Cook and deliver: Dubai restaurants start to get creative

Workers in protective clothing prepare food for delivery in Dubai. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 May 2020

Cook and deliver: Dubai restaurants start to get creative

  • Restaurants are having to adapt fast or face closure

DUBAI: Running a restaurant in Dubai, where a discerning international clientele has over twice as many options per head as in New York, was a cut-throat business even before the coronavirus struck.

Now restaurateurs are having to adapt fast by learning to make money delivering their food, a service new for some and for others more familiar as a marketing tool.

“What this epidemic has done is leap forward the digital age of ordering by five years,” said Mohamad Ballout, CEO of Kitopi, which runs kitchens specifically for online deliveries in Dubai.

For fine dining Peruvian restaurant COYA, that has meant getting its waiters to drive deliveries and, once it decided its signature raw fish ceviche was too fragile to take off-site, turning its mashed avocado guacamole dish into a kit for customers to combine at home.

“You have to review everything ... Coming to delivery we had to make sure it transports well ... make sure it keeps hot,” its operations head, Cedric Toussaint, said.

COYA will review after September whether to keep deliveries going.

Around half of the UAE’s food and beverage units have temporarily closed, industry consultancy JLL said, and a survey it compiled makes for sobering reading.

UAE food delivery revenues fell as coronavirus restrictions increased, including a month-long 24-hour lockdown in Dubai from mid-March. They fell 19 percent year-on-year in March and 7 percent in February.

Dine-in revenues fell 16 percent in February and 52 percent in March, with restaurants forecasting a 76 percent drop in April. JLL’s initial findings also showed Dubai, where tourists and residents eat out several times a week, offers roughly twice as many dining spots per head as New York.

Many former customers now perceive home cooking as a safer option and may continue doing so.

“It will be quite a while before people have the confidence to go out into a dine-in environment on a mass scale,” said Duncan Fraser-Smith of Cutting Edge Hospitality consultancy.

Dubai-focused campaign group The Middle East Restaurant Association has asked the government for long-term industry support, and called on delivery aggregators like Deliveroo to reduce commission fees.

“The recovery profile of the restaurant industry is expected to be a lot slower than other industries,” JLL’s Alexis Marcoux-Varvatsoulis said.

European bank ramps up stimulus package

Updated 1 min 50 sec ago

European bank ramps up stimulus package

FRANKFURT: The European Central Bank approved a bigger-than-expected expansion of its stimulus package on Thursday to prop up an economy plunged by the coronavirus pandemic into its worst recession since World War II.

Just months after a first raft of crisis measures, the ECB said it would raise bond purchases by €600 billion ($674 billion) to €1.35 trillion and that purchases would run at least until end-June 2021, six months longer than first planned.

It also said it would reinvest proceeds from maturing bonds in its pandemic emergency purchase scheme at least until the end
of 2022.

ECB President Christine Lagarde scotched speculation that the bank could follow the US Federal Reserve in buying sub-investment grade bonds, saying that option was not discussed by policymakers.

The announcement, which comes just weeks after Germany’s Constitutional Court ruled that the ECB had already been exceeding its mandate with a longstanding asset purchase program, prompted a rally in the euro and bond markets.

“Today’s easing measures were another illustration that the ECB means business and stands ready to do whatever is necessary to help the euro area survive the corona crisis in one piece. The ECB will do its part, and it hopes the governments will do their part,” Nordea analysts said in a note.

The bank dramatically revised downward its baseline scenario for euro zone output this year to a contraction of 8.7 percent from the modest 0.8 percent rise it had forecast only in March.

“The euro area economy is experiencing an unprecedented contraction. There has been an abrupt drop in economic activity as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the measures taken to contain it,” Lagarde said.

She said she was confident that a “good solution” could be found on the legal stand-off with Germany’s top court.