Top 4 Changes in the Middle Eastren Consumer’s Behavior

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Consumer Behavior in the Middle east

Top 4 Changes in the Middle Eastren Consumer’s Behavior

As the culinary landscape of the Middle East evolves and adapts to shifting global influences, restaurants are blazing exciting new trails. From the bustling heart of Riyadh to the cosmopolitan streets of Beirut and beyond, Middle Eastern dining establishments are emerging as leaders in some of the world’s fastest changing in consumer trends. Whether you’re a foodie, a restaurant owner, or just curious about what’s happening in the Middle Eastern food scene, join us as we delve into the top four changing consumer habits that are shaping the landscape of Middle Eastern restaurants in 2023.

1. Preference for the Healthier Diet

Middle Eastern cuisine, traditionally characterized by fresh produce, lean meats, and whole grains, is seeing a noticeable shift towards healthier, balanced options in response to the growing health consciousness. This shift is seen in increased popularity of natural, organic foods and restaurants adapting menus to provide low-fat, low-sugar, low-sodium and gluten-free alternatives, while also offering more nutritional information. The health and wellness food and beverage market boomed as a result, now estimated at $108 billion in the region. This trend has catapulted health-focused brands like Poke & Co., Earth Bowlz, Right Bite, and Plenty Salad to significant prominence.

This health trend is echoed in the region’s adoption of plant-based diets, with an increasing number of Middle Easterners choosing vegetarian and vegan lifestyles for health and environmental reasons. This rising demand saw an even more impressive 27% growth during the pandemic, reflecting the global trend towards veganism. This has led to Middle Eastern restaurants such as Just Vegan, Wild & The Moon, and City Fresh Kitchen, innovatively adapting traditional dishes into healthier versions.

2. Fusion & Multi-Cultural Dining

2. Fusion & Multi-Cultural Dining

What can attract people more than a cultural hub? Considering this, more and more restaurants are starting to offer fusion dishes combining Arabic flavors with elements from other cuisines such as Asian, Mediterranean, or Western. These fusion dishes often incorporate a mix of ingredients, cooking techniques, and presentation styles to create unique culinary experiences.

In addition to that, adopting a multi-cultural dining concept can attract customers from various cultural backgrounds. People are often intrigued by the prospect of trying new and unique flavors. By offering a fusion of different cuisines, restaurants can cater to a broader audience and expand their customer base. This, in turn, can lead to increased sales and success for the business.

3. A growing preference for eating at home

Online delivery platforms and virtual dining experiences sparked a significant transformation in the global restaurant industry, emerging as a crucial revenue stream in the post-Covid-19 era. While certain restaurants are transitioning towards direct first-party delivery to reduce third-party delivery expenses, third-party delivery apps are continuing to dominate the market as a major player with an estimated market size of US$1.02 trillion in 2023. In Saudi Arabia spcifically, they have become a substantial contributor to restaurant earnings, constituting over 30% of sales, equivalent to SAR 8 billion in 2022.

This trend has spurred the growth of delivery and takeaway services, with many Middle Eastern restaurants offering these options for the first time. Meal kit services, where customers are provided with the ingredients and instructions to prepare restaurant-style dishes at home, are also becoming popular. In addition, some restaurants are offering online cooking classes, allowing customers to learn how to make their favorite dishes at home.

4. Rising food prices 

Food prices have been steadily rising in recent years due to a combination of factors including climate change, global economic fluctuations, and supply chain disruptions. This has led to an increased cost for ingredients and consequently, an increase in menu prices. Middle Eastern restaurants, like all restaurants worldwide, have felt the impact.

In response, many restaurants are getting creative with their menu offerings and portion sizes, finding ways to provide value for their customers without compromising on quality. Some are even exploring local sourcing of ingredients as a way to reduce costs, which also has the added benefit of supporting local farmers and suppliers.

The rise in prices continues to impact customer behavior significantly, as diners become more inclined to seek out promotional deals or discounts to combat the impact of rising prices, altering their dining habits either by choosing different dishes, often cheaper ones, or even changing their restaurant choices altogether. For some, this could mean a shift toward home cooking or meal preparation services. As some restaurants reduce portion sizes to maintain price levels, customers might also place higher value on the quality and uniqueness of the dishes rather than the quantity.

In conclusion, the Middle Eastern culinary landscape is at an exciting crossroads, shaped by health consciousness, culinary innovation, digital transformation, and economic realities. As preferences shift towards healthier, plant-based diets, restaurants are innovating to meet this demand, without compromising the traditional flavors that define Middle Eastern cuisine. 

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Wael Alkhateeb