One of the biggest challenges facing the region’s food service industry is not the competition from a “crowded space” but a resurgence in people staying home and taking enjoyment in cooking their own food, Stavik Jaitly, consultant, Frost and Sullivan, told attendees at day three of the Gulfood Innovation Summit 2021.

In a thought-provoking session titled ‘Hospitality & Food Service in GCC: Ready for the Boom After the Bust’, Jaitly acknowledged how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how the industry operators, with border closures, supply chain disruptions, reduced purchasing power and technology integration, all now key drivers. However, pandemic-enforced lockdowns, according to Jaitly, have created a bigger challenge for the industry.

“Oversupply has to be looked at seriously for sure; the clustering of food delivery options, it is a crowded space,” said Jaitly. “[However] the big rival for a restaurant is not another restaurant, it is retail. During lockdowns, consumers realised how interesting it is to cook their own food.

“The traditional distribution of HORECA versus retail is set for a big shift. Eating out will still be popular but we need to look at how restaurants are going to retain people, when they are presented with a ready to eat meal against that popularity of getting the ingredients and cooking the meal themselves.”

Jaitly also said the food service industry must address food wastage, while cloud kitchens are the “saviour” to help boost efficiency and reduce overheads.

HONESTY AND OBJECTIVITY KEY TO ENGAGING CONSUMERS

F&B content creators have a responsibility to remain objective and “not insult the food intelligence” of consumers if they are to play a part in helping the food and restaurant industry thrive in the new normal.

That was the view of Adrian John, COO, Lets DXB & co-founder – Mr and Mrs Brunch, during his session ‘Tapping into Passion to Capture Enthusiasm for Apps and Social Media’ at the Gulfood Innovation Summit.

John, who documents his journey around Dubai’s F&B scene, said: “We have a responsibility. We have to be objective and tell an objective story. Nothing tells a story like nice plate of food, but you have to be relatable.

“People have more choice than ever before, but they know what good value is. People are really clever, and the moment we take away their food intelligence it is a slippery slope.”

In addition to giving consumers valuable insight into where to go and what to eat in Dubai, John said Lets DXB works with restaurants, chefs and F&B managers to better understand shifts in consumer behaviour so they can stay relevant.

“We have great technology that can tell when people are using the app and availing the offers. We work with our industry counterparts so they can see when the optimum times people are coming, when they are busiest and what they need to do to increase footfall. We have an amazing food community here,” he added.

YOUNG DINERS ARE KEY FOR RESTAURANT SUCCESS

“Young diners are the most important. They have impressionable minds, so you have to appeal to them,” said Michelin Star Chef Vineet Bhatia at the Gulfood Innovation Summit.

“There is so much knowledge out there, we are aware that we have to keep up with the trends. Social media plays a huge part. As well as a chef, you have to be a businessman,” said the Indian culinary titan. “Let people take as many pictures as possible.”

However, he urged restauranteurs to remember their food is only a small part of a successful strategy: “Ambience and service are key and must remain this way.”

 

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