Cloud kitchens, food halls, and experiential F&B — including meals fully prepared and served by robots — are among the dining trends that are “creating disruptions” in the Middle East, says Malt & Salt Hospitality CEO Akhilesh Bahl.
Bahl, who is also the founder of the Dubai-based hospitality management firm, was among the featured speakers at the recent Restaurants Cafés & Lounges Conference and Exhibition. The inaugural event took place Oct. 7-8 at the Roda Al Bustan Hotel in Dubai and drew more than 250 attendees in the F&B and hospitality industries to discuss the latest in food tech, consumer trends, and more. Event highlights included a chef’s contest, a hosted visit to an indoor vertical farm, and a Cocktail Zero demo bar that showcased innovative non-alcoholic drinks. (For a related story on non-alcoholic drinks, read “How to Make Non-Drinkers Feel Welcome at Your Events”.)
“A few unique formats creating disruptions [here include] dark restaurants where customers eat in pitch darkness, restaurants where everything is prepared and served … using robotics, and dining experiences that are specially curated and private in the form of supper clubs,” said Bahl, who spoke with Convene via email before the event took place.
He also shared other F&B trends gaining traction in the Middle East including:
Food Halls —Large spaces converted into a common dining space with multiple F&B establishments, food halls are on their way to the region, Bahl said. “Food halls have become very popular in the U.K. and [elsewhere in] Europe and it will [only] be a matter of time before they are set up here in the Middle East full-fledged,” he said.
Pop-up Restaurants —Increasingly popular in parks and other community open spaces, especially on weekends and during months when the weather is mild, pop-up restaurants let “entrepreneurs get a chance to showcase their products and gain encouragement from the local community,” Bahl said.
Cloud Kitchens — Food is produced and then dispatched to customers (who can order online and hence the name “cloud”) in these large production facilities. Locally, cloud kitchens are “giving rise to a new genre of entrepreneurs who could earlier not afford [to open] their own restaurants and are now able to experiment and hope to establish themselves in the F&B landscape,” Bahl said.