From collecting things to collecting experiences: Sunset Hospitality expands despite F&B restrictions


February 9, 2021 | By RetailME Bureau

Sunset Hospitality Group is stepping into 2021 with optimism and a load of ambitious projects in the pipeline. With two new concepts, one hotel and resort, a clubhouse, and at least 20 other projects in the works, they’ve got their schedules packed for 2021.

“In January, we have introduced two new concepts – Goldfish Sushi & Yakitori and RAISE Fitness & Wellness. We have also partnered with Nakheel Hospitality & Leisure and will be operating the Jumeirah Islands Clubhouse that will serve the communities of Jumeirah Islands, Jumeirah Park, Jumeirah Village Triangle and Springs. In April, we will be welcoming guests to METT Hotel & Beach Resort Bodrum. With over 20 projects in the pipeline, we will continue to pioneer new openings in the market and add new brands to our portfolio”, said Antonio Gonzalez, CEO of Sunset Hospitality Group.

During the pandemic, consumer behavior underwent a near-term dramatic shift and the majority of them reduced dining out and started ordering in. Although once the restrictions were eased and there was an appetite for going out, caution still prevailed. If there is an option of getting the same (or similar) products and experiences online – or in this case, by ordering in – then consumers would be opting for the safer option and staying indoors. And that is the core and crux of retail’s transformation today.

It is no longer important to get out of the comfort and convenience of one’s home for purchases or transactions as e-commerce facilitates that. People are looking for experiences that make it worth their time, money, and energy.

“Today, people have moved away from collecting “things” in favor of collecting “experiences. People will go out for a truly memorable dining experience where they feel safe and can expect an experience, not just a meal”, he said.

“I see dining destinations where customers can have a high-quality experience with a bit more space to themselves booming. Between the need for open spaces and restrictions on international travel, I think that domestic and drive-to destinations will become much more popular in 2021”, he added.

F&B retailers will now have to be creative and innovative in their offerings, where they are not just thinking about the food they serve but also the ambiance, facilities, and more importantly a “wow-factor”.

With malls across the region realising that and treating their spaces not just like real estate but as venues open for events and programming, F&B will have a key role to play in that.

“F&B outlets are now being identified by mall developers around the world as the next wave of making shopping centres stronger and a vital component of its sales growth. It has been the case in the UAE where we’ve seen new malls creating spaces for stand-alone restaurants where customers can dine before and after shopping. In some cases, new dining concepts that end up in malls are being visited for their F&B offerings”, he said.

The pandemic changed the way consumers shop, socialize and entertain, according to Gonzalez, but it did not change their view of dining out. Although cautious, consumers would want to go out and dine as it has become a fabric of Dubai’s culture.

However, it is only the operators and players that keep up with the trends that will survive in an oversaturated, over-competitive, crisis-stricken market.

“The pandemic delayed some of our projects and we had to stop operations during the lockdown, but we managed to open new outlets like the Black Tap in The Dubai Mall and the Mall of the Emirates, Azure Beach in Lebanon and launched a new dining concept, Cloud Restaurant and Lounge in Dubai Studio City”, he said.

“The crisis has crippled many businesses across the globe, and I believe that it will take some time for the economy to recover but it doesn’t mean we ignore the most important elements of the business – our people and our customers”, he concluded.

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