First, let’s start with the big news – GRIF has a new logo. The dripping purple strawberry of 2018 has been retired and we have a new candle/lightbulb, apple/pear hybrid thingy going on. You’ll have to ask their branding partner, Insignia why they seem to have such a vicious vendetta against fruit.
Anyway, GRIF Society, is the most important and complete community of industry decision makers, experts and operators on the planet. Probably. We gather for many reasons, mainly for fear of missing out, getting gossip updates on who is now working where and why they left and to see how many business cards we can collect in 90 minutes.
But we also meet to connect as an industry collective and so we met for a concise two-hour industry update at a reconfigured Westlodge restaurant at the Marriott hotel. Jennifer said it best in her intro, that these few hours are important for us to take a collective breath, look around and take stock of what the larger industry is doing. I couldn’t have said it better myself. So, how is our industry doing?
Here it is in a nutshell.
According to Muhammad Ali Syed at Mingora Consult and of no surprise to anyone in the room, the Dubai F&B market is performing poorly against a soft global backdrop. Average Dubai sales data shows a negative decline on last year, although some operators are finding ways to win. The new leaders of F&B are Marketing Directors (Something I wrote about here a while ago) and we must fight for our regular customers.
Duncan Fraser Smith and Darren Tse updated us on EXPO 2020, one of the few MENA projects that is confident enough to put an actual opening year in its title. Everything at EXPO 2020 (apart from the liquor license) is about legacy and longevity. Over 200 F&B outlets will be available for the Expo, and more importantly, there will be another mall there as well. Can never have enough malls, in my opinion.
Ronald Huiskamp from H-Hospitality took us on a quick global tour of who’s doing what and well. In Dubai, however, fine dining is dying, rent is still astronomical, profitable life cycle is between 3-4 years and we are still in love with large 170-seater restaurants for some reason. Ronald is also taking us all for lunch in Amsterdam next year.
Dubai’s finest F&B thinkers, Emma Banks, Ravi Chandran, Kieran Mallon and Andrew Morrow spoke with Naim Maadad about the Industry Think Tank Initiative they have been developing over the last year. They have established a mission statement and objectives and are finding ways to encourage honest and frank dialogue about difficult subjects. Well, Naim is, at least.
Finally, Duncan returned with Adrian Azodi from Deliveroo, who spoke about the Dark side Kitchens that are successfully bringing more food options to more people across the region, providing great partnership opportunities for many F&B operators.
We then moved upstairs to Hotel Cartagena for some networking and what happens in Hotel Cartagena stays in Hotel Cartagena. Thank you to Atelier EPJ for hosting us and on behalf of GRIF, I’m sorry we left the team of Westlodge with only about 8 minutes to put their restaurant back together before their first guests arrived. It won’t happen again.