The changing landscape of F&B means businesses need to be ready, willing and able to adapt, overcome and evolve.

The food and beverage industry is experiencing a period of intense change, and restaurants are starting to feel the heat as the market slows down, with many experts pointing the finger of blame at over-saturation.

As the agency responsible for the concept design, digital output, PR, and communications for some of the region’s favourite restaurant brands, Katch International has its finger on the pulse of the UAE’s F&B industry.

Here, I outline some of the biggest factors affecting the transformation of the F&B scene.

Food, Fashion or Fashionable Food?

Consumers are looking at F&B concepts in the same way they view fashion trends. Buzzwords like diet, organic, grass-fed, superfoods, gluten-free, and protein-rich are to the fore when it comes to F&B communications at the moment. Vegan and plant-based concepts have really found their feet in the market as consumers demand transparency and look for more information about the origins of the food they are eating. As a result, I find myself designing more and more vegan, plant-based and sugar-free concepts for clients. I’ve seen a huge spike in demand over the last year for Katch’s services when it comes to healthy concepts.

The Power of Experiential Dining

While the nature of F&B is certainly evolving, I believe experiential dining, as a concept, is here to stay. Diners demand the newest and trendiest concepts when it comes to experiential dining; therefore, concepts such as sky dining, Instagrammable restaurants, AI dining, guest chefs, dark dining, and live cooking demonstrations are becoming increasingly popular. At Katch, we pride ourselves on our outside-the-box approach, a philosophy that other brands need to adopt if they are to make a significant impact in the market. Edgy F&B brands are dominating right now because they are successfully capturing consumers’ imaginations and offering diners something different. Katch has been lucky enough to work with many clients who have embraced the edginess of the PR, communications, digital, and design services we provide. They have stepped out of their comfort zones, allowing us to bring exciting ideas to the table – a mentality that a lot of brands are lacking.

Keep your Friends Close and your Enemies Closer

Friend or foe? Curse or blessing? Restaurant owners are still trying to figure out whether food delivery apps are helping or hindering their businesses. Nevertheless, the rapidly rising popularity of these apps should not be underestimated. Something I’ve alluded to in the past is that, although delivery apps increase brand exposure and appeal to consumers, the personal touch is lost, and the emotion is taken out of dining as a result. Consequently, restaurants need to be on top of their game when it comes to overcoming the challenges created by such apps, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the long run, as it pushes brands to be more creative.  Themed nights and brunch offerings need to stand out for the standard of their food, drinks, entertainment, atmosphere, and music in order to generate sustainable buzz on the F&B scene.

Passion & Consistency

A business must ensure that all stakeholders buy into its vision and believe in what it’s trying to do. When consumers dine out, they’re looking for more than just good food, they want the whole package, from service and quality of food to drink selection and atmosphere. Venues need to stand behind their concepts and believe in what they’re doing from the beginning. It’s about remaining patient and maintaining passion. A restaurant or bar with confused communications and marketing strategies doesn’t generate buzz, and, therefore, doesn’t effectively sell itself as a concept to the public. On the other hand, a venue armed with a team that believes in its brand vision and offers consistency across the board, from communications to management practices to the passion of its staff, is far better equipped to deal with adverse market conditions in an increasingly volatile F&B environment.