Trends emerging in the food delivery and online ordering post the Pandemic
The Middle East, but UAE in particular, is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. UAE has firmly established itself as a gastronomic hub, boasting the presence of popular global brands and international chefs across a wealth of F&B concepts from around the world. The recent PRIME (POSist Restaurant Industry & Market Evolution) UAE report outlines the huge opportunity in several sectors.
By exploring investments in areas like cloud kitchens and building an efficient delivery setup, F&B outlets will be able to continue to improve unit growth, add more touchpoints to connect with diners, and above all, build a sustainable model in the longer run.
Delivery was already popular in the UAE even before the lockdown. The accelerated growth of the online food delivery marketplace due to COVID19 has made restaurants realise that being online was the only way to survive at times when customers could not physically dine in the restaurant.
According to our PRIME UAE Report 2021, before the Covid-19 outbreak, a majority of restaurant business came from dine-in customers, and deliveries complemented the revenue. However, the situation has changed post-Covid-19; according to the survey, restaurant operators shared that as high as 66 per cent of their diners still prefer ordering online over dining out.
Renewed confidence and receding restrictions have brought customers back to restaurants, even as online delivery continues to remain the preferred option for a large number of people.
Thinning margins have also compelled local restaurants to create their own websites or social media pages for online ordering. Though they continue to thrive on food aggregators to sustain their sales.
The two months of intensive lockdown in 2020 and the prolonged closure of dine-in options even for fine-dining restaurants saw several of them resort to delivery, albeit in a different format. Conversations with high-end restauranteurs showed that they limited the kind of mass delivery that casual, QSR or cloud-based restaurants could opt for. These carefully curated restaurants needed to reimagine the restaurant experience, allowing consumers to enjoy high-quality food from the comfort and convenience of their homes, and at the same time provide food concept owners with the option to explore new markets and increase their customer base beyond their physical locations. For these (restaurants), the customer experience, even for delivery, was, and will continue to remain, key.
The emergence of Cloud Kitchen or Delivery Kitchens
Though revenues are returning as regulations ease and vaccinations roll out, online delivery still continues to be a major part of the revenue for restaurants across the UAE. As uncertainty continues, restaurants will continue to explore ways to control their operating expenses such as rentals, electricity, and manpower costs. Cloud Kitchens or delivery-only outlets are a viable option for many restaurants to explore now.
On the back of their flexibility and scalability, cloud kitchens have swiftly paved the way for a new realm of online restaurants and new brands. The cloud kitchen business model allows restaurateurs the flexibility to either expand an existing concept or curate a new virtual brand at minimal costs.
Technology as a key driver
Technology is going to play a huge part in these new scenarios. Our PRIME UAE report earlier this year showed that UAE restaurants were going to continue to explore more technology to optimise restaurant operations, both in the front and back of house, to have sales data. Implementing inventory or staff management software is a good start, but finally what’s key is having all your delivery and online ordering channels integrated into your systems, so you can manage all aspects of online ordering, including menus, through one interface.
The pandemic also showed operators the importance of an omnichannel strategy as so many restaurants took menus online, interacted with customers through new avenues, and opened up new channels to take orders and payments. In an omnichannel restaurant, customers move between channels seamlessly, getting a consistent experience however they interact with the restaurant.
Data flows seamlessly through the system so it can be put to better use throughout the business, from better personalization and precisely targeted digital marketing, to improving customer service in the restaurant.
As technology, delivery, and backend logistics capabilities are becoming stronger, we should be prepared to see UAE origin cloud kitchens, and virtual restaurants extending their geographic reach even further by 2022.
Ashish Tulsian is the CEO & Co-founder of POSist, a leading cloud-based restaurant technology platform. He is a rare combination of a Technocrat and Restaurateur, Ashish is the product visionary behind the platform that serves more than 9,000+ restaurants across the UAE, USA, UK, Gulf, Latam & Southeast Asia.