2019 Food Trends in the UAE

There are many food trends that are driving the growth of the F&B industry in the UAE. Many changes in the market are driven by millennials and beyond.

February 26, 2019

There are many food trends that are driving the growth of the F&B industry in the UAE. Many of the changes in the market are driven by millennials and beyond, generations led by experiences rather than materialistic behaviors.

It is widely known that millennials interact with the world in a much different way than previous generations and are anticipated to represent 75% of the global population by 2025. Their dining habits will play a key role in the Middle East market through the following trends:

  • Health, both their own and the planet’s is very important to them and this is why you see healthy, organic, locally sourced concepts growing rapidly
  • ConvenienceSpeed and Flexibility are also critically important for the younger generations as they live life in a fast pace. This has affected not only the foodservice world but also the office, residential and hospitality industries. It is no surprise that Food Halls are leading the way across the world of food as they offer a fast paced, ever changing, unique and local experience.
  • Technology will accelerate change and we expect big changes to come from food delivery which is estimated to grow at 13% to reach $365 billion worldwide by 2022 (source: UBS Evidence Lab, 2018). Food delivery may introduce great innovation such as robot cooks and drone delivery, in parts, replacing the need to cook or even maybe, include a kitchen at home.
  • Super-casualisation is a trend we highlighted a few years ago in the Europe and the US. We believe super-casualisation will play a key role in the Middle East in the next five years. More casual environments, service styles and dining at your convenience are, in parts, replacing the older white tablecloth three course meal experience.

There is an increase in healthier, organic and more sustainable food demand in the market. As seen above, this change is driven by the younger generations and their priorities. As millennials and beyond become the majority of the population, these requirements will become the norm. Other growing preferences in this region also include:

  • Competitive Socializing concepts: This concepts are expected to grow as people are increasingly looking for reasons to leave the house, dine, socialize and get entertained, these concepts offer all three. A good examples of this trend is ‘Wavehouse’ at Atlantis The Palm, Dubai and Flight Club in London, UK.
  • Homegrown Brands: International restaurant brands are great and there is a strong market out there, however, the “local hero” should not be overlooked as we have seen many markets become “too branded” lacking a local identity. When traveling for example, food plays a big part in experiencing each culture and it is important for each market to also have a local identity, especially in terms of foodservice which is unique to each culture.

According to the Department of Economic Development (DED), Dubai reached almost 12,000 restaurants in 2018. We saw a 10% increase from the year before and restaurant numbers are expected to grow at 8% into 2020. The expected influx of tourist from Expo 2020 will support this growing market however, we believe that an average growth of 8% is unsustainable as the market grows at a slower pace.

Moving forwards, more foodservice will not be the go to solution as it has been in the past. A strong tenant mix, well thought out strategy and the right quantum of spaces will be key for a development to be successful.