Coronavirus Pandemic

Covid-19: UAE restaurants see dining-in boom as rules ease

Dhanusha Gokulan (Principal Correspondent)/Dubai Filed on June 9, 2021
Photo by Shihab/Khaleej Times

The restaurant owners told Khaleej Times that they have witnessed a huge rise in the number of dine-in guests during the weekends.

In-restaurant dining in the UAE is recording strong recovery, according to statistics from a new study and inputs from the restaurant owners.

The restaurant industry has achieved close to the same dine-in spending in the first three months of 2021 compared to the same period last year before the UAE declared restrictions, according to a study by the Network International, an enabler of digital commerce across the Middle East and Africa (MEA). There was just a one per cent dip in dine-in spending during the quarter of 2021.

The restaurant owners told Khaleej Times that they have witnessed a huge rise in the number of dine-in guests during the weekends.

Praveen Shetty, chairman and managing director of the Fortune Group of Hotels told Khaleej Times: “Restaurants such as Desi Dhaba, Rasa, and Nalakettu, and sports resto-bar Freddy’s are performing extremely well during the weekends. We are seeing a huge influx of in-dining guests in comparison to last year. Weekday demand is not as high, but due to sporting events, Freddy’s is performing the best of the lot.”

Last month, Dubai lifted restrictions on live entertainment and hotel occupancy and permitted concerts for vaccinated people.

In Abu Dhabi, from last week, members of the same family have been allowed to sit at one table without any limit on the number of people. However, there is no change in the overall capacity inside restaurants and coffee shops.

Residents say they are delighted to eat out after months of takeaways and deliveries. Amal Sudheer, an Abu Dhabi-based electrical engineer, said: “We are a family of eight, including my parents and in-laws. Due to a maximum of six people being allowed per table, my husband and I would sit separately at restaurants or just do takeaways or eat at home. This weekend we visited Jones the Grocer in Abu Dhabi for lunch after a long time.”

Ian Jiggens, president, advisory and information services at Network International explained that the quick bites restaurant category — which includes fast food, street food, food trucks and bakeries — saw the most growth in dine-in point of sale (POS) in the first quarter of 2021, nearly a fifth more than in the same period of 2020.

Additionally, the Network International study said in terms of preferred cuisines, the upward rebound in dine-in spending has been most rewarding for café food and drink, followed by European and Middle Eastern cuisine.

“The Middle Eastern cuisine category was the only category to record, visible growth in spending in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year, making low-single-digit gains,” the study stated.

‘Digital payment services ensure customer safety

“As outlets continue operating under strict protocols with regular inspections to ensure compliance, spending at cafes also increased by mid-single digits in first quarter 2021 versus the same period a year ago,” added Jiggens.

Broadening acceptance of digital and contactless payments, including the option to pay ‘in-app’ even when dining-in, continues to help restaurants cater to changing payment behaviour and reassure restaurant- goers a safer experience.

“In the last two quarters, the industry has managed to significantly overturn the steep decline of activity caused by the virus and is continuing to recover at a modestly optimistic pace with more customers opting for contactless transactions,” he added.


Dhanusha Gokulan

Originally from India, Dhanusha Gokulan has been working as a journalist for 10 years. She has a keen interest in writing about issues that plague the common person and will never turn down a human interest story. She completed her Bachelor in Arts in Journalism, Economics and English Literature from Mangalore University in 2008. In her spare time, she dabbles with some singing/songwriting, loves travelling and Audible is her favourite mobile application. Tweet at her @wordjunkie88

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