Qatar’s dining scene fights back
Qatar has become one of the Middle East’s premier dining destinations. Big name chefs, such as Gordon Ramsay and Alain Ducasse, and world-renowned brands can be found across the country.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the food and beverage sector (F&B) was absolutely booming in Doha and beyond. Sales in 2019 were QAR7.8bn (£1.6bn), which is quite something given Qatar has a population of less than 2.8m people.
Experts at ValuStrat have estimated that restrictions will result in a 50% decline of year-on-year F&B sales in 2020, which is, of course, a concern. But the sector is hugely resilient, not least because of the forthcoming footballing jamboree that is the FIFA World Cup. The estimated 3.1m visitors will provide a one-off boost of more than QAR6.4bn (£1.3bn) in F&B sales, according to the Middle East Credit Rating Agency.
But the sector’s future growth prospects are underpinned by a fundamental structural demand for top quality F&B and adaptability to the crisis, such as adopting scannable codes to replace physical menus.
Aura Hospitality chairman Moutaz Al-Khayyat explains: “We have embraced digital transformation across all of our businesses and technology has played a vital role in aiding economic recovery and giving consumers confidence. While hospitality has been one of the worst hit industries by Covid-19 related restrictions, our hardworking teams have persevered through these challenging times and Aura is growing from strength to strength.”
Aura Hospitality is one of many F&B groups in Qatar that is planning to launch a number of prestigious international brands over the coming months. Part of the Power International Holding conglomerate, Aura will bring renowned casual Iranian diner Mestooran and leading street food brand Wok to Walk to the country’s biggest shopping centre, the Mall of Qatar, by the end of March.
They will be joined by New York City burger joint Black Tap, which has become something of a fixture on the celebrity scene. Rihanna, Kendall Jenner, Katie Holmes, and Zendaya have all been tempted by Black Tap’s award-winning burgers and towering milkshakes.
Lusail Marina’s yacht club will soon welcome the much sought-after Michelin-starred Beefbar. With restaurants spanning the globe from Monaco to Mexico City, Beefbar’s concept is rooted in simplicity and quality, with a strong emphasis on understated luxury. Meat Smith, a steak house by chef Dave Pynt, will also open at The Pearl, an artificial island built off the coast of Doha.
Aura Hospitality managing director Ramez Al-Khayyat says: “We are excited to introduce these prestigious international brands to Qatar and feel confident that our increasingly diverse offering will be hugely popular with customers, appealing to all tastes.”
There’s little doubt that this is a difficult time for the F&B sector across the world and Qatar is little different. But Qataris enjoy eating breakfast, dinner, and lunch out of the house and this is a trend that will not end because of the virus.
With a fair wind, the world will have controlled coronavirus long before the World Cup, when Qatar will be able to show off its extensive dining scene to millions of international visitors.