UAE-headquartered TIME Hotels, in partnership with BNC, has delved into the world of the Generation Z teen once again, with the third in its four-part round table series of travel, tourism and lifestyle discussions.
The next generation of frequent travellers, and foodie tourists, the Generation Z group (those born around the year 2000 through the 2010s) was represented by a dozen pupils from years 10, 12 and 13 (15-18-year-old) from Dubai English Speaking College (DESC) and The Winchester School Jebel Ali came together at TIME Oak Hotel & Suites recently, to talk about Dubai’s dining scene, their personal food adventures and the impact of the growing global nutrition and wellness movement on their diet.
The expat teen panel was unanimous in their fondness for buffets but equally adamant that choice, and a daily changing menu, was key to a good dining experience. Several also flagged hygiene as a major concern, citing negative experiences when travelling outside of the UAE.
The group was split on the issue of kids’ menus, with the rugby players from DESC dismissing the thought of chicken nuggets and small portions, while others remarked that a kids menu meal was still an option in terms of providing an adequate portion size (adult portions were often considered too large) or a quick fix if in the mood for something familiar.
“I feel like kids’ menus underestimate the palate and our taste preferences, especially as we become more globalised with the Internet giving us more access to different food and cultures,” remarked 15-year old Alijaeh Go.
DESC student Max Johnson, agreed, and said: “You mature as you grow up and are more willing to try new things, so [for kids menus] the range needs to be bigger and offer different things.”
When asked what restaurants can do to make their menus more appealing, Abhinav Nair from Wellington School remarked: “There are too many brunches and buffets; we are becoming immune to what’s on offer and they don’t interest us anymore.”
All 13 roundtable participants considered themselves relatively healthy eaters, apart from when they travel; however, with a new impending directive that restaurants feature at least two healthy dishes on their menu, it was a resounding “no” when asked if they would consider this their first dining choice – unless the options were innovative and different (“not just another salad!”).
The group was also on the ball when it came to awareness of the development of the food scene in Dubai, noting the exponential growth of predominantly western food chains in the UAE, citing examples such as Cheesecake Factory, PF Chang and TGI Friday. However, they are also seasoned hotel diners, albeit more often for special occasions than quick dinner fixes; and strong influencers when it comes to the family decision-making process.
“The UAE’s F&B sector is expected to grow by around 4% per annum by 2018, to reach US$13.2 billion, according to KPMG research, and with a hugely competitive dining landscape and an increasingly well-travelled, highly aware and critical audience, we as hoteliers need to evaluate our approach to the food we put on our table,” said Mohamed Awadalla, CEO, TIME Hotels
“While we historically focus on the adult diner – those controlling the purse strings – we also need to consider the influence of the younger members of the family; and our latest round table session has shown the team at TIME that quality, choice, flavour and nutrition are all equally important,” added Awadalla.