Diners in the UAE are increasingly looking for quality meals that will not burn holes in their pockets Image Credit: The Crab Market

How much do you think the average Friday brunch in Dubai costs? If you guessed Dh500 a head, guess again. With a little help from an app or two, it’s easy enough to halve the price, as I discovered recently. A few Fridays ago, my friend Letty D’Souza pulled out her mobile phone and clicked open an app before calling for the bill. Another friend at the table followed suit — and soon we were only paying for two meals instead of four.

“I never used to use vouchers before,” Letty, a successful entrepreneur, told me afterwards. “But the market being what it is, it’s an economical way to entertain friends and families.” I suddenly felt less guilty about allowing her to pay.

Brunching in Dubai is cheaper than ever — and while some restaurateurs may crib about them in private, discount vouchers and two-for-one deals on apps such as Zomato or The Entertainer bring business through the door when increased competition or an uncertain economic situation might keep customers away.

Danelle Ruth Palang, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Dusit Thani Dubai, says third-party promotions are a business development proposition. “Yes, we are currently working with third-party marketing platforms to promote our new Friday brunch on the 24th floor,” she says. The Dusit Thani Dubai Friday Brunch is available from Dh299 per person inclusive of soft beverages. “These platforms have been instrumental in creating awareness about our new offerings,” she says.

Jan Hollunder, Executive Assistant F&B Manager at The Meydan Hotel, has lived in Dubai for close to 13 years and believes UAE residents are now more value-conscious than ever — and not just at brunch. The trend gathered momentum over the recent festive season, where numerous four- and five-star hotels dropped their F&B rates to secure their share of revenue, he tells GN Focus.

“I would say that the overpricing tendency that some of the hotels and dining outlets have been following in the past is definitely over. A value-for-money trend has grown as a high percentage of Dubai residents plan ahead, compare prices and look for the deal that combines best quality with highest standard at a cost-effective price.”

An increasing number of F&B outlets in the UAE — 1,109 new venues opened their doors in 2018, taking the overall tally of restaurants and cafés in Dubai to 11,813 as of December, according to the Department of Economic Development — means businesses need to up their game to stay relevant. Oleksii Kolomiiets, General Manager at the Crab Market in DIFC, says restaurants are adapting as quickly as they can. “The trend of massive spending has passed and now diners are looking for a quality meal that will not burn a hole in their pocket, therefore restaurateurs are coming up with different theme events, set menus and offers to entice [new] business.”

Focusing on added value

The rise of the party brunch — with live entertainment and raucous dancing — is one way for venues to stand out. At the Cavalli Club, Sunday evenings are where it’s at. Its Anonymous Sunday brunch includes unlimited food and drinks for Dh299, with singers, dancers and acrobatics entertaining the crowd. “After brunch, the sparklers come out and the partying really begins — it’s a fantastic night,” says Hayan Abou Assali, General Manager at Cavalli Club Restaurant & Lounge.

Palang agrees; her Another Bar venue will soon launch its own party brunch.

The Crab Market, meanwhile, has both music and a magician on the more traditional Friday afternoons; packages start at Dh249 and the restaurant has partnered with The Entertainer. Or there’s the straightforward play for your pocket. With so many restaurants, it isn’t hard to find unlicensed food-only packages at under Dh100. Across its four Dubai venues, the Rove Hotels group’s Bench Brunch comes in at a mere Dh99 – with a straight-up two-for-one deal for a limited time listed on its website.

The best value, though, is when you can dine for free. On Friday March 1, Trader Vic’s JBR promises to feed anyone born in March for free at its Cheeky Tiki Friday birthday brunch. Those born in other months pay Dh350 — or look for a restaurant that accepts vouchers.