Dubai: Performances aren't dead. They're out to dinner!

Dining out is no longer just about food and beverages, it's about booking yourself a front row seat for a fabulous show


Purva Grover

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Published: Sat 27 Aug 2022, 9:16 PM

Last updated: Sat 27 Aug 2022, 9:19 PM

A brand-new way of dining is here. Dinner shows are booming. For the uninitiated, these are hosted at restaurants and largely feature jazz gigs, light musical acts, acrobatic performances, et al.

People can have a meal, order a beverage and watch a show—all under one roof, at one price. No, performances aren’t dead? They’re out to dinner.

“Dinner shows throughout the world have stood the test of time. In Dubai, such acts/shows have really taken off post-pandemic.

The F&B industry is continuously evolving and requires one brave entity to provide a unique experience that captures the attention and soon it becomes the norm,” said Ramesh Dahal, general manager, Jass Lounge.

What’s so appealing about dinner shows?

“Whether dining out or shopping, it can be delivered right to your doorstep. While we recognise that specific segments within the dining industry can’t simply be replaced through delivery, more and more people are getting used to ordering in and enjoying their meals in the comfort of their homes. Our priority will always be food, but to adapt to today’s mindsets, we felt we had to add something that would differentiate us from the others,” said Sam Chercoles, director, PLAY Restaurant & Lounge, The H Dubai. PLAY was one of the first to introduce the concept in the UAE and launched their first show on New Year’s Eve 2019. The show features fabulous performances by percussionists, violinist, vocalists, dancers, et al.

He added, “We believe dining out needs to be an experience, and that’s where the entertainment comes in. When you think about it, we are going back in time and taking things back to the roaring 20s and speakeasies; to a time where dinner and a show went hand in hand and was the norm.”

And the golden rules include

“Timing is key – ensure that the service ties in with the entertainment as you don’t want guests to be served food mid-spectacle. It makes things messy, causes interruption and overall makes the service look sloppy,” said Brendan McCormack, vice president, The First Group, Food & Beverage. At their outlet Sante Ria, Jumeirah Village Circle, the singers are in full Latino regalia, and the audience is encouraged to get involved with maracas to ensure that the guests are at the centre of the entertainment, “Almost as if it is a personal show for them, which they too are a part of,” added Brendan. “Our guiding principle is an unending passion for food, drink, and entertainment. The dining experience and the show go hand in hand; without exquisite food, the show would be meaningless, and vice versa,” added Sam. Most of PLAY’s guests are expats, but they do welcome GCC and Middle Eastern guests. Ramesh said, “As part of creating the experience; the beverages, the bar bites, and the ambience must be spot on. An important factor is, of course, the musical performance.” He aptly warned, “Guests are there for entertainment, they want to immerse themselves in the ebb and flow of the music. Getting the right balance of hosting, while not interrupting the performance for the guest, is pivotal to a successful evening.” Jass Lounge, a hidden gem that seats just 45 people, showcases the best bands and performers in an interactive manner. Here, on classic jazz days - mostly couples drop by; on funk jazz and blues nights - groups sing along with familiar grooves; and for Latin nights - Latin people and genuine Cuban culture lovers celebrate the art.

How much does one pay to watch, eat?

At PLAY, they claim to have kept the pricing as close to the average spend of a luxury dining establishment as possible, “We don’t turn away anyone. To balance that level of customer service between guests who have reserved in advance and guests who show up last minute, we sometimes have to keep a minimum spend to manage things more effectively,” added Sam. In Dubai, the price for a show/musical act fluctuates depending on the performance and/or venue, “During the weekends, we do allocate a minimum spend per table. However, the customer is guaranteed a wonderful musical experience with zero entry fee too,” added Ramesh. At Sante Ria too, the team doesn’t believe in guests having to pay more for entertainment – it’s a part of the experience. Brendan suggested how dining out is no longer just about the food and drink, “It’s about the vibe, the ambience – and creating memories and experiences. Since the reopening of venues, in a post Covid-19 world, there has been a real trend for acts/shows. Not only because after a tumultuous few years, audiences are eager to let their hair down, but also because competition has been stiffer than ever before. One needs that ‘X’ factor to draw in the crowds. It’s a trend that is definitely set to stay.”

Is the food customised to the act or vice-versa?

At Jass Lounge, the beverages compliment the tones of the music played and are named after iconic jazz musicians, songs and terminology. “For instance, we have Django, named after the infamous Django Reinhardt, one of the first major jazz talents to emerge in Europe,” added Ramesh. “We are a restaurant foremost. Yes, we do have a few dishes that complement the entertainment, created as a form of art; which we often refer to as “emotional dining,” said Sam. The food at Sante Ria is a melting pot of Latino cultures, and the entertainment has been created to amplify this and brings to life the South American and Peruvian vibes reflected in the menu.

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