Smart Casual Dining: An Enriched Dining Experience
Manhal Nasser, CEO and co-Founder of Awj Investments, the parent company of Operation Falafel, Awani, Bahria, Surfbite, and Lulu & Morjan discusses the latest trends in smart casual dining in the ever-growing UAE F&B industry.
The emergence of smart casual dining as preferred over fine dining is reflective of how 3-piece suits are on their way out, and denims (paired with jackets of course) have made their way into meetings and events. The wane in the elegance of cuisine has come down to living life in the express lane, and diners in the region no longer have time for excessive sophistication rituals. However, this does not mean that diners’ food sophistication has waned, but rather that their priorities have changed. Culinary excellence has become even more imperative, but the focus on frills, surroundings and service has shifted.
When it comes to food, what’s on our plates is more important than ever. Smart casual dining marries the dedicated quality of fine dining with the relatively moderate prices and casual environment of casual dining. So while the dress codes and complicated cutlery are gone, culinary originality, quality are what have a lasting impact on restaurant patrons. A revelatory menu coupled with a casual and sophisticated atmosphere design is what constitutes the epitome of today’s modern restaurant.
In smart casual establishments, gone are the white tablecloths and fancy silverware of fine dining restaurants. When it comes to elements of décor, there have been several enduring and pervasive design trends, many of which aim to extend the comfort of our own homes to the smart casual restaurants. One of these are the show kitchens, which in many ways reflect social values such as family, entertainment and transparency.
Simplicity, taste and affordability are what make smart casual dining more appealing to consumers, providing them with an enriched dining experience. Today’s food lovers do not want to be limited by price, and have come to expect a level of food quality that is on par with fine dining, albeit with slightly less highbrow ingredients. The link between taste and social stratification has never been as firmly discredited as in today’s society.
The UAE’s food and beverage (F&B) sector is expected to grow by around 4 percent annually to $13.2 billion in 2018 as new outlets open and tourist numbers grow, according to a new report by KPMG, a global audit firm. This, combined with rising consumer spend and regular eat- out habits, are propelling the growth of the restaurant industry. As competition continues to grow, the importance of differentiating offerings becomes increasingly crucial as a success factor. Many of the successful new restaurants in the market are able to find the right balance between ambiance, aesthetic, service, food taste and affordable prices- thereby effectively minimizing the gap between traditional fine and casual dining.