Farah Sawaf. Farah Sawaf.

Having been part of the F&B game for close to a decade, I have had the privilege of participating in more than my share of successes and failures, challenges and opportunities, and everything else in between. Experience has taught me that a sprinkling of creative thinking combined with passionate effort will inevitably result in positive and progressive decision-making. The fact of the matter is that the UAE’s hyper-competitive F&B space makes survival – let alone sustainable profitability – virtually impossible unless operators continue to innovate their value propositions.

Call them stereotypes, business clichés or what have you, most of us have preconceived notions of how our industry operates and thus, how we ought to shape our businesses.

A few of the most common F&B generalisations include, ‘It’s summer, everyone’s out of town’ or ‘The weather’s great outside, who wants to be cooped up in a restaurant without outdoor seating?’. Another of my favourites is that ‘a venue ideal for a business lunch will certainly not appeal to those on the lookout for a family brunch’. To all of us – and I include us all since we’ve all been guilty of stereotyping –  I would advocate always keeping an open mind to evolutions in our business and service models that at first may sound outlandish, but upon deeper consideration, may appeal greatly to your identified customer profiles. Always remind yourselves why you established your business in the first place: because you were confident that your version of dining would be different; hence more appealing, than the hundreds of other options out there. Think back to that moment. What was it that made you invest a substantial of your hard-earned time, effort and money into this operation? Was it a mere dream, or a more concrete realisation that your business, your innovation, would be the solution to that long unfulfilled ‘niche’ you first identified?

By definition, to innovate, is ‘to make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.’ With that being said, the easiest innovations are those right in front of our very eyes i.e. those that are oriented around listening to the voice of the guest. Guests are often much simpler than they appear and whilst we may get caught up in the complexities of implementing an effective cross-marketing plan or a sophisticated new menu, the fundamental innovation that operators continue to disregard is that of putting themselves in their clients own shoes.

Stereotypes are there to be broken, but they are not for the faint of heart. As an avant-garde nation, the UAE’s F&B space offers us the freedom to continually push the proverbial envelope, if only we choose to do so through our client’s perspective.

Farah Sawaf is the managing partner of Soul Communications and founder of culinary website cookingwithamanicure.com

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