An Interview with Eat Drink Stay Dubai.
Please tell me some about yourself, and why you started blogging.
I’m Shaun from Eat Drink Stay Dubai, and from an early age – 3 – I’ve been travelling across continents. Maybe that’s because I’m British and perhaps still thought we had the Empire, or more likely, because I was an expat child and a soldier.
I like helping people, travelling, getting more than I’m entitled to and living life to its fullest. I started blogging because I was hacked off with people saying “I wish I could do what you do” – for instance, after I’ve flown in the Etihad First Class Apartment for free.
The truth is, they can do – and Dubai and UAE has exceptional opportunities for ‘luxury travel hacking’ – but only two things stop them. Either they don’t know , or they can’t be bothered to.
So I set out to change that by educating and ‘inspiring aspirational travel’ – helping people travel better (easier, cheaper and blingier) in Dubai and beyond. For 2018 I’m launching online courses to teach luxury travel hacking – starting with spilling insider secrets like how to always get the best hotel deals – as well as coaching and consulting for loyalty programs, so everyone knows how best to game those Emirates Skywards miles.
The blog – and myself – is especially focussed on becoming a trusted voice, either for reviews, hotel advice, travel hacking etc. away from the jiggerpokery of snake-oil influencers.
What are your thoughts on the Food & Drink scene in general
The F&B scene in Dubai is like Brexit is to British people. The hype often sells short the reality, and by the time everyone’s realised what’s going on, things have changed again. Consistency is like Kryptonite.
The Emperor’s New Clothes is that Dubai is a world-leading foodie destination; not quite yet though. Of course, there are many exceptional restaurants and venues, and celebrity chefs to boot – but no Michelin stars for example.
We pay a premium for exceptionally good dining establishments, but equally we can pay over the odds – and it’s not proportional. Some of the best meals I’ve had in Dubai are not at the finest, nor the most expensive, restaurants.
What are the Top 3 factors that customers consider before choosing a place to eat
Reputation – Either through friends, social media, or (trusted) reviews. Not by influencers; I don’t know anyone who eats a hashtag. BTW, influencers – if you want me to go spend my money at a restaurant, look like you actually eat – size 8 models don’t eat pies. Send me a Snap of an influencer shaped like a shot-putter, and I’m there in a flash.
Price – Strangely, Dubai is one of the few places were people can be convinced to eat somewhere because of it being expensive. I often say the difference between a tourist and a resident is if they use The Entertainer.
Quality – Since moving to Dubai, I’ve moved up two social classes (apparently). Back home in England it was steak pudding, chips, gravy and Vimto – now it’s sushi, lobster and champagne. Dubai spoils us, and we just want more, and more. The reality is, we eat far, far better than we’ve reason to expect, and yet it just makes us fussier.
How important are mobile apps and social media in the decision making process.
I’d say extremely important, but not altogether essential. I’ve ‘old school’ British expat friends that still find the latest happy hours and yet can’t send (or read) an SMS, let alone Instagram.
The fact Entertainer has moved to app only speaks volumes of the trends though. Personally, I’ve a lot of apps on my phone – and I use them to find all the deals. Social media promotions, email offers, specific apps, social checkins, photo sharing – it’s all part of the cornucopia of opportunities venues need to embrace to conquer in 2018.
Nobody wants their venue to be the Teletext or Sinclair C5 of Dubai dining. There’s a good reason why Zomato has an especially strong presence in Dubai – because not only is sharing indeed caring, but our thirst for information and peer approval leaves us as needy as a reality TV reject.
How could F&B businesses in the UAE improve their service both online and offline?
Offline – Consistency is King. How many of us have suffered ‘second brunch syndrome’? We visit a brunch and it’s so good we go back a few weeks later with loads of mates, and it’s just average. The venues I frequent the most in Dubai are the consistent one, and there’s nowhere near enough of them.
Offline – Service is queen. Why do venues seemingly still have such erratic service? There appears to me to be a lack of management at restaurant level, as the ‘category basics’ of hospitality are seemingly lacking. What’s the point of having exceptional cooking if it’s sabotaged by randomness?
Offline – Venues should have a ‘talk without coffee’ with their PR company. Focus more on ROI and paying customers, and returning customers, and build loyalty and viral word of mouth for the right reasons. Invest your money on solid data that converts to revenues, not faked-following Influencers that are only chasing freebies. Look up Integrity, Disclosure and Genuine in the dictionary if you need pointers, and focus on people, not faked followings or engagements.
Online – Loyalty.
Look at keeping ‘on brand’ and deliver an experience that will bring returning customers. Four dining venues open in Dubai daily, and they can’t all stay open. Offers may work well to bring people in initially, but remember Kevin Costner still managed to get some players to his Field of Dreams somehow.
What predictions do you have for future F&B trends?
For 2018 Social will continue to grow, as customers share experiences with friends and peers. It’s up to venues to ensure diners are enthralled by the food though, rather than just showing off they’re blowing the credit card and seeking likes.
Gimmickry should make way for gourmets. I’ve had terrific meals spoiled in Dubai because some joker wanted to show off his dry-ice skills, even when I said no – turning the gastronomy from Molecular to garbage.
Trust, rather than trending, will begin to take back the minds of discerning customers.
Mobile Apps – especially those combining feedback, social shares and financial benefits – will grow even more popular.
Influencers will be found out quicker than a Tory MP’s internet viewing history.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Venues should think of Barasti when they’re reflecting on strategy. However much we may turn up our nose up and think we’re so past Barasti, it still remains popular. Like McDonalds, who may not sell the best burgers, but do what they do well and consistently, people still like to know what they’re getting. First time visitors to Dubai flock to Barasti, on reputation alone – even without any Influencers.
Where Can People Find You Online?