We speak to Hala Zainal one of the three managing partners that developed and launched the acclaimed Abu Dhabi café, The Third Place.
Tell the readers a bit about yourself?
I was born and raised in the UAE but I lived in New Zealand for a while. I am an architect by trade and hold a masters in sustainable design. I don’t know if I threw away 6 years of my life studying as now I am one of the managing partners of The Third Place. Laughing.
I’m also a qualified yoga instructor and a huge coffee fan! Anywhere I go it’s the first thing I seek out. When I studied at the American University of Sharjah I would hate studying in my studio so I would travel to Dubai and explore small cafés and work there. When I travelled to New Zealand I was able to enjoy an abundance of hole in the wall cafés, I was in my element.
What inspired you to create The Third Place?
The Third Place was established by myself and my partners Ahmed Bashkeel and Dalal Al-Mousa. We are all big coffee culture fans and love hole on the wall style cafés. We like European style cafés which is a trend that is still developing here in the UAE. The idea started with us complaining of the lack of cafés in Abu Dhabi and here we are today.
What was the initial concept for The Third Place?
The initial concept was to establish a coffee shop so cosy and home-owned that everyone would feel like it was their third place. The Third Place is based upon the idea of humans needing a third place to escape their homes and offices.
What was it like setting up The Third Place?
There was a lot of headaches in setting up the business. It was the first time any of us had done something like this so it was a steep learning curve. I remember when we were looking for a venue. Ahmed found this venue, we never planned to be in a villa but when we saw the villa we liked it and thought this could work. Ahmed dealt with the paper work whilst Dalal was working on how to bring the vision to life. Dalal was managing the interior design and was in Kuwait at the time, I was working full time and so was Ahmed. I would have to leave work at lunch time and check on the construction. But we got there in the end.
What was the biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge was learning to own and operate something that we knew little about, in regards to the business world. To turn it from a dream to reality whilst maintaining the dream. One thing we are good at is seeking help. We always seek help from family, friends and specialists, it’s good to ask for help, it’s what keeps us learning and developing. We use the resources around us to our best effect, our team are our biggest resource and we are very engaged with our team. We use them quite a bit for their input as they are the people that deal with our customers every day.
Who created the menu?
The menu was interesting, the three of us tried to figure out what we wanted. We started with 3 sandwiches and 3 salads, everyone had their ideas. It’s difficult to put an international menu together, especially when you have little culinary experience. Eventually we recruited a food consultant who helped us develop the menu, he still works with us today and is very much a part of The Third Place family.
Do you have any plans to expand in the UAE?
We don’t have any plans for a second location at the moment. We like being a one off, if there ever was to be a second location it would be on the outskirts of the city. We want The Third Place to keep its charm, after all, that’s what sets us apart.
What defines The Third Place?
We like to do things with a bit of a twist. We offer a selection of vegan and gluten free items and we have recently added almond milk due to demand. We also offer a very popular healthy soda alternative, our pomegranate bubble gum is a huge hit with our customers. People come in or beep their horns outside and ask for 12 pomegranate bubble gum sodas a time. It a nice feeling.
Do you offer any unique activities or events for your customers?
We hold ladies only yoga classes Mondays at 9.30am and Wednesdays at 7.45pm which costs AED 60. We also have a multi-function space available for hire, where we have held a selection of events from CPR training to baby showers.
Who typically visits The Third Place?
Completely different crowds visit The Third Place. At any given time you will have businessmen having a meeting, students doing homework and mothers enjoying a good chat with friends. It’s an infectious vibe.
Any other exciting activities that the team at The Third Place are involved in?
Yes, you will find us at Ripe Market, Mushrif Central every Saturday 4.00pm to 9.00pm. We have a selection of wraps, teas and coffees on offer so pop by and say hi!
The Third Place
02 681 1877