The UAE is fast turning into one of the top tourist destinations across the world. What attracts people to this tiny country which does not exude much uniqueness in terms of geography or climate? There Are two things that the world is rushing here for; Fashion and Food! UAE has positioned and moulded itself into the quintessential wonderland for adults with its endless sagas of fashion outlets and culinary experiences. Being kept on such a pedestal requires the hospitality scene to continuously evolve and bring in new and unmatched concepts to keep the industry alive. Here we bring you eleven most interesting trends that created waves in the restaurants and dining industry in 2016.

Fresh & Home-grown

‘Organic’, ‘fresh’, ‘locally sourced’ have become the key words in the food industry in the last couple of years. There is an increased demand for home-grown produce that is free from harsh fertilizers and genetic alterations. UAE is a desert-land but with the help of modern agricultural science we have small farms across the country and we also have fresh produce coming in from neighbouring countries like Oman and Saudi which are only a few hours away. These produce are much sought after and local farmers’ markets have also started to pop up in the region. Needless to say, this trend has hit the dining sector also. Roots Bistro in Silicon Oasis is one such place serving a menu that is made with locally sourced ingredients. "It is quite a challenge. Part of the year it is very difficult to get local produce and when the weather is good, getting the ingredients takes a lot of coordination with farmers” says Sara Tabana the owner of the bistro in an interview with The National.

A few other names serving fresh and home-grown food are Baker & Spice, BiOrganic Café and Comptoir 102.

Delivery & Logistics

Home-delivery is not a new concept; rather it has been around for ages with your regular fast food chains, local restaurants and cafeterias. But the modern online ordering system is a game changer. Apps like Deliveroo, Talabat and Uber Eats act as your personal food chauffeur. You can order from anywhere, local cafeterias to fine diners and these deliverers bring right at your doorstep or wherever you want them to. This also drives the restaurants to up their game because with hundreds of options with professional reviews available on these sites on a click away they have lost reigns over marketing and the only option left is to considerably update the food quality and menu.

Another trend that has been gaining vastly popularity in the last year is Food Boxes. These are pre-packed boxes of meals or ingredients to prepare specific meals or local produce of the season delivered to your abode regularly as per your order. Detox Delight, Health Factory, Slim n’ Lite, Daintree etc are a few examples of meal delivery services. Cook-a-Box delivers fresh ingredients for specific meal plans. Ripe Vegetable Box brings you fresh local seasonal produce as and when harvested.

Food Truck

With The Last Exit suddenly becoming the most favoured hang for all the trippers and party people, food trucks have become the latest fad. Roundup is an umbrella organization that works towards supporting and developing food trucks. These trucks sell street food and queer delicacies that are not available at your normal restaurants. Food trucks have many economic advantages over proper restaurants which enables them to achieve more profit in less time. They don’t have to bear the exorbitant costs involved in construction, rent, labour and maintenance. The expense to do up the truck is lesser than construction and rent, and these trucks are typically manned by one or two people, usually the owners themselves. Coming years will definitely see a steep rise in the number of food trucks operating in the country.

Cuisine Exploration

It is true the world is fast becoming a global village and this has changed the culinary world for good! Why else would you find Peruvian or Korean restaurants in this tiny country in the Middle East? The exploration of cuisines and ingredients used in various cultures across the world never ends, rather it finds a new dimension every season with another new spice or condiment or oil or produce hitting the markets. Miss Lily’s serving Jamaican food, Bu Trinity serving pan Latino cuisine, Aseela dishing out authentic gourmet Emaraati food are a few examples to this ever evolving trend.

This exploration does not limit itself to finding and celebrating rare cuisines, it also works towards infusing exotic and rare ingredients to our everyday meals. Sriracha or Kimchi, Tabasco, Coconut milk and oils have become a common ingredient thanks to this phenomenon.

