‘Sustainability’, ‘Less Waste’, And ‘Curated Experiences’ – Dubai’s Industry Leaders Weigh In On Their…


Naim Maadad, Founder of Gates Hospitality

  • During Dubai Food Festival 2022, some of the industry’s highest profile chefs, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders outline their thoughts on what’s next for an ever-evolving industry, and what are the major trends to expect during the next 12 months, and beyond.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates-: To mark the end of the ninth edition of Dubai Food Festival (DFF), organisers spoke to some of the city’s leading industry figures – from entrepreneurs and proprietors, to award-winning chefs, to senior level hospitality executives – to get their take on what trends they think will dominate Dubai’s culinary scene during the next 12 months and beyond.

A few key themes were repeated – more sustainability and reduced food waste – as well as some bold predictions for Dubai’s homegrown brands making more of a splash on the world stage, and a tilt further towards more curated experiences:

Akmal Anuar, Chef-Proprietor, White Rice

“The pandemic has brought a ‘new normal’ to Dubai’s food and beverage scene. More home-grown brands have sprung up and the bar is being raised to provide the most amazing guest experience possible.

“With consumers being more informed, they are drawn toward only the best places and with a large number of restaurants opening, finding the right niche is the only answer to this survival of the fittest.

“At the same time, responsibility toward the planet, sustainability and being low waste is important. All my restaurants now use compostable takeaway ware and we believe in using every part of our fresh produce to achieve as little waste as possible. Small steps count but this eventually adds up.

“I would like to see Dubai restaurants raise the bar even higher in gastronomy where chefs are also owners driven by their philosophy and adding variety and diversity to restaurants in this city.”

Samantha Wood, founder of restaurant review website FooDiva.net, and curator of dining experiences.“The Dubai restaurant scene has finally matured with homegrown, independent and chef-led restaurants overriding imported concepts – all thanks to the pandemic’s support local movement. One-off exclusive dining experiences, pop-ups and at-home supper clubs are hugely popular speaking to the pent-up demand for socialising and experiential dining.

“Value for money has become a crucial factor when selecting where to dine out. Looking ahead (in my crystal glass!), the arrival of various international restaurant guides and lists will put the pressure on three aspects – an elevated food experience with the rise of tasting menus and more creative cooking; delivering more consistency; and out-of-the-box F&B activations.”

Sultan Eats, Food Blogger

“More and more people are looking for alternative ways to elevate their dining experiences. With a ‘less is more’ approach in mind, I believe that bakeries will undergo a real renaissance in the UAE, as people once again appreciate the immediate satisfaction of rich buttery textures, flaky crumbs and those ever-so-nostalgic aromas of freshly baked goods.”

Heinz Beck, Chef-Proprietor, Social by Heinz Beck
“The gastronomy world has changed a lot during the past years and our needs are transforming with it.

“Nowadays, in addition to the management of the restaurant in all its aspects; we, as chefs, must focus on training new generations of professionals and raising awareness about new topics, such as sustainability and health in the kitchen. I strongly believe that food is a vehicle of prevention; if we eat responsibly, with the right attention, it becomes a decisive factor in the quality of life and in many other aspects of it.”

Emma Banks, Vice President, F&B Strategy & Development, Hilton, EMEA
“Sustainability is top of mind for today’s guests and is becoming increasingly important. I believe that sustainable dining will be a key talking point this year, which I hope will advance the conversation about the ways we can all work towards reducing food waste and sourcing more local produce to cut our sector’s carbon footprint. Hilton looks forward to welcoming guests during the festival and serving great dishes made from locally grown products – which we source through our partner, Fresh on Table.”

Samer S. Hamadeh, Founder of Aegis Hospitality
“First and foremost – this is going to be year that Dubai-made brands go global like never before; the culture of importing is slowly being replaced by the culture of creating and I see many brands, not just mine, that have the potential to go global. 

“Dubai restauranteurs were among the toughest on the planet during the pandemic; while other cities were shutting down & quite literally embracing an “end of the world” narrative, our industry doubled down on developing new concepts in Dubai – so I see that coming into fruition over the next year with some amazing new homegrown brands coming into existence.

“I also see delivery-only brands coming out of the dark (kitchens) after realizing that customers want ‘experiences’ not just convenience, so I expect more food hall-style concepts that combine delivery with dine-in; and finally a LOT more sustainability-led design/execution.”

Naim Maadad, Founder of Gates Hospitality
“In the restaurant world, collaboration happens all the time and Dubai no different. In recent months we’ve witnessed some of the best local talents combine forces to create culinary masterpieces and now, more than ever, we’re seeing a rise in supper clubs, Homegrown brands and regional success stories.  It’s breading a new generation of entrepreneurs and chefs who saw opportunities born out of the pandemic and capitalised on the same.

“Creativity, quality, innovation, style, design and authenticity of the dining scene in Dubai has really become second to none and is leading from the front creating ample opportunities and putting the city on the global gastronomy map.”

Reif Othman, Founder & Owner, Hotaru Holdings
“I see four key dining trends emerging at the moment in Dubai. The rise of beach clubs with in-house restaurants bringing coastal dining to the fore, and more food hall type concepts. In terms of cuisine categories, I am often approached to consult on pizza concepts, and contemporary Chinese. With the latter, there’s definitely a market gap here.”

“Looking ahead with the Michelin Guide’s arrival and its fervent focus on food, we will see a return to fine dining and tasting menu concepts, as well as smaller, independent chef-led establishments. The broader Asian cuisine category will always be popular, however over the next year Korean restaurants in particular will start taking their share of the dining landscape.”

For more information and a full update on DFF activities, please visit www.dubaifoodfestival.com and @dubaieats on social media channels.