Interview with Food Sheikh
FoodSheikh has more than two decades of experience in the industry, so I’ve no doubt he will be able to provide some entertaining insights on the industry.
The FoodSheikh website was launched in 2015 as an impartial restaurant review site for Dubai’s growing F&B landscape – built on trust and credibility from years of experience in the industry and a sense of fun. FoodSheikh is on a mission to be the leader in credible and entertaining digital media content for the Dubai restaurant market.
Currently, FoodSheikh has a loyal and engaged following of 13,000 on Facebook. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us – we appreciate that you must be very busy, so let’s get straight into it:
What are your thoughts on the Food & Beverage scene in general?
Dubai’s Food and drink market is largely enthusiastic, somewhat frustrating and occasionally erratic. Dubai has been through three significant waves of evolution. The first was the dominance of Hotel F&B, with their tired menus and unimaginative concepts. The second was the saturation of imported franchises and consultant celebrity chefs dialling in their work from abroad.
More recently, more excitingly, we are seeing the start of a third wave of evolution. Some serious independent talent leading the pack, bringing fresh innovation and experiences. However, they need help, they need the support of their landlords and governing bodies to help incubate and protect this important part of the industry.
Dubai is a young market with big aspirations, however, there needs to be an understanding that a strong food culture is not purchased or franchised and does not happen overnight. It is nurtured and curated over time. A food culture is a reflection of the city and her people.
What are the Top 3 factors that customers consider before choosing a place to eat?
- Will my friends be impressed when I Instagram it?
- Has it got enough recommendations online?
- Can I use a voucher there?
How important are Mobile Apps and Social Media in the decision making process?
Social media is hugely important to the consumer these days. We consume so much through Facebook and Instagram that any restaurant not maximizing their presence on these platforms is going to have a really hard time.
I choose what restaurant to review based largely on what the local community is talking about on their social media pages.
That’s how I ended up slipping into a food coma after one of those ridiculous monster shakes … thanks Instagram.
How could F&B businesses in the UAE improve their service – both on and offline?
Simple. By remembering that despite living in a digital world, F&B are analogue operators.
Consumers dine out because they want connection – they want an experience, they want to be told a story. As long as the technology is supporting this goal, not replacing it, then you are on the right track.
Moving online is so important, but remember that eating takes place offline.
Use online for discovery and information, but don’t forget you have to deliver the goods when they order your food or eat in your restaurant.
How do you feel about Food Trends?
I love trends – and I hate them at the same time.
What predictions do you have for future F&B Trends?
Whatever was hot in Europe and the States 18 months ago – trends in Dubai are like the movie releases 20 years ago. We hear about them in America or Europe and then have to wait until they are released here.
What’s important to note is that trends will come and go – restaurants need to find their core, their substance, their story.
Don’t hang your favorite hat on only one trend, because in 18 months that hat will be on the floor.. that’s a terrible analogy, my apologies.
What made you decide to write about this industry?
I write about restaurants and food because they deserve to be experienced and celebrated.
Restaurants are a birthplace of trend and innovation. They are the reflection of entrepreneurial spirit and the reason we bond as communities.
Restaurants are the heartbeat of any city, they are the red thread of civilization and a living link to our past.
Restaurants are exciting and emotional.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Food is our common ground – a universal experience – and I’ve learnt a lot from eating out.
I’ve learnt that I find chopsticks frankly distressing.
I’ve learnt that you can use a fork as a spoon if you use it quickly enough.
I’ve learnt that a chicken and mushroom pie at a footy game can be better than steak at the Ritz, and I’ve learnt that if it’s beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.
As long as I continue to learn, I will continue to write.
Where can we find you online?
Thank you again for coming and speaking with us, and we wish you all the best with your continued reviews!