Written by Emanuela Lertora
Cities, hotspot, shopping mall and holiday destinations are populated by a variety of bars, restaurants and take away, from the cheapest fast food, to food chains to fine dining customers are spoiled by choices. Big chains and superstar chefs are often leading the way by embracing new trends, introducing new services and digital innovation, but how independent business can survive in this ever challenging markets? In this article we explore how innovation can help food and beverage operators to succeed in their business.
As with almost everything else, smartphones are transforming the way people are approaching bars, restaurants and takeaways. Consumers are using their mobile devices to find food apps, discover new restaurants, read online reviews, post comments about operators, reserve a table and to buy meals. Over the last few years we sow a proliferation of dining and restaurants apps which are becoming more sophisticated, and always looking to offer new propositions to consumers by offering convenience and add value. The most popular apps such as Zoomato, foodora and yelp are driving a reasonable volume of business from their platform directly to restaurants. Having captured a sizable share of the delivery business, food apps are now playing a role in restaurant reservations as well as table management, going well beyond just lead generation.
Healthy eating is another trend that is increasingly popular in the UAE. With ever-changing lifestyles and increasing health awareness, consumers are looking to eat more healthily. Over three-quarters of the KPMG 2016 F&B survey* indicated that they are either eating more healthily or at least are more health conscious.
While experts confirmed that consumers are more health conscious, operators do not think consumers’ eating choices are as healthy as consumers would like to believe. Operators believe there is still huge scope for building awareness so that consumers understand what is—and what is not—healthy.
Consumers also feel that there is a need for a wider range of healthy food options. Only a third of respondents believe there are more healthy options on menus than last year.
Both Dubai and Abu Dhabi host gastronomic extravaganzas in the cooler months that offer smaller but innovative brands and concepts an opportunity to showcase their offerings.
Operators see these developments as positive, as they give both operators and consumers an opportunity to experiment. Operators can gauge enthusiasm for new concepts without having to invest heavily in a traditional venue. At the same time, consumers can try different cuisines and formats without having to travel widely. These trends definitely help create an active interest in food. However, operators believe that food festivals will continue to be niche events, with limited appeal in the medium term. They are confident those festivals do not pose an imminent threat to the more traditional segment of the business.
In conclusion, we can state that food apps are playing an increasingly important role in driving business and transforming the way consumers interact and transact, as might be expected in a region with such high smartphone adoption. Food tech players are becoming stakeholders rather than simply generating leads, integrating themselves within the operator value chain.
Although healthy eating is growing in popularity, it is still a niche in the UAE. While the F&B industry has a key role to play in educating consumers about healthier options, they won’t have mass appeal until they can consistently match the price, taste, and convenience offered by some other formats.
*The KPMG F&B survey was conducted in the second quarter of 2016 among 840 respondents living in the UAE.