Over the past 12 months, the United Arab Emirates has made remarkable strides to recover from the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, with the government taking strategic measures to rehabilitate its travel and trade sectors.
It was a turbulent start for the F&B industry as it continued to recover from the impacts of the pandemic while facing ongoing challenges from 2021, with January seeing lower performance due to restrictions around travel and dine-in capacity. As the year progressed, the continued efforts of the government to minimise restrictions and open up its travel economy led the F&B industry to see profound and far-reaching improvement.
Now, with the end of the year in sight, Dubai is one of only a handful of global cities to have remained partially free of restrictions over the past year. While the initial restrictions made it difficult for some companies to thrive, AWJ Investments experienced a productive year with a consistent growth rate of over 50% compared to 2020, whilst also meeting all financial obligations without any external capital injections.
The company’s sustained growth is a testament to its ability to adapt business focuses to meet changing market demands and leverage emerging opportunities. Specifically, the company recognized a gap in the market as the demand for delivery experienced year-on-year growth of 62% in recent years. AWJ Investment’s acumen for identifying beneficial industry trends is perfectly demonstrated by the launch of DKitchen – along with six virtual brands – an innovative dark kitchen, introducing a state-of-art contactless dispatching model.
Similar to AWJ Investment’s response, the market’s growing delivery needs to spur the opening of several cloud kitchens across the country, with brick-and-mortar restaurants also opting to provide customers with delivery options. This demand is predicted to increase in the coming year, alongside the introduction of new, creative technologies such as the use of drone delivery to enhance speed, reduce labor and minimize the margin of human error.
While the delivery model continues to grow, the desire to dine out remains a key fixture for customers, although with higher expectations as customers now seek out enhanced dining experiences. Over the course of the year, AWJ Investments undertook several measures to ensure its brands continued to deliver competitive and relevant offerings. These included upgrading venues, innovating menu offerings with new, exciting options, recruiting the best caliber of employees, investing in reliable customer service, and reflecting necessary amendments from customer feedback into business processes.
In addition to the company’s success within the region, AWJ Investments accomplished a key milestone by expanding internationally with the opening of Operation: Falafel in New York. The company also received four prestigious awards with the Group CEO, Manhal Naser, listed amongst the Caterer Power 50, Operation: Falafel chosen as the Favourite Delivery Service in the What’s On Award 2021, Awani as the Best Luxury Dining Experience in the 2021 Luxury Lifestyle Awards and Catch 22 as the Leading Homegrown Brand in Leaders in F&B Awards 2021.
Moving into 2022, the F&B powerhouse aims to take the new year by storm with a series of key launches, most notably, the opening of Operation: Falafel in London as well as driving the franchise with new locations across the US. Additionally, the company plans to further expand its virtual brands across the UAE and into Saudi Arabia, open more DKitchen locations across both countries and set up operations in Egypt.
Manhal Naser, Group CEO of AWJ Investments said: “It has been a challenging year and I am very proud of the performance of AWJ Investments. Not only have we weathered the storm, but we are also now operating stronger than ever before with a growing team of over 1,300 employees under the AWJ umbrella. Given that the F&B industry is heavily reliant on the travel sector, there are still uncertainties due to the ongoing pandemic. However, I remain optimistic about the full recovery of the industry in the coming year as more restaurants continue to work smarter by adapting to the growing delivery trend which creates less reliance on the tourist market. Additionally, with Expo 2020 and the upcoming Qatar World Cup, the Middle East is on a global stage, and we expect increased footfall to trickle down.”