Exploring the tradition of Ramadan and Dubai's thriving food and beverage scene
Ramadan season in Dubai can be a lot to handle – for seasoned operators and new outlets alike. Here are 6 important factors to keep in mind during this holy month in the Islamic calendar.
It is the ninth month in the Muslim Calendar, and many Islamic traditions can be experienced during this holy period. In the UAE, it is a custom that Emirati children go from house to house reciting songs and poems. The neighbors welcome them with traditional Arabic sweets, which are collected by children in traditional cloth bags.
There are two main meals during Ramadan: Suhoor and Iftar. Suhoor is taken early hours before sunrise, in preparation for the fasting hours. Iftar is the meal to end the fast usually after sunset, which is broken with dates and laban (buttermilk).
Food tourism is one of the cornerstones of Dubai’s ever-evolving tourism growth plans. This is why Ramadan season is one of the most exciting yet competitive times in the emirate’s F&B industry. In fact, in a study commissioned by Dubai Economy & Tourism in 2022, Dubai ranked 3rd highest in gastronomy overall in terms of International Brand Health. It has outranked top dining destinations such as London, Singapore, and Istanbul.
Restaurants all over the emirate compete over the best and traditional iftar and suhoor, for both Arabic and non-Arabic restaurants.
The dining scene in Dubai
As a hub for international expats, Dubai offers diverse dining options from traditional Emirati to international cuisine. Coming to Dubai is the best way to understand the cultural significance of Ramadan traditions.
As the city’s gastronomical hub counts to about 13,000 F&B outlets, the iftar and suhoor offerings stretch from traditional buffet spreads to special set menus. A traditional culinary journey covers every budget – from affordable, to mid-range to the most inherent and luxurious ones.
With that in mind, here are the top 6 best practices that restaurants in Dubai should consider during this competitive time of the year:
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1. Walk-in clients are the key
A chunk of the iftar business comes from the dine-in segment, which makes walk-in clients the ultimate road to success. While encouraging booking reservations gives restaurants a more guaranteed and forecasted revenue, it is common for diners to make a last-minute decision on where to go and break their fast.
TableCheck’s Waitlist feature an essential tool for this busy time of the year. The Waitlist software makes it easier for restaurant owners to manage high guest traffic and eliminate no-shows.
Guests can conveniently book a table in advance using their own devices while being able to view menus or head to the bar while they wait for their table. They will be notified by SMS once their tables are ready eliminating the need for staff to chase down diners or use old-school paging methods. This improves restaurant operations while creating a seamless guest experience that drives profits for the restaurant.
2. Deliver a remarkable dining experience
Together with having attractive interiors and decorations within the outlet, restaurant leaders should ensure that staff members are familiar with the local tradition and culture. Having the right understanding will help them deliver a much better dining experience to the guest.
Giving clients a memorable first impression as soon as they enter your restaurant, sample the delicious food, and receive first-rate service is one of the keys to retaining regular patrons. The Ramadan season stretches to a month, which is an opportunity for restaurants to boost their customer base and attract loyal clients.
3. Make tempting offers to attract groups
Ramadan season is the time for sharing and being together, and iftar is a communal activity with family and friends. Making offers that encourage group dining such as buy 1 get, or simply giving more discounts or incentives to larger groups attracts more crowds and anchors for more table reservations.
Once the offer has been advertised, restaurants must ensure that all reservation platforms are reachable – online forms, telephone lines, email, etc.
Avani Ibn Battuta Dubai Hotel starts the Ramadan season with a social media competition to win a buffet. Meanwhile, Pele Pool Bar & Social Hub, one of the hotel restaurants, is offering a Ramadan giveaway for two on Instagram.
4. Design a functional buffet and get your menu right
Traditional Arabic dishes are integral components in both iftar and suhoor meals; however, these days, diners are increasingly voicing their concerns about nutrition and well-being. In addition to that, most diners are demanding more options to get their money’s worth.
Chefs need to find new ways to provide healthy dishes and interesting food choices. A menu with boosting nutritional content, matched with healthy alternatives without having many compromises on the taste will leave diners happy not only with the food but with their health too.
Most Arabic dishes incorporate carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables. Common cooking methods include grilled, baked, and deep-fried, which makes it equally challenging to keep the balance healthy and tasty.
See Lo+Cale at Crown Plaza Dubai Marina's early bird Iftar offers during Ramadan. Make your reservation here.
5. Don’t forget about delivery
A significant rise in the trend of food delivery has been observed during Ramadan, particularly during pre-iftar, iftar, and suhoor hours. Many people find convenience in ordering food at home instead of going out for dining or a takeaway.
Curating delivery meal deals good for sharing or for an individual is a business opportunity not to miss this season. Adding popular Ramadan dishes and other seasonal favorites is what customers can look forward to during Ramadan. Some are savory, others are sweet, but all are sure to add some festive flair to the menu.
6. Advertise with the right medium
UAE ranks as one of the most multicultural counties in the world, and the diversity spans continents, religions, as well as ethnicity. Given this, the residents have multiple ways when and how they consume content. It is important to understand the behavior of your desired target market, particularly during this season.
About 88% of the UAE population is comprised of expats, which would mean that it is a blend of fasting and non-fasting crowd. Determining the right medium -- whether social media, influencer marketing, relevant platforms, or email marketing automation features like TableCheck EDM – will ensure sending the right messaging in a very cost-efficient way.
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