The MENA F&B market is in a continuous state of flux, with constant challenges emerging, and yet the number of opportunities ripe for tapping is on the rise for those with sufficient flexibility to adapt to the climate of the market. Abdul Kader Saadi, managing director and owner of Glee Hospitality Solutions, gives us a rundown of the region’s F&B opportunities.

In the scope of a broad overview, the UAE is currently a mature market which remains competitive and stands on the cusp of its ‘next wave’ of F&B evolution. When it comes to development, standalone outlets are doing increasingly well, offering retailers several benefits, such as lower rents, which in turn allow concepts to generate affordable, but qualitative offerings for their clientele. Examples of such concepts include Kobeya in Dar Al Wasl, a Far Eastern and Japanese gluten-free kitchen that serves dishes featuring premium ingredients, such as Kobe Beef directly from Japan. There are also greater options available to licensed outlets to operate outside of their previous hotel jurisdictions. Whereas these concepts previously relied heavily on their proximity to hotels, real estate developments, such as Jumeirah Lake Towers and Dubai Marina, now offer them new avenues to tap into potentially hugely lucrative markets.

Saudi Arabia provides fertile ground for development

Saudi Arabia is undoubtedly one of the fastest emerging markets in the region, with ubiquitous areas of opportunity. The biggest development in terms of Saudi’s tourism potential is its all-expanded tourist visa system, which, for the first time in history, will allow general tourists into the nation. This evolution in the country’s structure, coupled with the goals mapped out in Vision 2030, puts Saudi Arabia in a prime position to enrich its tourism and hospitality/F&B sector and scale heights never before imagined.  To foster this progression, the Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority (SAGIA) is reportedly investing USD 27 billion in its tourism drive. This capital will be channeled into developing hotels, shopping centers and even the region’s largest indoor ski slope/snow park in the years to come. In response, there has been a shift in local consumer market behavior. To put it simply, people are now mixing and integrating in ways never previously witnessed and there is an ever-growing hunger to be more ‘social’.  Consumers want to go out and interact in a way that is creating the ideal market to bring the envisioned goals of the Vision 2030 initiative to fruition. That said, there are still gaps in the markets, signaling opportunities for the right service provider to meet these demands. These include spaces in the high-end and middle/high-casual segments within the F&B sector, while high-end delivery options are also in short supply. These areas hold plenty of potential and would be a strong supplement to the consumer market if coupled with the huge investment anticipated in the tourism sector.