F&B industry
Yes, the recovery is on for UAE's F&B sector, but that should not lead to an immediate rush of new openings. Image Credit: Pixabay

Dubai: The food and beverage (F&B) sector is primed for growth in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, according to a new update from the property consultancy JLL. But that is not the same as saying there is space for more restaurants.

“While we anticipate that demand for F&B will increase across the UAE, this does not necessarily mean that there will be a need for more restaurants to open,” said Alexis Marcoux-Varvatsoulis, Foodservice Consulting Lead at JLL MENA. “Rather for the existing ones to re-invent themselves and for some to re-locate to newly created higher-populated residential or business areas to capture demand within those localities.”

JLL said Dubai ranked highest in terms of the largest number of outlets per resident and the most variety in terms of categories and available cuisines.

Path to recovery

Projections from Euromonitor, the retail focused consultancy, shows that the UAE’s consumer food service industry will largely reverse the contraction seen last year by posting strong growth over 2021-2023 – predicted to be around 26 per cent. JLL’s report highlights that in the early part of this forecast period, the hosting of Dubai Expo 2020 is anticipated to provide a fillip to the emirate’s consumer foodservice activity as both tourism and business travel bounce back.

JLL has examined the F&B industry trends that are set to lead the way:

Local brands go international

When the foodservice market was in its relative infancy, international brands were imported to the UAE. However, as Dubai’s F&B sector has matured, an increasing number of home-grown brands have been developing. This includes companies such as Orange Hospitality, Solutions Leisure, Gates Hospitality and others, which “continue to refine their own concepts”.

Experiential dining

‘Dinnertainment’ is a concept where F&B and entertainment are merged within a destination outlet. Traditionally in the UAE, the ‘dinnertainment’ market has been dominated by restaurants focused on children’s entertainment. By comparison, dinnertainment for adults typically existed in the form of table and live music.

However, the UAE has seen an increase in interactive licensed dinnertainment concepts where diners can take a break from the dining table to engage in activities such as bowling, electronic gaming, etc. While dinnertainment remains a relatively new concept, it will invariably continue to develop across both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, especially since dining is increasingly becoming a social occasion.

Food halls

Currently, six food halls are operational within Dubai and one is under development. Abu Dhabi is also starting to adopt this concept; one is currently trading and another one is due to begin operating in the near future. Two other food halls – the locations of which remain confidential – are also set to open in the country by 2023.

Although interest in developing this type of F&B is growing, tenants will have to differentiate their offerings from existing or upcoming competitors – especially as this dining concept continues to gain in popularity. In the short to medium-term, JLL expects more food halls to be delivered across the UAE given the success they have generally enjoyed so far.

“In the longer term, we expect to see the appearance of ‘local’ driven, stand alone, developments that will act as social hubs for a community,” the JLL official added. “These will not only be unique to each city, they will promote its local talent and drive awareness of new and exciting concepts.”