VR Restaurants

Virtual Reality (VR) has become the latest update to all the technology existing, mobile phones, video games, movies and everything, so it will not be surprising to learn that this technology is going to take over the dining world too. Well, if you thought that VR food means you have to wear a headgear or hold some kind of joystick to enjoy your meal you are wrong, or at least that has not yet been developed. VR eating is all about enhancing the dining experience through interactive menus and tables. Ebony, Virtual Worlds and ICafe are three restaurants in UAE that bring interactive dining technology to the country. Here you can order your food and watch the chefs prepare it, share posts on social media and even book a cab to go back home all on your table!

Veggies & Vegan

Food world too, like the real world, has all kinds of inhabitants; Non-vegetarians, Vegetarians, Vegans and even Flexitarians! Unfortunately, the dining sector still mostly caters to the non-vegetarians with options for vegetarians. However now people are experimenting more with their food and therefore chefs are also creating menus for the green lovers. Verger from the Brunswick Sports Club and V-Dub Vege from Burger Fuel are 100% veg with patties made from carrots, chickpeas, pumpkin etc. Bestroat Galeries Lafayette and Common Grounds are other places in Dubai that have an elaborate green menu.

Concept/Theme Restaurants

When earlier only expensive restaurants flaunted interiors and menus based on a specific concept or theme, now it has become so popular that every other local café or bistro has a unique theme of its own. People have established a positive relation between foods and experiencing the food, one is not complete without the other. Restaurateurs are making it their job to research more and find an unparalleled concept that will pull crowds. Tom Arnel and Sergio Lopez opened Tome & Serg, an Australian inspired café that was a runaway success. The duo has gone on to create a hospitality business called Bull & Roo – and have added three new food-and-beverage concepts to their portfolio, with a fourth on the way. Friends Avenue Café, BOA Steakhouse are other places where you can experience something different from other usual places.

Dessert Bars and Bakeries

On the one hand when the need for fitness foods are going up, the craze for new and rich desserts are also rising up like never before. The country is seeing an amazing increase in the amount of home based bakers and dessert caterers and the same applies to the restaurant scene too. When earlier Cheesecake Factory and Paul were the rulers in the dessert world, now one can see dessert places mushrooming in every corner of the region. Magnolia Bakery, Shakespeare and Co, Vintage Chocolate Lounge are some places that take your sweet tooth to heaven. The number of ice cream, gelato and frozen yoghurt bars has also gone up seemingly along with the juice and smoothie bars.

Root to Leaf and Nose to Tail

In this last year we have seen countries of the world pledge towards a greener and cleaner tomorrow. The food world has also made its move towards this cause. Root to Leaf and Nose to Tail is a way of cooking where you minimise wastage by making use of every part of the ingredient that you use. If it’s a vegetable or fruit you not only take the main part but also make use of its leaves, stalks, roots or whatever remains and for meat you prepare the menu in such a way that every edible part of the animal is made use of in some or the other recipe. The first place to adopt this method is Boulevard Kitchen at Manzil Downtown.

Molecular Gastronomy

Molecular gastronomy refers to the use of scientific principles in preparation and presentation of food. A lot of chefs use science to make the food more appealing and desirable to the eyes, nose and taste palate of the foodies. This takes a lot of expertise and technology on the part of the restaurateur. Tresind is one such place serving Indian food in a very ‘sciency’ futuristic way. Jaan at the Penthouse, Spice & Ice, Farzi Café are a few other names that have taken this path.

Food for Fitness

Fitness is the mantra of the new generation. Every sector in the FMCG has been influenced by this new lifestyle that you can even find Kitchen Rolls advertising for its calorie absorption capacity. The food world has quickly caught up on this groove with health food places, healthy menu options, salad bars and what not opening in every other ‘hang’ in the city. Wild & The Mood, Ultra Brasserie, Omnia Gourmet are a few places that serve organic food. Acai Bowl is a small café serving healthy granola and smoothies and breakfast trays. 77 Veggie Boutique and Balance Café are a couple of places serving baked and completely healthy meals for the fitness conscious. Fitness food has caught its place in the menu card of every decent restaurant with the demand only increasing by the day!