Riyadh doesn’t need alcohol to rival Dubai in F&B: Marriott’s Christian Abell

He also explains why F&B businesses that rely on alcohol sales might have to rethink their strategy

Marriott’s vice president of F&B, Christian Abell
Marriott’s vice president of F&B, Christian Abell

Marriott’s vice president of F&B, Christian Abell believes that Riyadh doesn’t need alcohol to rival Dubai’s F&B sector.

In a previous chat with sister-title Caterer Middle East, Abell said that Riyadh could soon rival Dubai and he stands by it.

Speaking exclusively to Hotelier Middle East, he explained what works well for Saudi’s capital city, he said: “What I like about Riyadh is that they have no preconceived notion about what a restaurant should be, so innovation comes forward.”

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Abell points out that despite a lack of bars that serve alcohol, tea bars in Riyadh are doing very well. “There is no alcohol in Saudi, but their tea bars are doing good business. They’re making teas and drinks with different syrups, sugars and essences but it has got the same vibe of a bar.

“I don’t think we can pull that off anywhere else. Here we actually rely on alcohol to do the job and that’s the difference,” Abell said, while adding, "Riyadh doesn’t need alcohol to rival Dubai".

Abell points out that there have been several studies that show millennials these days, even in markets like Dubai and San Francisco, are consuming less alcohol.

“So things are changing, but if you’ve got a bar or restaurant that relies on alcohol to get business, then you might want to rethink your business,” he added.

Speaking about why there’s a lot of diversity in the country’s F&B Abell said, “Many Saudis travel around the world and they see different things and want them back home. But they know that comes with restrains so they re-invent them and it works well.”

Challenges Riyadh’s F&B sector could pose
Abell is positive about the scope for F&B in the kingdom. “I’m very excited about places like Riyadh and Jeddah. But the challenge would be to make sure that we’ve got enough hotel schools and training to support all the changes that are happening in the country.”

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