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Restaurant patrons in UAE, Saudi, Qatar, Kuwait savoring the experience of in-dining again

Restaurant patrons in the Gulf are coming back to eat on-premise. The numbers in the UAE for Q1, 2021 show that in-dining spend almost matches totals achieved in the same period last year

Spending at cafes increased by mid-single digits in Q1 2021 versus the same period a year ago Saudi indoor dining in restaurants and cafes has resumed and cinemas, malls, and gyms have reopened Qatar said recently that leisure, education centers, and restaurants can reopen at limited capacity

The UAE’s restaurant industry has achieved close to the same total of dine-in spending in the first three months of 2021 as it did during the same period last year, according to Network International, the leading enabler of digital commerce across the Middle East and Africa (MEA).

UAE’s findings

Network is the UAE’s largest merchant acquirer and reported a negligible 1% dip in overall dine-in spending in Q1 2021 in comparison with Q1 2020 before the country declared a lockdown to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. 

The Quick Bites restaurant category, which includes fast food, street food, food trucks, and bakeries, saw the most growth in dine-in point of sale (POS) in the first quarter of 2021, nearly a fifth more than in the same period of 2020. As outlets continue operating under strict protocols with regular inspections to ensure compliance, spending at cafes also increased by mid-single digits in Q1 2021 versus the same period a year ago.

In terms of preferred cuisines, the upward rebound in dine-in spending has been most rewarding for café food and drink, followed by European and Middle Eastern cuisine. Additionally, the Middle Eastern cuisine category was the only category to record visible growth in spending in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year, making low-single-digit gains.

With the ongoing pandemic, broadening acceptance of digital and contactless payments, including the option to pay ‘in-app’ even when dining-in, continues to help restaurants cater to changing payment behavior and reassure customers of a safe experience. 

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Saudi gatherings

As of May, Saudi indoor dining in restaurants and cafes has resumed and cinemas, malls, and gyms have reopened. Establishments that remain open must implement enhanced COVID-19 sanitization procedures, perform temperature checks of employees and patrons, and comply with social distancing guidelines.

Large gatherings such as weddings and corporate events remain banned; the maximum number allowed in a gathering is limited to 20 people.

Hundreds of patrons gathered recently for the first concert in the Saudi capital since the start of the pandemic to watch performances by Syrian diva Assala Nasri and Kuwaiti crooner Nabeel Shuail.

“This is the first concert to take place in Saudi for a very long time,” said one spectator at the concert, held in a restaurant of a large Riyadh hotel.

A look at Qatar, Kuwait 

Qatar said recently that leisure, education centers, and restaurants can reopen at limited capacity under a phased easing of coronavirus-related measures.

A cabinet statement on state media allowed limited gatherings at homes for vaccinated people and said malls can operate at 30% capacity, but children under 12 are not allowed.

Gyms, pools, and salons can also reopen at limited capacity but bans remain on weddings, conferences, and exhibitions.

Local and international sporting events can take place with fully vaccinated fans at 30% capacity in open-space venues with permission from the public health ministry.

Qatar said it would gradually lift coronavirus-related measures in four phases starting the first phase on May 28 and the fourth on July 30.

As of May 23, restaurants and cafes in Kuwait reopened for dine-in, with adherence to health regulations and instructions.