New restaurant openings in Dubai

More than a handful of restaurants will be opening up in Dubai in the first two months of 2022, leaving you spoilt for choice to try something new


Purva Grover

Published: Thu 20 Jan 2022, 11:45 PM

Amidst your many New Year Resolutions 2022, you may want to add another one, of trying out new food and making stopovers at newer eateries. A dozen or more new restaurants have hung the ‘We’re Open’ sign on the doors, and are eager to serve you, opening doors in the first two months of 2022. So, exactly what motivates them to put in their heart and soul (and money!) into opening up a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic, when the sword of sudden lockdowns or shutting of physical spaces is always hanging over our heads?

“No matter where in the world you are, there is always a need to try new cuisines, to socialise in restaurants that feel like home, places where you feel like you belong and feel accepted. If you can meet these needs, create a safe space where people feel connected, and offer quality food and service, then there is a place for you,” opines Wassim Zouein, managing director and partner, Addmind (Iris, Iris Summerhouse, Bar Du Port, Iris Expo), who is set to open this month.

Always in demand: Food and social interaction

“At the end of the day, even in the peak of the pandemic, there has always been and there will always be a need for food, much more than there is for partying and entertainment. Food now takes precedence in building any new concept,” says Wassim. This need coupled with creating a sense of normality was enough to motivate Hassan Ballout, co-founder, to open up Social Distrikt in the second week of January. “Customers are keen on bringing their family or friends together under one roof to enjoy an unforgettable experiential, cultural, and dining experiences.”

Michele Johnson, co-founder, Pitfire Pizza, which is expanding its presence in Dubai by opening in a new location, says it was an easy decision to make. “The pandemic has created a “new normal” throughout the world which extends into the F&B sector. Having successfully navigated the lockdown, we have seen the “bounce back” of the economy, and at the forefront of that has been F&B, so we are extremely excited.”

You’ll be fine: Just watch the trends

The food players believe that now, more than ever, it is important to study the market intensely. People’s needs and interests are different than they were pre-pandemic, and as a business, it is imperative to understand that. Ichiban Sushi launched exclusively as a virtual brand in the UAE in 2019 and opened at a physical location this January. Fadi Khoury, brand founder, Ichiban Sushi, says: “The pandemic put things in perspective for us and pushed us to ensure that our customers were able to order at all times and in various locations, their feedback fuelled our motivation to open our first brick and mortar location.” Adds Faisal Naser, chef and owner, LENTO: “We saw fine-dining chefs including Rene Redzepi and Robert Aikens switch to cooking burgers during the pandemic. We’re opening during the pandemic, starting from where they reached to adapt.”

Do better or fail: Lessons from the pandemic

“People always invest in good opportunities, and there are always good opportunities in times of crisis. It depends on how you look at things. The pandemic put restaurants under pressure to do better as they were being judged more heavily, based on quality, prices, speed of service and delivery, et al,” Wassim points out the positive in a situation. Michele shares how the resilience of the restaurants in Dubai has been stunning to witness: “Restaurants that did not previously offer delivery had to either weather the storm (if they were financially able to), shut their doors or find new ways of doing things; many did the latter successfully.”

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