In a transient place like Dubai, it must be hard to get ‘returning customers’ to the same restaurant. I’m talking about ‘casual restaurants’, something that people are happy to spend money at whenever they go out, not the 200AED a piece of steak (sides, extra) fine dining joint. Sometimes I feel that the city is built to cater for all the new expats – those who are keen to try a new restaurant every other week, a new ladies night, a new brunch, a new instagrammable cafe. I used to fall into that category. Those days when everything was so exciting, a ladies night every Tuesday to check out a bar with my girlfriends, a brunch every other week to wipe out the weekend. What happens then, when everyone has been to your restaurant that one time and posted that one photo on instagram? Will they return, or will they move on to the new kid on the block?
I think back to all the places we’ve been to – which ones have we actually returned back for the second time? Third time? Fourth time? And why?
The first point is obvious – real, good food with reasonable pricing.
You have one chance of making that good impression with the consumer. If it’s bad, chances are they will not return. We went back to Hanoi Cafe (now called ‘Hanoi Naturally’) in JLT countless times simply because their special pho had the best broth, and best beef balls. It was less than 40 AED a bowl. Happy to pay full price, even for me – the person who swears on a 241 every single time 🙂 ( Note, they no longer use the same beef balls, hence I’m on the lookout for another pho spot – maybe Vietnamese Foodies? 😉 )
Let’s look at chinese food in Dubai Mall. Leten did so well with us and was a hit with a lot of other chinese people we knew (Click here for my review on it). We probably went there 20 over times. Still didn’t survive, and it was sadly shut down at the beginning of the year. Why, oh why? Mongolian beef was around 60-70 AED, they were in the Entertainer, so we forgave them for charging 8 AED for a bowl of rice.
Din Tai Fung is a great example. Packed, everytime you walk pass it. I’m not the biggest fan – we still go to Miu Shanghai downstairs, but you get the gist – quality food + competitive pricing.
Second point – comfort and convenience.
Bear in mind we now have two kids under two, so this point here relates to family-friendly joints. We go to Pots and Pans at The Beach a lot because of their play area, and it’s just a bonus that their food is actually really good. They do one of the best fish pies around (cover photo is the famous fish pie!), and be sure to try out their lamb shank.
I don’t know why there isn’t more eateries with play areas to cater for half the expat population of Dubai. Look at Couqley, Reform, and even Confetti Cafe. Mums are asking on facebook groups all the time where to go with their little ones and if I were to do a list, there is probably maybe 15 in the entire Dubai. C’mon people, find an area that doesn’t have a family-friendly cafe and just open one. Don’t charge a bomb because family people have enough expenses with nappies and toys and what not. Do good food, have a spot for the kid to play and you’ll get us lot coming back all the time.
Third point – service.
To be honest, we still go back to some spots if the food is good enough irregardless of service. It’s just a bonus if you keep the same staff and they remember your name. That familiarity, that feeling of being ‘special’. I’m not talking the usual Dubai ma’am sir, I’m talking first name basis and heck, if you remember my daughter’s name you’ll see me there every week. I used to go to Counter Culture Cafe at the base of the Marriott all the time to buy bread as it was 50% after 7pm. I knew the staff, they were so friendly and my girl loved them. Went there for lunch, sometimes dinner as it was a 5 minutes walk from our tower. The food to be honest was just so-so, it was more so close to home and that we loved the service.
Ok enough rambling, I could go on but let’s save it for another post. Time to prepare lunch before my girl wakes up 🙂 What makes you return to the same casual restaurant? Shall I do one for bars then?