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Hilton looks beyond pandemic to offer diners new experiences

  • Hilton looks beyond pandemic to offer diners new experiences

    Senior Director F&B Development Christian Gradnitzer says that a night out will need to become more memorable following a year where diners ate at home more than ever

    Hilton senior director F&B development Christian Gradnitzer says the hotel chain is focused on creating new dining experiences, even in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

    “We have obviously had the challenge to create creative F&B experiences to deliver the new interesting dining experiences around the Covid-19 limitations. And it's important to contribute to the F&B scene at large to keep engagement levels high across the city,” Gradnitzer told Arabian Business.

    He said they’ve worked within the framework of the regulations in place, including social distancing, and ultimately a lot of players in Dubai’s F&B industry have struck the right chord.

    Dubai Food Festival, which just wrapped, was another in the list of live events that Dubai has put on as the city recovers from coronavirus.

    Gradnitzer acknowledged that global travel restrictions have significantly hampered Dubai’s food tourism scene over the last year, but said they’ve used it was an opportunity to reflect on what the F&B culture ultimately looks like and has to offer.

    With any societal shift comes innovation, Gradnitzer said, with the traditional F&B scene recalibrating what they have to offer.

    The pandemic has forced people inside and accelerated the shift to digital, with many to online ordering and food delivery boomed during the pandemic. The UAE food sector in general saw a 40 percent fall in 2020 to $9 billion from $15 billion the year before.

    For brick and mortar restaurants, the challenge now is drawing people in.

    “So a night in the restaurant will need to become more memorable,” Gradnizter said, adding that this is where seasoned operators have excelled throughout the pandemic.

    He added that one of Hilton’s focuses has been on drawing in local diners, rather than those staying in hotels. Last year was the UAE hotel sector’s worst year on record, but by Dec. Dubai’s hotel occupancy had nearly reached pre-pandemic levels.

    And while buffets have always been a big part of the hospitality industry, the particular dining style has come under scrutiny over the last year. In March last year, Dubai temporarily banned buffets as part of measures to stem the spread of coronavirus.

    Moving forward, Gradnitzer said Hilton’s focus is on mapping out new experiences in line with the new reality of dining out post pandemic.

    “Certain things have changed already,” he said, adding that the next steps will focus on doing things in a different and innovative way.

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