Even as we emerge from lockdown and begin to enjoy some time outside, it’s becoming clear that life will not go back to normal any time soon. By now, we all know the impact on the restaurant industry will be transformative. How this will affect each one of us and our businesses is yet to be seen but if there’s one thing we’re known for in Dubai it’s innovation and I’m confident we’ll adapt to “corona life”.
I’ve been inspired by the inventive approaches taken by restaurants around the world to stay in business and I believe we can all learn from each other.
One restaurant that got a lot of attention recently is Mediamatic ETEN in Amsterdam who are trialling a concept where customers dine in their own private greenhouse overlooking the canal. It’s a genius way to create an intimate setting while minimising contact with waiting staff. With social distancing guidelines likely to be with us for the foreseeable, we need to think about how to keep our patrons safe while still giving them a memorable dining experience. Instead of short-term ploys like introducing discounts to entice customers in, we should reinvent our offering in order to differentiate ourselves- especially since these changes are likely to be with us for some time to come yet.
And even though restaurants have begun to open again, we may not be able to rely on in-venue dining all the time. Corona life is going to be life characterised by uncertainty and if there is a spike in virus cases then restaurants may be temporarily closed. So we need to be able to pivot at short notice. At Nassau, although we have become a destination restaurant, we are also at the heart of the Jumeirah Golf Estates community. With the restaurant closed we’ve introduced a high-end Indian delivery service which has proven popular with local residents. Rather than try to produce a to-go version of my core menu, I decided to go all in for a tried and tested favourite- the Indian takeaway. This won’t be permanent but it has helped our business and allowed our clientele to get delicious food delivered to their homes safely.
Long-term, people’s eating habits will change. The virus has only reinforced what we already know to be true- you are what you eat. People’s health and diet may have suffered during the lockdown while the range of dining options was limited but I predict that the link between our food and our ability to fight off disease will begin to have an impact on people’s dining choices. At the same time, locally farmed produce is becoming more widely available in Dubai. In fact, the virus has actually led to a boost for the local food supply chain as food imports suffer due to border closures. Surely any restaurant looking to future proof itself in Dubai needs to consider how it can begin to make the most of our healthy, home grown food.
I’ve worked in this industry for more than 30 years and one thing has never changed- only the smartest and most adaptable will survive. Let’s work together as an industry, share what works and show the world we can innovate with the best.