The pandemic led creative food and businesses, such as SALT, to explore new avenues of bringing joy to customers Image Credit: Supplied

The past few months have been most challenging for restaurateurs, as the global pandemic forced people to isolate for weeks at home. Lockdowns and curfews were set by governments all around the globe, and closer home, the UAE was no exception, as our leaders took decisive action to contain the spread of Covid-19.

The food and beverage industry saw an overnight transition from crowded venues full of memories and great experiences, to empty chairs and tables, as dine-in restaurants lost their spirits due to the Coronavirus. Restaurants faced a fight for survival with a total restriction on dine-in, and delivery operating at a much reduced capacity. This meant restaurateurs had to take quick action to ensure business continuity. Many restaurants pivoted to focus on fulfilling their customers’ needs through online delivery platforms, such as talabat.

On the occasion of Emirati Women’s Day, Amal Al Marri, co-owner of SALT, shares the source of her drive and creativity, especially during the pandemic. “In a blink of an eye, the world turned upside down right in front of us. We had a minute to process all our restaurants shutting down, and whatever was left of that minute, we had to come up with an action plan to adapt,” says Amal Al Marri.

She explains, “The direction that the UAE has taken to encourage entrepreneurship and creativity is incredible and it’s quite difficult not be empowered by it all. It is not just the leaders that supported and empowered us, but it is the people of this country that have shown us immense love and loyalty. This helped us through our hardest times.”

Exploring new avenues

It also led creative food and businesses, such as SALT, to explore new avenues of bringing joy to their customers. An example of this, which developed through the trend of more people cooking at home, was offering customers the opportunity to prepare SALT meals at home, delivering the required ingredients along with cooking instructions.

“We started with choosing existing items in our menus. We bought some time with these products, such as the BBQ kit- and over time learned how to create experiences at home. We were always against home delivery, so it was quite difficult to adjust to the delivery scene. We always believed you couldn’t have the full SALT experience with just the food, so we had to create products that allowed for you to create a 360 experience from the safety of your home,” she explains.

Amal Al Marri says the transition to home delivery was not the only challenge SALT faced during the lockdown, as creating those experiences required extensive research to perfect and adapt to the situation. This included adjusting how items were prepared to reach in optimum condition, and supporting the community by using local products.

A success story

She also speaks of what it means for her as an individual to have accomplished so much during their journey with SALT, becoming one the biggest success stories in the UAE. When asked about her advice to future restaurant owners, Amal Al Marri encourages them to “go for it”. She says, “it’s an insanely exciting scene to be in - but never treat your restaurant as just a space that offers food. It’s always so much more.”

“Always remember that people recognise passion. If you create something with passion, people will react with passion. It’s quite a simple formula but it does magic. Trust me,” she says.

As with SALT, the majority of the food and beverage industry put a huge emphasis on serving their customers through food delivery this year. As their partner, talabat played a vital role to ensure customers were able to safely enjoy their favourite meals from home. This meant a strong alignment had to be made on safety standards, convenience, affordability and top-notch experience.

Along with all other restaurant partners, talabat and the F&B industry found comfort in knowing that everyone was in it together, working as a community towards protecting each other, for the greater purpose of safety, business continuity, and navigating through a turbulent period.

Working as a community

COVID-19 continues to reshape the way entire industries function, and the biggest lesson that this ambitious Emirati woman showcased is that there is always room to adapt and grow. As we celebrate Emirati Women’s Day, talabat is proud of all Emirati Women accomplishments, and of their significant roles in society and economy.