I have recently been wondering why, having lived in the Middle East for over 7 years now, I can’t find a good, regular local eatery that can cater to my needs 2-3 times a week within a 5km radius of my house.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cooking at home, almost as much as I enjoy going out, and yet there is a memory of a time whereby upon returning home from work, a spur of the moment decision would result in departing my abode and venturing up the street and around the corner to my Local dining haunt, becoming a pillar of daily life.
To be fair, it was not about the atmosphere or ambiance of the place, more so, it was the quality of the food, reasonably priced and served with genuine warmth, care and heart. I could complete my experience in 45 minutes, casually walk back home feeling content and satiated and repeat the above on a regular basis.
This was my favorite restaurant at the time, it could adapt to me being a little late or a little early and it was not pretentious.
This brings me back to my original thought. When exploring this talking with others about our favorite restaurants in the Middle East, it dawned on me that here, our favorite is not necessarily our regular. Publically voted restaurant awards are a great barometer of this as the name of a truly unique destination dining experience with a famous chef at the helm is reeled off. What they fail to reveal is this amazing experience was in celebration of an anniversary last March. It is truly a special occasion venue, however it is classed as a favorite
Why? Surely there are some restaurants, that we frequent more often than not, who can stand up to their rights to claim of being our favorite? Where are our locals?
3 clear possibilities arise from this.
Possibility 1. We are so spoilt for choice in the Middle East that we don’t need to limit ourselves to one outlet? – Its true, the F&B scene in the Middle East is on a continuous surge throughout the region. However, where are these surges occurring, shopping malls and hotels predominately? Not really the destination for a spontaneous meal in a residential area.
Possibility 2. There is a huge gap in our residential areas for Premium casual outlets offering quality products at reasonable pricing. – Now we are getting somewhere. We are spoilt for choice regularly with both High-end fine dining destinations and Casual outlets. The industry as a whole need to focus on creating more homegrown Premium casual concepts that fill this omnipresent void.
Possibility 3. Delivery has replaced the Local. – We can pretty much get anything we want delivered these days. Its not the hour long waits it used to be, from the time you pick up the phone to your meal being delivered can be less than ½ an hour. It would take longer for us to get in the car or walk to a local to begin with!
QSR’s have been doing delivery for years. The wider F&B industry as a whole has grabbed onto this idea with both hands and now there is not a day goes by where you do not pass another motorcycle with a heated box on the back advertising anything from falafel to roast chickens, salads and sushi.
Two clear outcomes, one is a lack of development of the kinds and types of outlets needed to fill that Premium Casual space in the market and the second is the choice available to us for delivery options
I guess then at this stage the local has not really disappeared… it just comes to us now.