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F&B experts on today’s restaurant investment potential in Saudi Arabia

Ahead of the Future Hospitality Summit, Stefan Breg, Emma Banks and Hilari Voorthuis discuss the trends and opportunities on the table

This month, Saudi Arabia’s Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) will shine a light on the restaurant investment potential in Saudi Arabia. Connecting Travel got the inside track from summit speakers Stefan Breg, managing director of KEANE Consult & Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Emma Banks, vice president of F&B Strategy and Development, EMEA, Hilton, and Hilari Voorthuis, F&B manager of India, Middle East, Africa & Turkey at Accor.

Connecting Travel: Which destination in Saudi Arabia should F&B industry investors focus on first?
Stefan Breg: Obviously, the major conurbations of Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and Mecca, but of significance will be the giga developments on the Red Sea, notably Neom and The Red Sea Development Company.
Emma Banks: Saudi Arabia is an incredibly exciting market for the F&B and hospitality industry. Key cities such as Jeddah and Riyadh continue to be a focus for investors, as well as projects such as Diriyah Gate, where Hilton recently announced an agreement to open an LXR Hotels & Resorts property.
Hilari Voorthuis: At this point anywhere in Saudi is an opportunity as the market is undersaturated in comparison to the UAE, with ongoing giga projects and a forecasted growth rate of F&B outlets at 7.5% per year.

The question isn’t where to focus first, it’s how quickly can you jump in to the market?

CT: What are the current F&B trends in Saudi Arabia?
SB: High-end restaurants are in a state of rapid growth, while casual dining seems to be reconsidering its role in a post-pandemic era dominated by delivery. QSR (Quick Service Restaurants) continues to thrive, often driven by delivery and cloud kitchens. One thing’s for sure, KSA has its own market characteristics, and the future will bear little relation to its neighbouring GCC markets going forward.
HV: There’s increasing expectations of locals to see international trends being introduced in KSA, and the trends we see developing include sharing concepts, health-focused dining, ethnic cuisine and experience driven dining. Social media also has a major influence on how the market is driven. KSA is a powerhouse for social media with mobile penetration at 116%, indicating how important it is to have a strong social media strategy.
EB: Looking at F&B trends in Saudi and globally, we have observed that sustainability is top of mind for today’s guests. Sourcing ingredients locally, minimising food waste and reducing plastic waste have become priorities for many F&B operators.

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CT: Dubai dominated the recently launched MENA’S 50 Best Restaurants list. Is Dubai still ripe for investment or is Saudi a better option?
SB: Our data on restaurants per capita confirms there is a higher risk of saturation in parts of Dubai than most other GCC markets. Then again, Dubai tears up the rules now and then so will always find a way! I’m delighted that Dubai is gaining a Michelin guide and I think Riyadh’s proportion of the MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants list will grow.
HV: Dubai is known to showcase the next best thing, and with the introduction of the Michelin Guide and MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants, it’s been provided with an opportunity to elevate the culinary scene even further with international recognition strengthening its position as a culinary destination for travellers. So, there are still ample opportunities.

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CT: Where else in the GCC could F&B investors potentially make a profit?
HV: Bahrain and Qatar.
EB: We have exciting F&B launches planned across the Middle East. For example, we plan to open six distinct restaurants and lounges at Hilton Bahrain, which is expected to welcome guests this year, and Roka, the award-winning contemporary Japanese restaurant concept, will be arriving at the soon-to-open Waldorf Astoria Kuwait. The future looks bright for F&B in the Middle East and at Hilton, we are delighted to be playing a role in the evolution of the industry.

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About FHS 2022
Taking place on the 24 and 25 May 2022, the first Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) of 2022 will be held in the Riyadh Airport Marriott Hotel in the Saudi Arabian capital. The event will serve as a platform for high-level investment communities from diverse, opportunity-packed markets to come together and discuss the future of hospitality in Saudi Arabia, a tourism growth market. The two-day event in Saudi Arabia will be followed by FHS Middle East, focusing on the wider region and taking place in Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, UAE, from 19 to 21 September 2022.

For more information, visit www.futurehospitalitysummit.com

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