safety, cleanliness, and the unparalleled enthusiasm of diners to explore diverse culinary offerings make it a beacon for gastronomic experiences. While acknowledging that Dubai may come with a premium price tag, we firmly believe that diners understand the value they receive. Looking ahead, Dubai is poised to ascend even higher, potentially becoming the premier culinary destination worldwide.

SHI Group Ambitions in 2024: Our goals for 2024 are rooted in the relentless pursuit of culinary excellence, customer satisfaction, and strategic expansion. Here’s what we envision for SHI Group in the upcoming year:

Targets and expectations:

  1. Five Restaurants in Dubai: With a vision set on the future, our goal is to establish a total of five restaurants in Dubai under the SHI Group. Each venue will encapsulate our commitment to innovation, cultural richness, and exceptional dining experiences.


  1. Exploration of the Saudi Arabian market: Recognising the dynamic culinary scene in Saudi Arabia, we are actively exploring opportunities to enter this vibrant market. The goal is to contribute to and thrive within the flourishing F&B landscape of Saudi Arabia.


  1. Culinary exploration in London: As part of our global vision, we aspire to extend the SHI Group experience to London. The timing will be strategic, possibly coinciding with the period when my children embark on their university journey in the city.


  1. Recognition as a culinary destination: As we chart our course through 2024, we anticipate SHI Group receiving accolades and recognition, solidifying our position as a culinary destination that transcends boundaries and captivates discerning palates.


  1. Enhanced guest experience: Elevating guest satisfaction remains at the forefront of our expectations. We aim to refine and enhance every aspect of the SHI Group experience, ensuring that each visit is not just a meal but an unforgettable journey of flavours, ambience, and cultural immersion.


  1. Cultural enrichment and community integration: Our commitment to cultural enrichment extends to fostering stronger ties within the local community. Through collaborations, events, and initiatives, we aim to become an integral part of the cultural tapestry of Dubai.


As we embark on this culinary odyssey in 2024, we invite diners and enthusiasts to join us in a journey marked by innovation, cultural celebration, and the unwavering pursuit of culinary perfection. SHI Group is not just a restaurant; it’s a testament to the evolving gastronomic landscape, and we are excited to be at the forefront of this culinary revolution.