Comment: Why do we dine out?

Food writer Courtney Brandt on what will compel customers to come back to restaurants

Courtney Brandt
Courtney Brandt

I dine out. You dine out. We dine out, together. And in the second half of 2020, perhaps we’ll dine separately, or at a safe distance.

Prior to March 2020, as a society, going out to eat in the UAE was a significant part of many people’s social lives.

Regardless of culture, passport, or status, getting together to share a meal, coffee, or drink with family or friends was a relatively routine part of life.

From my first Friday brunch in Deira when I arrived in the fall of 2007, to my last pre-COVID book club at Nido, almost all of my best memories in my time in the region have happened at some restaurant or another.

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Before the outbreak of COVID and changes to how we dine out, I was going to restaurants at least twice a week for nearly three years. Add to that ordering in our household, and that’s a lot of food. (Believe me, the scales in my house agree). In my time as a food writer, I got to know the city a bit differently than others. Stepping into a new restaurant, I was always curious: what were the signature dishes? Where had the chef come from previously? Where did this restaurant fit into the market? Did I think the venue would go the distance?

From mid-March, my opportunities to dine out came to a complete stop. As I waited with the rest of the world to flatten the curve and help our first responders and health professionals battle a global pandemic, I’ve had a few months to think about why, exactly, do I go out to eat?

And there isn’t one answer.
I dine to seek out new restaurants, flavours, and talent. I go to be amazed, to try new cuisines, and then attempt to capture some of the magic on the plate with my trusty camera (and yes, this is more often than not #forthegram).

I go to celebrate with friends, to catch up with old co-workers, and to discuss novels with my book club.
I go to commemorate anniversaries, indulge in another year around the sun, or sometimes, simply because I made it through another week.

I go to see what’s in season, for the theatricality and amazement of something I am entirely incapable of producing at home, and sometimes, I dine out for the sheer comfort of the experience.

I go to support friends in the food and hospitality industry. For their efforts in the kitchen. For their training and ability to feed people with style and humility.

I go because it’s my job to write about new experiences and places.To share with others what’s available and what’s worth ordering.

There are so many reasons to go out and enjoy a restaurant, and I hope we are all able to safely leave the house to enjoy food prepared by others with confidence in the near future.

And maybe instead of taking a ride-sharing app, I’ll drive myself. And yes, it will be a while before I can go abroad to try new restaurants, but it’s my biggest hope that those venues will still be there.

Perhaps they won’t be in their original version, but that’s okay. Like so many experiences after lockdown, I’ll never take dining out for granted again.

Yes, I might not go with the same regularity, but after months of cooking for myself, I am more than ready for chefs and their teams to do what they do best.

There are so many reasons to dine out, what’s yours?

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