The UAE and the food and beverage boom
8 May 2019

From 27 to 29 April, “The Restaurant Show” was held in Dubai, a trade fair dedicated to the entire catering supply chain, which was attended by one hundred companies including furniture, suppliers of equipment and machinery for kitchens and dining rooms, manufacturers and agro-food distributors. The event, now in its third edition, had over 5 thousand professional visitors and is considered of strategic importance for operators in the sector, considering the exponential growth that the catering industry is experiencing in the Middle East and, in particular, in the United Arab Emirates. Here the food and beverage industry is one of the fastest growing sectors: today it is worth about 13.2 billion dollars and expectations are for an annual growth rate of around 8 percent.
The boom is projected in 2020 at the Dubai Expo, with the market expected to reach 30 billion dollars thanks to the influx of about 25 million tourists who will visit the Universal Exposition. The site will host over 200 F&B stores and the event is expected to generate two billion dirhams (almost 500 million euros) in turnover for the sector, with peaks of 85,000 meals served on average per hour. Between 10 and 15 percent of F & B’s stores will remain open after the Expo as part of District 2020.
The trend, even if it will not maintain the same pace, should not stop and will be supported by the increase in the population belonging to the middle class and by young people increasingly attracted to new locations and restaurants. The systematic expansion of a multi-ethnic, young and affluent society, alongside the rapid increase in urbanization rates and the constant increase in tourist flows, will continue to drive the growth of food consumption in the UAE.
The population is expected to expand at a rate of 3 percent per year to exceed eleven million inhabitants in 2020, compared to the current 10.1 million. Especially young people and the working class are progressively developing new tastes and preferences, driving demand for processed international food. At the same time, there is a growing frequency of eating outside the home as a form of socialization and entertainment.
The local restaurant market predominantly reproduces international trends, but at a much faster pace, and is led by local operators who partner with global brands. The taste is dictated by the best starred chefs. One of the first to arrive in the Emirates was Gordon Ramsay, one of the richest and most famous in the world, inventor of the Hell’s Kitchen program. Today he is with the staff at Caesar’s Palace Bluewaters, his second location in the city in addition to the Bread Street Kitchen at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai. He arrived here eighteen years ago when he opened a restaurant at Hilton Creek. Massimo Bottura also arrived in February of this year to inaugurate “Torno Subito”, his first experience abroad, at W Dubai The Palm. The latest opening is “MasterChef, the TV Experience”, from 30 April at Millennium Place in the Dubai Marina.
Take-away and home delivery have also become more popular, driven by the marketing of online ordering platforms.
The growth of the restaurant industry should also accelerate in Saudi Arabia thanks to the change in social behavior underway. Above all, an increase in the number of chains that integrate technology with the consumer and franchising experience of global brands is expected. Many foreign investors prefer to enter the market with the help of a local player and the Saudi government has taken measures to encourage them through incentives to franchisees and franchisors. Furthermore, the food services sector is expected to grow parallel to the increase in consumer spending in the coming years, reaching approximately $136 billion in 2020.