OPINION: Farah Sawaf
Recent years have witnessed heated debates within the F&B sector about the role played by delivery. Their increasing ubiquity has led to an almost existential debate about the future of ‘brick and mortar’ restaurants. Whilst many restaurateurs long ago hopped on the delivery ‘gravy-train’, others remain unconvinced and steadfast in their belief that dining-in is nothing more than a trend that at most deserves to be paid lip-service.
Depending upon one’s perspective, delivery amounts to either a strategic opportunity to grab a hold of, or threat that needs to be mitigated. The UAE’s vibrant F&B community is at the forefront of this discourse given that per a recent KPMG report, UAE diners certainly aren’t short-changed for dining options. As a matter of fact if we are to include short-term visitors, ‘Dubai outstrips New York in terms of the number of outlets per million’. So where does this reality leave restaurateurs especially in the aforementioned ‘to deliver or not deliver’ dilemma? In many ways the UAE’s dining scene finds itself at the crossroads of an ‘adapt or die’ scenario with only the most operationally lean, most innovative and most value-adding outlets having a chance at survival. It is in this light that I would advocate delivery potentially being a critical added revenue stream at a time when diners are simply spoilt for choice.
Understandably it may not necessarily be an easy decision to adopt a delivery model, especially for the more formal of restaurants accustomed to offering both a dynamic and creative in-house culinary experience. Yet therein lies the challenge: how does a successful eatery adapt the best of its product and service offering to those diners preferring a quiet night in? Given my vantage point at Soul, I’ve come across several successes in terms of restaurateurs successfully evolving a value-adding delivery capability. You’ll find below a brief list of thoughts and observations I like my clients to keep in mind:
At the outset, empathise with your customer as many would like to enjoy your specific cuisine/brand in the comfort of their home. Consider this flattering!
Given the current economic climate, customers may want to enjoy a night out at your venue but given the level of service charges, municipal taxes and beverage prices at licensed venues; they might not be able to afford to!
Take this as an opportunity to distill your menu: offer only selected items:
Third-party delivery services such as Deliveroo have built their entire business models on the basis of offering restaurants peace of mind by enabling a comprehensive end-to-end outsourcing of the entire delivery operation.
Gone are the days when diners explore multiple nights out at restaurants each week. Generations of current as well as future diners will henceforth grow accustomed to tapping away at their phone to pick out that meal they’ve been craving (alongside that Netflix episode they’ve been looking forward to the entire day!) It is not that the time-honored ritual of dining out is losing steam (I’ll leave that debate for an upcoming article), but that we’re fortunate these days to have more ways to enjoy a great meal.
Farah Sawaf is the managing partner/founder - Soul Communications