Business & Technology Review

The grub hub

Filed on May 24, 2021

Didier Souillat, CEO of Time Out Market Dubai, gives insights on the home-grown culinary brands in the UAE and how the company is helping the field evolve

Time Out Market is the world's first food and cultural market rooted in editorial curation. The flagship market launched in Lisbon in 2014 and swiftly became one of the city's biggest attractions, welcoming 4.1 million visitors in 2019. In the same year, we opened five further Time Out Markets in Miami, New York, Boston, Montreal and Chicago, followed by Dubai in 2021 with Porto, Prague and Abu Dhabi in the pipeline.

As the only international media brand with hyper-local expertise, Time Out Media is able to capture and showcase the diversity that represents each city through curated chefs, restaurateurs and unique cultural experiences. Time Out Market amplifies the content, bringing it to life for consumers to experience the best of the city under one roof.

How has the gastronomy scene in the UAE evolved?

The UAE's gastronomy scene is one of the most dynamic in the world and eating out is ingrained in the DNA of the city. In fact, Dubai ranks third in the world for dining out spend per capita after London and Paris. Whilst the appetite for dining has always been present, the demand for cuisines and culinary experiences has evolved greatly over the past five years as consumer's tastes evolve and expectations get higher.

Dubai now boasts more than 200 cuisines in the city. At Time Out Market Dubai, we are one of the only destinations to be able to offer an incredible array of options, allowing a diverse mix of cultures to come together to enjoy a meal suited to their tastes and dietary requirements. 

How is the UAE growing as an incubator for home-grown restaurants?

Whilst there aren't any official figures on the make-up of Dubai's restaurant scene, from experience I can confidently say that the home-grown sector has expanded exponentially over the past few years. We have been working on the launch of Time Out Market Dubai for over four years now and in that time, the pool of local partners to collaborate with has grown two-fold. From Emirati cuisine to fine-dining Japanese and the best burgers in town - we were able to showcase 17 of Dubai's greatest chefs and restaurants all under one roof. The potential of Dubai's home-grown talent lies in the 200 plus nationalities that call this city home, meaning that there is an abundance of cuisines to explore - this makes it a very exciting culinary destination.

How did the pandemic affect home-grown businesses?

There is no doubt that the pandemic affected the food and beverage industry greatly, as restaurants were forced to close and consumers were encouraged to stay home and order in. This pushed many restaurateurs to enhance or accelerate their delivery options. Those who pivoted quickly were able to weather the storm more efficiently. Even after the reopening, social distancing - while manageable - had a significant impact on the bottom line, with reduced capacity ultimately leading to reduced transactions. What's more, the reduced consumer demand (both tourist and domestic) due to Covid-19 has had resultant issues on cash flow and costs.

That being said, according to the KPMG 2019-2020 Food & Beverage Report, over half of the respondents to its survey plan to resume pre-pandemic dining out habits by early 2021 whilst the rest expect to scale back until the last quarter of the year.

The future is looking bright for the hospitality industry, as consumers look to resume spending and the opportunities for vendors to capitalise on untapped wealth is abundant. We are already seeing consumers eager to get back to dining out with Time Out Market Dubai experiencing a high volume of daily visitors, excited to see a new concept and eat in a safe and fun environment.

What part does Time Out Market intend to play in the promotion of home-grown culinary brands?

Food halls provide independent businesses with a viable business opportunity in central locations around the world. Time Out Market has a very clear aim to support home-grown, locally loved independent businesses. Our model gives vendors a viable business option without the risk of many overhead costs that independent restaurants face, and offers attractive margin opportunities for urban, independent businesses within a safe, fun environment as visitors can taste the real culture in the heart of the city. We also offer marketing and PR support for their Time Out Market concepts, not to mention the exposure and support from the wider Time Out brand. For the launch of Time Out Market Dubai, our team executed an incredible media takeover at the Dubai Mall with advertising promoting our 17 home-grown chefs and restaurateurs. Not only that but on our grand opening night our Time Out Market story lit up the Burj Khalifa.

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