Dubai F&B
Dubai F&B's operators sailed through Ramadan with relative ease. Now, they will need to face up to the summer stretch. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Dubai’s F&B businesses – from fine dining restaurants to food court stalls – have been able to generate some much-needed cash flow and save on expenses during Ramadan, with authorities waiving the need for special permits and screens. With these businesses having had to combat the COVID-19 fallout for 14 months now, operating at normal service during Ramadan is vital for survival.

This was the first time that restaurants in Dubai were allowed to remain open during the day without a permit. With less than a week left of the fasting month, F&B operators look back at how the change in rules has affected their business.

“It’s been a great help to operate during the day, especially since we’ve had reduced capacity for several months,” said Sergio Lopez, CEO of The Pangolin. “Additionally, with Ramadan falling earlier each year, and the weather still being good this time of year, it has been great to be able to operate as normal, while always following government guidelines and respecting Ramadan.”

Ahead of Ramadan, Dubai’s Department of Economic Development issued a circular stating restaurants are not required to obtain a permit to remain open during the day and would also not have to screen visible dining areas during fasting hours. Although the circular came into effect from the first day of Ramadan, Lopez’s restaurant still saw a small decline at the start of the month.

“The business had a bigger dip in the first couple of weeks of Ramadan, as customers, in general, were not so sure of the rules this Ramadan compared to other years,” said Lopez.

The pangolin
Dubai waived the special permits F&B operators needed to operate during the day through the month of Ramadan.

The Pangolin is taking advantage of being open during the daytime hours by offering a summer breakfast promotion. There are also special beverage deals as well as lunch and dinner promotions that change depending on the day of the week. “We just launched a new Lazy Friday Lunch deal this month,” added Lopez

Business is steady

“With Bella being a new opening, we were worried about how Ramadan would affect operations,” said Stefano Bassanese, General Manager at Bella Ristorante. “As we had only recently launched our business lunch, we were very grateful to be able to continue operating during the day as many of our non-Muslim guests had enquired before the start of Ramadan what our working hours would be.”

According to Bassanese, their business has remained steady throughout the month. “We actually have a lot more “early-diners” who have come to Bella to end their fast,” he said.

Bella Dubai
For Ramadan, Bella is offering a five-course Iftar menu available daily from sunset priced at Dh250 per person.

“When we planned this menu, we wanted to keep our authentic Italian cuisine, but fuse it with Arabic flavours and use local ingredients to create dishes that were both traditional yet contemporary to attract the fasting customers,” Bassanese explained.

Navigate a crisis

Bla Bla, a foodie destination and beach club in JBR, has been fully booked on most days. “We are absolutely grateful to be able to operate during the day,” said Andy Erokhin, Operations Director. “We are a brand new venue and launching such a large project during a pandemic was tough enough, so being able to be in business during Ramadan was great for us.

“Because we offer so many different experiences and we’re still new to the market, we’ve been busy. The beach club is full on most days and the restaurant has seen an increase during the day with people having breakfast and lunch for business meetings and get-togethers.”

Bla bla
Daytime dining at Bla Bla has seen an increase this month, because of competitive deals.

Bla Bla’s breakfast deal is priced at Dh65 per person and includes a selection of dishes and breakfast items. “In the upcoming week, we are also announcing a new set lunch menu, which will be available during weekdays,” said Erokhin. “I think it’s important to be competitive and also to offer guests the best opportunities to try a range of the items on the menu.”

Now that Ramadan is coming to an end, F&B brands have to brace themselves for warmer temperatures – and less inclination among patrons to step out of their homes or offices. It’s always an uphill battle for F&B…