A look inside the challenging F&B industry

by Mahak Mannan | Published 1 year ago

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BNC Publishing’s annual event, the Big F&B Forum is set to take place at Hilton Dubai, Al Habtoor City on 14 November 2018 and is expected to bring together the biggest names in the food and beverage sector to debate and discuss the trends, challenges, and future of the industry.

IMG_5808Today, the food and beverage sector in the region, particularly in the UAE can be described as a dynamic and growing industry. There are new openings almost every other day and competition is tough. Safeguarding your market share today is more difficult than ever and we rounded up the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals within the industry to discuss the trends and set the agenda for the Big F&B Forum.

The esteemed panel consisted of a mix of chefs, and leaders in the F&B sector to cover all different aspects of the industry and here is what they had to say about the current market conditions.

Ben Tobitt, group executive chef, Jumeirah Restaurant Group, Dubai: My opinion on the current food and beverage market is that it is over saturated, there is a little too much going on. The obvious intention over the next few years is for the population to increase with regards to the expo, so hopefully that will level it out a bit but currently it is probably a bit oversaturated.

Nicola Walsh, marketing manager, Jumeirah Restaurant Group, Dubai: One of the most interesting thing is that the current market has become very community focused which is a little odd as we have become very global in the way we behave either online or in travel, but as a direct result of that, neighbourhood eateries have become very important and it is really driving the trend to a people lead business, which is what it always was. We have had a period in Dubai where it has been more about the product and style over substance but now it is going more on authenticity. Experiences are going to make people return to you and it’s no more about the shiniest plate or the loveliest decoration.

John Buenaventura, founder, Cusinero Uno: I opened my own restaurant Cusinero Uno at the Steigenberger Hotel and we will be completing a year next month. The market is very saturated although as a home-grown concept we can see a bit of help from the local community, however, it is not enough to sustain us especially if we are going alone in this wild market. But we are still here and trying to do what we can, we certainly need to keep changing our game plan and strategy giving the market what they want.

Abdul Kader Sadi, managing director, Glee Hospitality: The market conditions in Dubai are extremely difficult and have been so for the past 18 months at least. This is due to a variety of reasons, there is an oversupply and a negative sentiment around town in terms of people keeping their jobs and salaries and we do also have the effect of the likes of Deliveroo and Zomato who are impacting the market greatly and then you have operators jumping on the bandwagon and saying give 50% off which creates a negative ripple effect in the business.

Carmine Pecoraro, executive chef, JW Marriott Marquis: A big oversupply now, very competitive conditions out in the market place which is also a good thing because it makes you re-think your strategies on how you get guests in your outlets and the increased competition gives you opportunities to stay ahead of market conditions. Hotel based outlets are under increased pressure as people are going for communal eateries and standalones. Hotel restaurants are keeping ahead of the trend and staying focused on their end goal which is having the demand and keeping the guest happy. Keeping residents informed with your offerings and products is important as well as giving value for money. There are so many discounts out there that is hard to keep afloat with consistent and quality product.

Rob Cunningham, vice president of food & beverage, JA Resorts: I have been in Dubai for three weeks, and on the marketplace, I would have to agree that there is an abundance of hotels and restaurants in the city. It is a unique concept for a city that predominantly invests in tourism and food and beverage. I think it always creates a unique market when there is saturation of product because then, as everyone is saying, you have to have some truth to what you are actually doing and this is where customer loyalty comes in. We are focused on re-developing our food and beverage making it more customer and community based . We want to create restaurants that people want to come to and not just have rooms filling spaces. Like any other city in the world, there are still restaurants that are filling with guests in Dubai, so the market still is sustainable if you have the right products, the right deliverables and stay true to the market.

Giacomo Puntel, director of F&B, Anantara The Palm: We always talk about oversupply, but I think oversupply is a good thing because it creates competition and gives opportunity to restaurants in Dubai to retain their customers. It is a tough market and the ones that survive deliver quality, do not compromise on team members and have a good training plan. I believe if you have the right concept and make sure you deliver what the customer expects whether it is 5-star or standalone venue, there are no problems to deliver revenues. London has about 7000 restaurants and seven million people. Here we have three million people and over 10,000 eateries. It is a good game to play with and I believe that every time we do something, we should always think what the customer wants.

Belal Kattan, executive chef, Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Media City: The trends in the country are about your concepts. Focusing and delivering the right concept is very important and a lot of trends today are going back to Mama’s food, this is what I believe it should be. Oversupply is prevalent, and it is a positive challenge to everyone.


The roundtable continues with in-depth discussion on the challenges that face today’s market. A few topics that need to be addressed and will be art of the Big F&B Forum 2018 include making the right use of customer data, how the likes of discounts and ladies nights are killing the industry, and keeping hold of the talent companies have.

Finding the right supplier to work with and sustainable sourcing will also play an important role in the agenda for this year’s forum. With the lack of local ingredients and increased demand for sustainable produce, suppliers need to up their game and product range to offer the best quality ingredients for the market.

The full agenda for The Big F&B Forum can be viewed at www.hotelnewsme.com

If you are an F&B professional working in the Middle East’s foodservice industry, register your attendance free-of-charge by visiting www.hotelnewsme.com or send your details to Mark Anthony Monzon: mark@bncpublishing.net

For speaking opportunities contact Mahak Mannan: mahak@bncpublishing.net and for commercial activities contact Samer Alloush: samer@bncpublishing.net


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