OPINION: Duncan Fraser-Smith

Our regular columnist weighs in on what trends are still going strong halfway through 2018.
Mid-market outlets, Food and beverage, Boutique f&b operations, Dining

Following on from my last column on reflections, I thought it time to look at what some of the growth areas have been over the last six to 12 months and see where people are investing their hard-earned money into this truly amazing industry that we all put our hearts and souls into each and every day.

Mid-market outlets: It’s a foregone conclusion that this is the growth area for the industry at present. Be it either from new brands being brought into the region or some amazing homegrown initiatives, mid-market offerings with great price points and compelling food and beverage offers are driving the local dining scene. This is also one area that is very difficult to saturate the market, as anything from hawker-style Korean street food to amazing wood-fired Italian pizza offerings provides us with exceptional choice. From an owner’s perspective, it is also the path of least resistance when it comes to minimal fit-out investment, and greater focus on the quality of the produce being sourced to provide that truly authentic experience.

Coffee: This one continues to surprise even me. It seems that there has been a significant investment in individual education in coffee production. I personally have met more than eight new roasters that have set up shop in the region with the core focus of sourcing the best beans from all over the world, creating their own unique blends and looking to secure representation in both mainstream and boutique F&B operations throughout the region’s dining footprint.  These coffee aficionados (and I use that term with the greatest respect to people who are masters of their chosen profession) share their passion and belief in their product and, as such, are putting the larger producers on notice. Not just with their quality, but more so with their customer service, attention to detail and commitment to excellence.


Beach clubs: A few years ago, there were probably two to three main beach clubs in Dubai that were of any true quality, both from an experience point of view as well as offering. I am not going to name them but, suffice to say, the competition has steadily grown over the last year and we are now spoilt for choice as to where to have an amazing day in the sun, listening to exceptional quality music, and dining on gourmet food offerings. I am a big believer in the beach club concept (working on one myself as we speak) but what I really like is the community it brings. I have been fortunate to go to two newer beach clubs in the past few week and to see the mix of families, millennials, and differing age groups all mingling around the pool bar or chatting and engaging has been enlightening. To the point where these outlets are proving to be the natural successor to the famous Dubai brunch on a Friday. With so much beach still available, we will certainly see more offerings in the future.

These are not the only trends I have noticed, but they are the most successful. Who knows maybe we will see a mid-market beach club with its own coffee roaster in the not too distant future.

Duncan Fraser-Smith is the director — global food & beverage for The First Group who is developing, creating and executing more than 30 new concepts to site within the company’s hotel portfolio. Email him at duncan.fraser-smith@thefirstgroup.com.

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