End of the buffet: pandemic rules mean less food waste for UAE hotels

Chefs say less food is now wasted with breakfast buffets, brunches and iftar spreads no longer possible

Hoteliers in the UAE are intent on delivering "quality over quantity" as Covid-19 safety restrictions mean grand iftar meals will give way to more intimate affairs.

Iftar and suhoor buffets served in elaborate tents, so often a staple of Ramadan prior to the pandemic, were cancelled by authorities for a second year in an effort to prevent large gatherings.

Before Ramadan, a-la-carte dishes had already replaced the lavish breakfast spreads and brunches.

One of Dubai’s leading hotel groups is putting the emphasis on table service rather than opulent feasts.

“The health and hygiene requirements for Covid-19 mean we can’t offer the huge buffet type service we used to,” said Adam Tracey, executive chef for Radisson Blu, Dubai Waterfront and Dubai Canal View.

Some restaurants will no doubt want to go back to the way it was two years ago before the pandemic

Adam Tracey, Radisson Blu Dubai Waterfront

“There is an acceptance among people this is the way it’s going to be this year but it just means the onus is on hotels to provide quality over quantity.

“There are still traditions we have to observe like making sure the food prepared for iftar is plentiful but the emphasis is definitely on a la carte this year.”

A raft of restrictions was announced by authorities in the UAE last month, ahead of Ramadan, to help reduce the risks posed by the virus.

In previous years it was not uncommon for hotels to set up tents to accommodate those who wanted to have iftar or suhoor.

However, Dubai’s Islamic authority announced Ramadan tents were not permitted in the emirate this year in an attempt to prevent large gatherings.

Officials in Abu Dhabi also announced Ramadan tents would not be permitted.

Mr Tracey said the restrictions could help tackle the amount of food waste and predicted properties would consider adopting the new practices permanently.

“I would say the future will be something of a halfway house,” he said.

“Some restaurants will no doubt want to go back to the way it was two years ago before the pandemic.

“But others will take a step back and see the value there is from having an a la carte offering instead of a buffet.

“What you get at the start of a buffet can be very different than what is on offer a few hours later in terms of quality.”

The issue of food waste has often been a thorn in the side of the hospitality sector and environmentalists in the UAE.

It is estimated that just under 40 per cent of the food prepared in the UAE is wasted, with that figure jumping to 60 per cent during Ramadan, according to Dubai Carbon.

The UAE discards food worth close to Dh13 billion each year, with the country estimated to generate between 1.9kg and 2.5kg of waste per person each day.

Another hotel chain going down the a la carte route this Ramadan is Hilton.

“We are putting the emphasis on personalised service during the holy month, with many of our restaurants serving food a la carte at the table, as well as offering assisted buffets,” said Christian Gradnitzer, Hilton's senior director of food and beverage development, openings and operations.

Ramadan in the UAE:

Updated: April 18, 2021 09:01 AM

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