Mario Haddad, managing Partner Al Falamanki discusses capturing the mood of the UAE market through retail and quality food provenance
Food and beverage outlets in the UAE are contending with a busy marketplace as new venues open daily, tempting customers to try the latest and greatest. We are all focused on attracting new guests but more importantly retaining a loyal fan base, and that is no easy feat. There are several go-to-market strategies depending on the business model, which vary from deals and discounts to events and strategic partnerships. All of them have a part to play.
By bringing Lebanese concept, Al Falamanki, to the UAE, our aim was to tap into the growing “Authentic Ethnic” trend, which looks set to define 2017. The responsibility for bringing a culinary concept to a new market is as much about showcasing a way of life, as it is about highlighting quality, local producers. This will define a brand concept and encourage a loyal customer following.
There is a strong culture of dining out regularly among the local Middle Eastern population, expats and tourists who regularly travel and are familiar with different cuisines from around the world. Excitingly, the UAE is also a popular destination for intrepid Western and Asian tourists, many of whom are seeking out the ‘real’ culinary experience.
Delivering the true ethos of a menu relies on sourcing quality produce with authentic provenance. It may be harder to achieve this in the UAE than in the concept’s local market, however the effort will set a restaurant apart in a crowded marketplace.
From our research, both in the industry and among our own guests, we have seen demand for a retail strategy that drives footfall and reinforces brand loyalty. The majority of our suppliers are small, local producers from across Lebanon, many of whom create ingredients exclusively for Al Falamanki.
With the success of the brand, comes the responsibility to give back and so we have replicated this aspect of the Beirut cafe here in Dubai. It showcases and sells products under the label of the producers, allowing these businesses to gain access to the end consumer directly.
The retail element is not just a sales function. It is a natural extension of the concept since we believe that Falamanki is not just an F&B outlet but rather a way of life; a true, Lebanese experience and somewhere guests can reconnect with their roots.
Retail is an additional way to reinforce this feeling, this homecoming, whether you are part of the Lebanese diaspora or simply a patron wishing to take a slice of Lebanon home with you.
Competition in the F&B industry is fierce. In the UAE, people can quickly follow the newest, shiniest opening in town. However, if a restaurant can develop an authentic environment that envelops the guest, sparking memories of home or a past trip, this “Authentic Ethnic” will surely drive customer loyalty.