UAE - The food and beverages (F&B) sector remains a key component of the UAE economy, especially with the country has a major global tourist hub. Tourism significantly influences the F&B industry in the UAE, with Dubai emerging as a global food tourism destination.

Experts have identified a few key drivers of the sector. Firstly, growing tourism attracts diverse culinary preferences. Secondly, evolving consumer preferences – such as the rise in health-conscious and sustainability-driven forces, where F&B establishments adapt menus and practices to meet these demands. Thirdly, the UAE government’s initiatives and regulations significantly impact the industry. Supportive policies and investment incentives foster growth and development, while stringent food safety and quality regulations ensure compliance and consumer trust.

The country has implemented strategies to ensure a stable food supply, including investing in vertical farming, hydroponics, and indoor agriculture. Fourthly, digitalization is transforming the sector; online food delivery platforms, contactless payments, and AI-driven customer engagement enhance convenience and efficiency. Moreover, the UAE’s multicultural environment plays a role, encouraging the establishment of diverse food outlets catering to various ethnicities and preferences. Lastly and importantly, sustainable practices are increasingly emphasized in line with UAE’s sustainability goals, leading to more eco-friendly F&B practices and initiatives.

Pizza Express, the global restaurant chain operating since 1965, has been present in the UAE for the last 23 years. Even during the pandemic, the group maintained its growth path, expanding from seven to 14 restaurants over five years.

“Our goal is to reach 20 locations by 2027 in the country, introducing newer concepts like QSR and expanding into ‘delivery only’ options in specific catchments. In a competitive F&B sector, upscaling is essential for dynamic development and growth,” Prashanth Menon, Regional Director, PizzaExpress UAE Holding Ltd, told Khaleej Times in an interview.


What are the new F&B trends that the industry has taken off with in the region?

The F&B industry thrives on innovation and unique experiences. Conscious consumerism is not a trend but a part of responsible living with consumers seeking sustainable, locally sourced products that reduce carbon footprint of the world as well as support local and small farm owners. Enriching experiences that combine food and live shows are also popular at reasonable prices. To meet evolving demands, F&B brands are expanding their offerings to include healthier options like cauli-based or whole grain pizza dough, more fresh vegetables, organic produce, and low-sugar alternatives, aligning with consumers’ desire for positive change. As consumers prioritise health and well-being during their food experiences, our menu caters to various dietary preferences, offering plant-based, vegan, and gluten-free options.

Additionally, food delivery apps, virtual, cloud and ghost kitchens thrive post-pandemic, catering to delivery demands and cost efficiencies for consumers.

What is the future of hospitality in the region?

In the hospitality sector, adaptability, innovation, and elevated guest experiences are essential for success amid economic, geopolitical, and travel changes. Technology adoption will change the fundamentals of hospitality in the years to come, and sustainability that appeals to the awakened and eco-conscious consumers of the present day, will grow in the future. Additionally, staying attuned to changing preferences and safety concerns are essential for attracting customers. By proactively responding to these factors, hospitality businesses will remain competitive and create memorable experiences that meet evolving needs and expectations of the consumer.

What does PizzaExpress bring to the country’s dynamic dining scene?

In Dubai’s dynamic restaurant scene, constant innovation and creativity emerge every few months. Today, attracting customers requires more than good food and prices; customers are yearning for newer experiences. At PizzaExpress, our one-shot philosophy unites us in attracting loyal customers. To achieve this, we curate seasonal attractions and build relevant collaborations, such as partnerships with Impossible Meats, Violife, and more, to match current tastes and preferences. We tirelessly explore the city and beyond for the finest culinary offerings, striving to meet present-day preferences while ensuring future growth.

In a city where competition is high, what is PizzaExpress’s differentiated appeal?

Since 1965, PizzaExpress has focused on delivering good food and creating memorable experiences, a simple ask, and a success mantra at the foundation of our brand existence. Our restaurants offer consistent quality with a real Soho scene of vibrant ambiance, resulting in lasting customer moments. With 23 years in the UAE, our diverse and adaptable team connects with customers effectively. We stay flexible, responding to changing demands while ensuring cost stability and savings.

The foundation for the future of the brand is ‘people’ - a brand where every employee shares their success story, a brand which deepens understanding of consumer needs and innovation to continue delivering to its highest standards and to build memorable customer experiences constantly. Can you shed light on this?

As a global priority, PizzaExpress focuses on people, emphasizing employee experience and well-being. We offer diverse opportunities for learning and growth. Ranked 3rd among 50 companies in the Middle East as a Great Place to Work for five consecutive years (until 2023), our employee engagement directly impacts financial performance. With an average tenure of 11-15 years, our longstanding employees are the backbone of our 23 years of UAE presence. We foster a stable and secure work environment, encouraging innovation and new ideas, which boosts team morale.

UAE is known to be a summer destination too – any new launches/ campaigns that the brand is introducing during the period?

Our focus remains on innovation and experiences catering not only to tourists but also residents as the food scene matures. We regularly introduce limited edition menus, carefully crafted based on market analysis and customer research, aligning with current trends as well feedback from our loyal diners. Recently, we launched a flavourful summer menu, featuring seasonal salads, pizzas, and drinks, meeting customer expectations based on feedback. Dining plays a crucial role in holiday choices of tourists, and we strive to provide great food and entertainment for an unforgettable experience.

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Somshankar Bandyopadhyay