Claudia de Brito. Claudia de Brito.

I have a list of restaurants. Sometimes I lay in bed reciting it like a food-focused Arya Stark. Some of them are based in the UAE and I base my travel around those that aren’t.

When my friend got married in Rome three years ago, I was very happy for her but I was also thrilled that I was going to be able to make a pizza pilgrimage to Bonci. I realise that this is not the norm. Especially not in Dubai where people think it’s okay to order a single bottle of water for delivery and where people won’t cross the Creek unless it’s to go to the airport.

Dukes Dubai’s executive chef, Martin Cahill echoes this sentiment in his interview (p.66) saying: “I know friends who will fly out to Napa to eat at French Laundry just because they appreciate great food. But in Dubai people don’t want to travel outside of a certain radius.”

Why? You could say it’s not in the culture but really, it’s because we’re spoiled.

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Enter dining hubs. By no means a new concept, these clusters of convenience have been rising in popularity in the UAE. From financial centres to residential areas and hotel-leased restaurant villages, a new one seems to pop up every couple of months. Abu Dhabi, as tends to be the case when it comes to F&B trends, has followed Dubai with a hub of its own. Based at The Galleria Mall on Al Maryah Island, The Dining Collection comprises the who’s who of fine dining (and casual) eateries.

Speaking to Caterer, Daniel Parry (p.60) shares the process and the intention explaining: “We set up our business model for people to come three or four times a week for different experiences and for different attractions. One night it might be a great dinner at LPM or Zuma, another day it might be a quick breakfast with a friend or a lunch experience or a shopping experience.”

We are spoilt for choice in this region. At a time when the majority of people would rather watch Netflix, and chill at home than venture out and interract with people, it makes sense to make the dining experience more convenient. At the recent Caterer Food & Business Advisory Panel (p.24), Duncan Fraser-Smith said: “Delivery is one of the things that is killing our industry.”

Convenience may be what some customers think they want, but it’s up to restaurateurs to draw them away from their screens, and out of their homes to experience real life connections instead.

Speaking of connections, Gulfood returns this month. We've collated all of the essential information so that you don't have to (p34).

See you at the show!