Small is chic in the food and beverage (F&B) outlets sector, with clients seeking out-of-the-box thinking, exposed ambiances and exotic designs using natural materials, says A&T Group Interiors, a leading interior fit-out contractor which this year marks its 10th anniversary.
The UAE-based company is now quite an authority on the trends in the sector given its decade of experience in fitting out hotels, leisure and entertainment parks, retail stores and restaurants, and various commercial spaces in Dubai and the rest of the GCC.
The firm has delivered many high-profile F&B and hospitality projects, including The Fish House and Pierre’s Bistro and Bar at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City; Lima, one of Dubai’s finest Peruvian restaurants; Toro + Ko at City Walk, named best leisure interior project at the International Property Awards 2018-2019; Gurkan Sef, Farzi Cafe, L’Eto and Walnut Grove in the heart of City Walk Dubai; Ketchup and Mitts & Trays in Bluewaters Island; and Catch 22 and Qahwet Murjan in La Mer.
Commenting on some popular recent trends in the sector, A&T Group Interiors co-founder and CEO Tareq Khalafawi says restaurants are embracing space optimisation.
“Where F&B outlets do not require large spaces, the focus is on smaller, unique 200- to 300-sq-m spaces with a more personalised experience while also seeking improved revenue per sq m,” he says. “Restaurant owners are looking to floorplan and staff efficiency to combat high rents.”
“We encourage developers that we work with to build their retail and F&B units in that range,” Khalafawi adds.
Dubai’s F&B sector, he says, is combating rising costs and declining sales with out-of-the-box thinking. Pop-up restaurants, street food and food trucks are now making inroads at malls and outdoor events and gaining the popularity – all of which is good news for customers.
Furthermore, he says clients these days feel comfortable with exotic designs, with natural materials like wood, concrete, raw steel and reuse of old materials like bricks and timbers being a huge hit with clients in City Walk, Al Seef, La Mer and Bluewaters.
There is also a trend towards an exposed ambiance – exposing bricks and wiring, which creates an industrial vibe; and an organic and natural look and feel, which consists of natural stone, greenery and timber to keep the mood consistent, Khalafawi says.
A restaurant in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that the company is now working on is a good example of these trends.
A&T Group Interiors is currently putting the finishing touches to the fit-outs of Catch 22, a new social contemporary eatery that serves an array of Western-inspired dishes in The Zone, an outdoor mall in the Saudi capital. The scope of A&T Group Interiors’ contract includes a full fit-out for the 9,400-sq-ft outlet being developed by AMJ Investments.
Designed by UAE-based Bishop Design, the fit-out works for the project are scheduled to complete this month (mid-March).
The interiors of Catch 22 aims to create a vintage look which is enhanced by its 1970s collectors’ items, says Khalafawi.
It is a place where people are inspired to talk about the past, he points out.
“Rustic finishes on walls and the ‘dilapidated’ design concept aim to take us back to our grandparents’ time,” he adds.
Apart from Catch 22, A&T Group Interiors is also handling the interior fit-out for Colt and Opso in Dubai Mall and a variety of projects on site, primarily in the F&B, hospitality, retail, and commercial sectors.
“Our list of projects keeps on growing and year-on-year. Our fit-out business growth is steady with periods of upsurge. Nevertheless, we are expecting a 10 to 15 per cent increase for our industry as the UAE gets ready for Expo 2020,” says Khalafawi.
Khalafawi is of the view that the appetite for F&B and retail investment doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon, despite the high competition. In fact, this growth is expected to be further propelled by upcoming events, such as Expo 2020 Dubai and Fifa World Cup 2022, making the GCC’s F&B market the preferred investment cluster in future.
He says the F&B market, characterised by a large presence of international brands represented by regional franchise partners, remains very popular. However, also worth noticing is the trending variety of new, creative “home-grown” concepts that are gaining traction and popularity in the region, particularly those that can pair Middle Eastern service and hospitality with an expert knowledge of the industry and all its best practices, Khalafawi points out.
“There is an opportunity for UAE brands to own a greater share of the F&B market, also exporting their concept overseas,” he adds.
A&T Group Interiors is a leading interior UAE fit-out contractor that offers premier quality turnkey solutions, covering engineering, planning, execution and delivery. Established in 2009, the company has since built a solid and diverse client base, as well as a robust portfolio of successful projects.
A&T Group Interiors also counts among its successes the turnkey fit-out works over 118,400 sq ft of Motiongate Dubai, the largest entertainment facility at Dubai Parks and Resorts and home to a designated zone for Dream Work productions.
The firm’s scope of works included the fit-out and finishing of six retail units, four food and beverage outlets including the back-of-house kitchens for all four, three main public toilets, three sets of staff changing rooms including break-out recreational rooms and all back-of-house corridors with operational rooms. Work on the project was carried out in 2017.
Khalafawi comments: “It was a pleasure to work on such an iconic project – at A&T Group Interiors we pride ourselves on our commitment to deliver first-class projects within a short period of time and offering the best expertise to meet our clients’ requirements.”
Khalafawi says his team had to work closely with and alongside the site staff and management of main contractor Laing O Rourke from the initial design stage, having produced a vast number of material samples and drawings. In addition, A&T had close interaction and coordination with all other subcontractors, particularly those engaged in the mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) work.
“This, in itself, presented challenges but with the support of the main contractor and the knowledge and experience of the A&T team, we successfully completed and delivered a product which satisfied the end-user and client – DXB Entertainment, a subsidiary company of Meraas Holding,” he says.
During execution, A&T assisted in achieving numerous safety and environmental milestones that were recognised in Dubai. One of these was the completion of six million man-hours without a loss of time incident.