Do what you love and love what you do.
That statement seems to have served founder and managing director of The Olive Tree Group, Leslie Gomez, well in his career. In fact, it was these words that allowed the Indian-native to take the leap and set forth to Malaysia, inspired by the wonders it had to offer.
Packed with a passion for hospitality, Leslie got his start at India’s leading hotel chain, The Taj, before making the move to our bustling city – Kuala Lumpur, where he served as an operation manager with a prominent hospitality group.
Wanting to expand his horizons, he sought to establish his own F&B business, and with that came the inception of The Olive Tree Group in 2003. Setting roots in Bukit Bintang’s backpacker and bar haven Changkat, it was the introduction of Northern Indian gem, Ghazal Mahel—which now goes by the name Sutraa Kitchen + Bar—that really changed the game for the entrepreneur.
“When we started, we were one of ten restaurants specialising in Indian cuisine,” notes Leslie. “That number has since risen exponentially over the last 23 years and competition is steep so it’s important that we cut out our own niche to stand out.”
Dedicated to bringing superior quality service and an authentic dining experience, Leslie prides himself on having an old school style of management; an expertise rooted in fine dining and hospitality.
Settling in Malaysia, Leslie says it might have been ‘destiny’, but really chops it up to having the right foundations that allowed him to explore other avenues in the industry.
“I wouldn’t say it was passion,” Leslie admits. “When you’re first starting out, you’re hungry for something that would allow you to grow. Coming from India, I felt that the opportunity could only be found if I stepped out from the country.”
The initial years of the business were a point of struggle for the entrepreneur, pushing him to his brink and on the edge of giving up entirely. Thankfully, the decision to reinvent the brand presented itself was a saving grace and proved to be a pivotal learning moment for Leslie.
“You learn from your mistakes, and over the years, I’ve realised the importance of not making the same ones. As a leader, you are the engine of the whole business machine. You need to be there at the forefront of everything, from the good to the ugly.”
“I’m someone who believes that actions speak louder than words,” he contends.
Suited with his own secret formula to success, Leslie brought the business to a level of acclaim and recognition as one of Malaysia’s more prominent al-fresco dining spaces. Despite numerous entrepreneurial awards, the success is credited to his simple gospel truth; teamwork makes the dream work.
The group has since expanded into a multi-outlet enterprise that employs over 400 staff with place holds across the Malaysian peninsular such as Kuala Lumpur, Genting Highlands, Johor, Malacca. Langkawi and Penang.
What was just a humble dream has grown beyond anything he could’ve imagined.
Moving forward, Leslie hopes to specialize in the development of fine and quality dining experience throughout Malaysia, starting with making The Olive Tree Group the ultimate entertainment destination with a dedicated team who strives for perfection.
Leslie’s plan to dominate the industry has culminated in the launch of 21 outlets in just a short period of time, with a much anticipated 22nd outlet already in the works. His mission for the year is to launch a total of 25 outlets in Malaysia before expanding to new shores.
From travelling to then unknown lands to brandishing his own household name, Leslie Gomez has never been one to shy away from risk. All this made possible because he believed in one thing; do what you love and love what you do.