I saw a post on Linkedin for a restaurant in Dubai that was boasting three Michelin Stars without even being open yet. There are so many things wrong about that, and it made sucha powerful impact on me, that I did the biggest u-turn on subject matter since Alexis Tsipras of Greece promised his people no more austerity measures.
You see, I was going to write a delightful piece of the positive progress of the industry and how the Dubai restaurant scene was becoming a respected destination on the internationalstage. But yet, to further irate my creative juices, at a recent awards show, there was a club nominated for an award, even though they were only due to officially open the followingweekend. In a more mature market, these sorts of outrageous claims and suspicious nominations would light up the twitter sphere faster than the horsemeat in beef-burgers.
However, here in Dubai, the market is awash with these fantastical claims of grandeur that take the essence of “mistruths” and often move quite boldly into the world of falsity anddeceptiveness.
Although there isn’t a legitimate authority to challenge these claims, furthermore, there isn’t a media or crowd pressure willing to question or expose these establishments in anysignificant capacity, why do establishments feel the need to partake in this behavior?
If one is claiming three stars, you are obviously targeting a fairly affluent individual who in every likelihood is probably rather travel and restaurant savvy. Imagine what damage youwill do, once your customers learn that the closest any Dubai restaurant has been to a Star is when Kim Kardashian opened the Millions of Shakes in Dubai Mall. And I use the word“Star” loosely and definitely on purpose.
What we are basically talking about is a very imbalanced sense of entitlement by many of the operators. There is a quite ridiculous and somewhat immature expectation thatsuccess, acclaim, awards and profit should be directly and proportionately linked to total money spent on fit out, caliber of celebrity endorsement, relation to media publications andmost attractive, overpaid staff.
A restaurant should rely on three basic things – food, service and atmosphere. This is your holy trinity, and one must beware of false idols. A custom-made bar from the samemarble as Michelangelo’s David does not guarantee the best cocktail. The waitress who was a Russian catwalk model does not guarantee the best service. And, I hate to say it, butan array of industry awards, definitely does not constitute an award-winning destination.
Instead of spending considerable amounts of money on stunts like delivering your food to a beach via helicopter, savvy, relevant establishments are spending that money as aninvestment into the quality of their ingredients. They are investigating the technological advances that allow evolution and growth. They are not wasting resources and damagingcustomer trust by making false claims and inventing fabricated validations.
So, until our industry understands the consistency, the expertise and the hard work that turns a simple food establishment into an iconic restaurant that is truly worthy of a MichelinStar, my original article will remain unwritten.
However, had I embarked on my original subject matter; you would be reading about the growing interest in home-grown concepts, the improvement in local innovation andexperimentation by operators. I would be bragging about the willingness of the customers to engage and support hard work and local initiatives. I would be boasting about the subtlebut very real, rising levels of interest from Emirati operators breaking into the industry. I would be proudly telling you that Dubai is being quoted alongside places like London andNew York when experts talk about international markets. I would be ecstatically announcing the growing competence and professionalism of the chefs and operators. But as youremember, I made a rather rash and impulsive decision to discuss the exact opposite of this.