Gunning for gastro-hub status

Ambitious approach to F&B will turn region into top destination

Moevenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach's Simone Stanco.
Moevenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach's Simone Stanco.

Ambition, vision and resources are just some of the reasons the Middle East is set to become one of the world’s great culinary destinations, according to industry professionals.

And while Dubai is currently leading the regional pack in terms of F&B, other cities are also making their mark, as Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach director of F&B Simone Stanco pointed out.

“I think the F&B scene in Dubai is very successful and has a lot of potential; it’s true that more can happen in other areas of the region, but a lot of places are moving forward,” he asserted.

Rotana corporate vice president of F&B Helmut Arthold agreed: “Dubai is definitely the centre for food and beverage in this region right now, but that’s not to say others are not keen to make their own mark — particularly the other emirates, such as Abu Dhabi, which has progressed hugely over the past couple of years.

“Doha, ‘the small Dubai’ I call it, is also seeing a lot of development,” he added.

Lebanon, Jordan and Syria were also marked out as future foodie havens, by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) vice president operations for the Gulf, Pascal Gauvin.

“The trend in Beirut for restaurants, bars and nightspots is individual and incredible; it’s probably one of the best places for nightlife in the world,” he observed. “The creativity and design you see there didn’t exist five years ago, so it’s come a long way and it’s doing something very impressive and setting trends.

“There are also some great new things coming up in Amman and Damascus — people travel more nowadays, they have experienced international life, and as a result they are developing forward-thinking concepts,” he noted.

“Overall, I think the MENA region is really catching up with the rest of the world, at a great pace.”

According to Rotana’s Arthold, the Middle East already stands out as a top gastro-destination.

“The key draw we have here is the service aspect,” he asserted. “London, Paris, all these places, they have the hardware, some incredible-looking outlets and impressive chefs. But in many instances the lack of service quality can be a problem. This isn’t the case throughout, but you pay a fortune to get decent service,” he asserted.

“Here we have a hospitality culture, we have fantastic staff — and that’s a real bonus for us.”

The Middle East’s ‘hospitality culture’ continues to have a positive impact on the F&B industry’s progress, added Fairmont Bab Al Bahr’s director of F&B, Bastien Breuer.

“Unlike North America and Europe, where hotel restaurants are not equated well to stand-alone restaurants, the opposite is true here,” he pointed out. “You’re attracting top talent to hotel restaurants, combined with extensive colleague training and award winning design teams.”

Kempinski Nile Hotel Cairo’s director of F&B, Raoul Duclos, said there were no limits to what concepts might come online in the region, since “in terms of investment, the Middle East certainly has more resources than Europe, for example”.

“There is a real desire for innovation here,” he continued. “What seems impossible elsewhere is a must in the Middle East.

“Added to that, there is a real desire to try new experiences and deliver new ways of eating, not only from the guests’ point of view but also from forward-thinking investors.”

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