Manhal Naser, CEO & co-founder of Dubai-based food and beverage holding company, AWJ Investments shares his top F&B trends for 2016.
Trend # 1 – The complete dining experience
When diners decide they want to eat out, they are looking for a complete dining experience. In the culinary world, this is all about the ambience, entertainment and décor offered by the restaurateur. From creative décor of handcrafted ceramics to live entertainment, diners will seek an experience that will be remembered long after the last morsel food is gone. This is where those stylistic creative flourishes come into play: table setting details, fresh flowers, bottles as décor and even music. As much as customers value food quality, a restaurant offering a unique experience will be a crowd pleaser.
Trend # 2 – Diverse and cultural connections
2016 will see an expansion in the delivery of different heritage cuisines. Consumers are no longer tied down to their local restaurant, but are willing to explore and try new places that offer cultural cuisine coupled with the perfect ambience.
Trend # 3 – The fusion revolution
Diners are always on a culinary quest for the next interesting taste that will enrich their palates. With the advent of the internet, consumers are more knowledgeable and curious about the different foods available and are more than willing to taste the next fusion creation. While some may see this as a loss of authenticity, others have embraced ethnic ingredients like soy sauce, jalapenos, chili and hummus. These ingredients have even become household staples, facilitating fusion cuisine’s popularity with diners.
Trend #4 – Digital technology drives food preferences
Unsurprisingly, technology has infiltrated the dining scene. An increased smartphone penetration in the Middle East has made it possible for restaurants to build delivery fleets at a fraction of the cost incurred previously. As technology evolves to enable consumers to track food deliveries by the minute, this will soon be the norm in 2016. In addition to tracking food deliveries, consumers have come to expect connectivity attached to their dining experiences – be it the ability to order restaurant delivery with a smartphone app, check in online on social media, or review menus and make reservations online.
Trend #5- Smart-casual dining
Smart-casual dining is a concept that has been gaining popularity every year. These restaurants offer the quality of fine dining combined with the speed of fast food, at affordable prices. The simplicity, taste and affordability will make smart casual dining more popular this year for consumers.
Trend #6 – Food Trucks on the rise
Food trucks are a trend catching on in the region. Most food trucks started out serving just sandwiches and burgers for consumers on the move. Today, more sophisticated foods are being added. Gourmet food trucks are starting to appear as part of the evolution of the new culinary trend.
Trend #7 – Scrambling for clean menus
A greater awareness of healthy eating is changing the eating and shopping habits of consumers in the Middle East. Consumers say they are now more health-conscious when they buy, taking more care to read nutrition labels and seek out products with health benefits. They also want food labelling to be much clearer. There is a constant need for balance between selecting food that is fresh and healthy versus food that is tempting and exciting. With more and more consumers gravitating towards health claims of natural, organic, whole-wheat and gluten free, healthy dining will be a key driver for people dining out. Vegetable side dishes will be the hero plates of 2016.
A full interview with Manhal Naser, CEO and co-founder of AWJ Investments will feature in the February 2016 issue of Catering News ME.