The final panel debate of The Big F&B Forum delved into the cuisine trends impacting the Middle East’s F&B industry and how chefs are responding to increasing consumer awareness of provenance, sustainability and nutrition.
Panellists revealed that mid-market restaurants are the key drivers of innovation in the UAE, and that local chef talent is needed in order to push these forward.
Highlighting the increasing popularity and prevalence of mid-market restaurants, Mark Patten, senior vice president, food & beverage, Atlantis The Palm commented: “We’re seeing a switch into a lower price bracket so it’s the mid-market that seem to be flourishing because they’re offering that value-added experience.”
Colin Clague, executive chef Ruya Dubai agreed, adding that he believes fine dining restaurants are no longer sustainable in Dubai. “I can talk on this because I had Jean-Georges and the market is not there for that gourmet experience anymore other than for a birthday or a special occasion – it’s not economically sound,” he said.
The panellists agreed that the mid-market sector is at the forefront of innovation in the F&B industry in Dubai and globally.
Tomas Reger, personal chef and food consultant, Food for Thought restaurant consultancy said: “Midmarket are doing best – they are driving more change as well.”
According to Patten, giving locally-grown talent the opportunity to be creative will help Dubai’s mid-market sector to prosper, allowing the emirate to become a global trend-setter in F&B.
“I think having the talent in Dubai is important for driving that mid-market set. If we take sophisticated markets like New York and London, they have these standalone restaurants that are driving new innovative food concepts but they’re working on ways to make the products and style of the food more sophisticated whereas in Dubai we’re sticking on that main road – everyone is doing sliders or a food truck; that’s not a trend anymore. In the Middle East, it’s taking the home-grown talent and giving them a platform to be able to create a really interesting, honest approach to the food at a really top level.”
The other panelists were Gabrielle Kurz, executive wellbeing chef, Talise Nutrition, Jumeirah Group and Scott Price, chef patron, Nick & Scott F&B Design & Development.
The second edition of The Big F&B Forum, hosted by Catering News Middle East, took place on 20 September at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, with more than 200 F&B professionals in attendance.
Supporting The Big F&B Forum are some of the industry’s most influential suppliers: Al Rawdah, Official Breakfast Sponsor; Coffee Planet, Exclusive Coffee Sponsor; Banvit, Official Lunch Sponsor; Soft Drinks Sponsor, Waterfalls Brands, Support Sponsor African + Eastern and exhibitors, TSSC, Rational, Ronai, Pulsar Foodstuff Trading, Hotelity, American Garden and Quooker.