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Papa’s got a brand new bag – are restaurants finally fighting back?

My January media feed has been quite revealing about how 2019 is going to play out. Two things are happening that I want to comment on.

Firstly, restaurants are finally understanding the power of collaboration and experience.

Second, delivery apps are learning about the limitations they have in talking to and connecting with their marketplace.

Already in 2019, I have seen more collaboration between Dubai restaurants and chefs than I saw in the whole of 2018 combined.  It appears restaurants are finally fighting back with the biggest weapon in their arsenal – the experience.

Chef Reif has been on a mini-tour of Dubai, partnering with talented chefs in their own kitchens to bring one off exclusives events to the foodies of Dubai.  He has partnered with Chef Roberto from Waka and Craft Café, Chef Omar from Slab, the team at High Joint, Chef Luigi at Akiba Dori and the guys at Roti Rollers.

I asked Reif why he has embarked on this little food tour.  He explained to me that it was partly to remind his followers that he is still alive and cooking, but also to work with home grown brands, give motivation to a slow market, and provide some inspiration to his fellow chefs. According to Reif, it’s not about ego, but about sharing knowledge, pushing boundaries to do what they love to do and to share it with the people of Dubai.  If that’s not inspiring enough, part of the sales of these events are going to Chef Reif’s foundation that supports a school for children in Zanzibar.

Foodiva has reformatted her dine around dinner event and is collaborating with Nick and Scott from Folly et al. Chef Alex from BB Social and Chef Matt from Boca Dubai all in one kitchen, serving one delicious experience.  Chef Matt is also collaborating with Bahraini chef, Tala Bashmi at Boca for one night only.

Pitfire Pizza and Sticky Rice are mashing together their cultures to create something special and unique for their communities and Chef Mohammad Orfali and Tom Aikens are partnering up with an East meets West collaboration at Pots Pans & Boards.

I’m even getting in on it – I mixed a BK Whopper with some MaccyD fries the other day. What a time to be alive.

Jokes aside, this is super encouraging and shows the resilience and determination that the restaurant industry is known for.   Perhaps finally our restaurateurs are understanding where their strengths are; in storytelling, experiences and community.

On the other hand, January has also shown off the glaring weaknesses of the third-party delivery apps.  Over January, at least four times per week, I received push notifications for discounted delivery meals.  Get 10% off your next order.  50% off up to 20 Dhs.  Use code Eat50 for an additional 50% off.  When trying to stimulate their audience, all they have to offer is bulk discounts and brand dilution.

So, here’s the thing – when properly motivated, restaurants are exceedingly powerful.  They can stir emotions, create memories and inspire communities with flavours, stories, textures and tastes.

All the delivery apps can do at the moment is to offer discounted poke bowls and hope Netflix drops another TV series.

Ding Ding – round two.

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