In-Restaurant Dining Records Strong Recovery in UAE

  • Dine-in spending returns to pre-lockdown levels.
  • Quick Bites restaurant category records most growth.
  • Cafés, European and Middle Eastern outlets see most spending in Q1 2021.

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).

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 in 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 behaviour and reassure customers of a safe experience. Specifically, in the last two quarters, the industry has managed to significantly overturn the steep decline of activity caused by the virus and is continuing to recover at a modestly optimistic pace with more customers opting for contactless transactions.

As the COVID-19 situation escalated the urgency to go cashless, Network International has continued to empower more businesses to keep up with the ever-changing payments landscape.

Ian Jiggens, President – Advisory and Information Services, Network International, said: “Understanding spending patterns is critical for businesses that want to position themselves to meet evolving customer preferences. Our payments insights are intended to help the restaurants industry and other related vendors chart new opportunities and make smarter decisions. As the leading enabler of digital commerce across the MEA, we remain at the forefront of change giving our clients opportunities to seamlessly adopt the latest payment trends in a rapidly evolving environment.”


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