Dubai residents are price-conscious when it comes to dining out, preferring fast food over fine dining and other eateries such as all-day and casual dining.

“Residents in the city are more price-conscious when dining out, opting for more affordable options like fast food rather than regularly frequenting establishments with higher average cheque sizes. This preference for affordability reinforces the prominent position of the fast food sector in Dubai’s food service landscape,” according to a new study released by JLL.

Due to strong demand over the past couple of years, fast food outlets have mushroomed across the city. The number of fast food eateries in Dubai recorded a 25 per cent annual increase in 2021 and an even faster rate of 35 per cent in 2022.

Similarly, it said the fast food market share in Dubai has been steadily growing, accounting for 33 per cent of the total market in 2021, expanding to 34 per cent in 2022 and rising further to 36 per cent during the first half of 2023.

A survey conducted by the UAE Restaurants Group (UAERG) in 2023 revealed that the higher cost of living in the Emirates as compared to other cities influences residents’ dining preferences.

Dining out is quite popular among the residents in Dubai and it has been steadily growing.

According to the second edition of the Dubai Gastronomy Industry Report released by the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) in January 2024, residents dine out three times a week as compared to 1.8 times a week in the previous year. It also revealed that Dubai is ranked second worldwide in terms of overall restaurant density with Dubai Marina, Out Metha and Downtown emerging as top areas for dining destinations.

Quoting a Modor Intelligence study, JLL said the food service market in the UAE is estimated to reach $20 billion (Dh73.32 billion) by 2024 and $44 billion (Dh161.5 billion) by 2029. The UAE’s dinging out market is also benefiting from a big increase in population recorded in the past couple of years.

All-day dining gaining

JLL said the popularity of all-day dining, casual and fast casual dining are growing also in Dubai and Abu Dhabi due to convenience.

New eateries offering all-day dining in Dubai and Abu Dhabi witnessed a 40 per cent and 30 per cent annual increase, respectively, in 2022 while fat casual restaurants grew by 40 per cent in the two emirates.

Similarly, demand for fine dining also continues to expand with the opening of more hotels in Dubai. New fine dining restaurants increased by nearly 20 per cent within the city in 2022 as the number of 5-star hotels in the emirate increased from 59,000 keys in 2021 to over 66,000 in 2023, making 12 per cent growth.

“The growth of fine dining restaurants cannot be solely attributed to the rise in hotel numbers in the city. The expansion of fine dining establishments in emerging areas, and beyond the historically popular locations like Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Palm Jumeirah, represents a significant shift in the city’s culinary landscape. Notably, the Al Wasl area has emerged as a noteworthy player in the fine dining scene, offering unique concepts and attracting both residents and tourists seeking high-quality culinary experiences,” JLL said.

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