SPECIAL REPORT: Expo 2020 win to boost F&B demand

The industry's success still dependent on supplier consistency

The Expo 2020 win is cause for celebration, but how much will it really affect the F&B industry in the Emirate? (Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)
The Expo 2020 win is cause for celebration, but how much will it really affect the F&B industry in the Emirate? (Photo: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)

On November 27, 2013, Dubai was awarded the right to host the Expo 2020 after defeating Turkey’s Izmir, Brazil’s Sao Paolo and Russia’s Yekaterinburg, marking the first time the Expo will be held in the Middle East.

But what does this news mean for the emirate’s burgeoning F&B industry? InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) VP food and beverage AMEA Phil Broad said: “Expo 2020 will undoubtedly have a significant impact on Dubai’s F&B industry, as the emirate will cater for the 25 million visitors expected to visit during the six-month show starting October 20, 2020. It will encourage further diversity in Dubai’s already cosmopolitan offering of cuisines.”

In Broad’s opinion, hotels will lead the charge in catering for the many visitors. He added: “The Expo will help to attract even more leading F&B talent from around the world, eager to be part of the 2020 event and influence Dubai’s food scene.”

Abela & Co. corporate chef Colin Campbell pointed out that while the announcement is a real win for the region and a boost to the country and economy as a whole, it does not in itself directly impact the sector. He explained: “The F&B industry in Dubai post-2008 has seen a steady and near unstoppable increase in business; more hotels opening, more planned for the foreseeable future and this is the case regardless of Expo. Tourism is and always will be a major component of the regional GDP. The build up to Expo is gradual — six years — so there will be, in the long run, new projects like construction and opening of hotels. This would present new opportunities to the mass catering industry.”

JA Resorts & Hotels head chef Nicolas Smalberger said he is convinced that with the demand and influx of more people, the emirate will attract foreign investors. He said: “In 2010 the World Expo in China attracted almost 73 million additional visitors to that region in six months; I have no doubt that this will be either matched or exceeded. As the demand will grow for accommodation and places to eat, both F&B and hospitality will be main beneficiaries.”

Broad, however, is not worried about the number of restaurants that would eventually open their doors. He said: “Competition in F&B serves to drive up standards and there is always space for new restaurants and bars which bring fresh ideas, excellent food and fantastic service.”

Go to the next page to find out what our chefs think of the increased competition...

Smalberger agreed: “There is nothing like a bit of positive competition amongst market leaders to up their game and deliver better quality. While this process is in the making, it will automatically uplift standards in the market place. I also believe that the combined impact of Vision 2020 & Expo 2020 will deliver enough demand to sustain the F&B outlets that will open in the long run.”

Campbell said while there is always the risk of oversaturation, in Dubai this may be less likely given the development of the industry is not solely reliant on Expo 2020.

However, he cautioned: “The F&B industry needs to watch the industries that support their business, ie the vendors. Can they maintain product supply relative to increased demand, maintain quality, and maintain international standards of supply chain logistics? How will they cope when the surrounding waters are near overfished? How will they cope with huge increase in demand for raw materials when 80-90% of everything is already imported? Will there be a surge in the ‘fly by night’ vendor? Will we see a move to manipulate prices to capitalise on Expo regardless of actual market reality?”

Smalberger also touched upon infrastructure. “Short-term I think it will boost local establishments. If we want to prepare ourselves, we should take into account the change in infrastructure needed to supply the demand that will undoubtedly increase as the Expo approaches. Companies should consider how new establishments, stadiums, restaurants and hotels will be used once the Expo is over in order not to have a situation where there will be no use for them once the event is done.”

Campbell concluded: “Growth is not dependent on Expo alone; there is a dual-pronged approach — the event in conjunction with growth in Dubai tourism. Post Expo 2020, the boom in tourism should be sufficient to carry and hold the increased number of outlets. However, the success and failure of outlets would not so much depend on the sudden scarcity of patrons post-2020 but on their ability to consistently provide a dining experience to patrons.”

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