British expat Coral Stevens moved to the UAE in 2018. Since then, she has been regularly eating out. “I eat out around four times per week and I absolutely love the high quality food and service you’ll find in the UAE,” she said. “I can honestly say after living here for six years, I’ve never eaten a bad meal.”
Coral is among the vast majority of Dubai residents who eat out at regularly, according to the new Gastronomy Industry Report, released by the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET). It indicates that eating out had increased by 61% as compared to the report’s findings in 2022.
As a single woman, Coral often finds is more economical to eat out than cook at home. “It’s actually often cheaper to eat out or order delivery dinner for one than it is to go to the supermarket and buy all the ingredients,” she said. “Food shopping can be quite expensive in the UAE due to many items having to be imported and that’s what makes eating out a cheaper option.”
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The increase in eating out has also created a social media revolution. Between content creators and food groups, there are several discussions revolving around eating out, on various platforms. Amber Elizabeth is one of the admin members of the Facebook group Best Bites Dubai and according to her, there is a flurry of activity every day.
“We get an average of 18 posts every day,” she said. “Eating out has become so huge in Dubai because of the quality and variety of restaurants. There is now something to suit everyone.”
Chang Sup Shin, the CEO of Asian speciality store 1004, said: “There has never been a better time to dine out in Dubai with the influx of great concepts lead by amazing talented chefs.
“I think one of the main reasons of the rise in people eating out is the number of tourists coming into the city as well as new residents from other countries that have immigrated to Dubai.”
Dubai was named one of the world's top 10 cities for foodies in 2023 and according to the report, there has also been a substantial increase in the proportion of international visitors satisfied with Dubai's value for money when dining out, up from 54 per cent in 2022 to 66 per cent in 2023.
Chang’s views were echoed by Bhupender Nath, founder of Passion F&B- the company behind Michelin star winning restaurants Tresind Studio and Avatara. He said he has witnessed such a significant surge in customer traffic across his restaurants that he had to relocate two of his brands to larger venues to accommodate more guests.
He attributed this increase to several factors. “Firstly, the demanding work schedules often leave little time and energy to make meals at home and therefore dining out becomes a convenient solution,” he said. “Moreover, eating out is not just about satisfying hunger; it provides a valuable opportunity for leisure and socialisation. Also, exposure to diverse culinary experiences has sparked a curiosity. The variety offered by restaurants contributes significantly to the growing trend of people opting to dine out more frequently.”
For Dubai residents Naveen and his wife Dr. Jency, the eating out culture is something new. The duo grew up in the UAE but only ate out once or twice a month. “All my memories surrounding food were fresh, home-cooked meals made by my mother,” said Naveen. “Once in a while we would buy shawarma or some paratha and curry from the nearby cafeteria but that was it.”
For Dr. Jency, her upbringing in Umm Al Quwain was not very different. “Once a month, we would order fast food,” she recalled. “And that day was like a huge celebration because it was such a treat those days.” Today, the couple either eat out or order in regularly. “The eating out culture has changed so much now,” said Naveen. “We both work long and irregular hours and it is often not possible for us to cook so we end up getting food from outside. Restaurants have become so much more accessible with online ordering and fast deliveries and the food safety standards here are so top notch that you don’t have to really worry about anything.”
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