Dubai’s famous boozy brunches get a reboot as Saturday becomes the new Friday

The UAE is currently addressing the issue of work-life balance. Recently, the government introduced a 4.5 day working week for Emirati government workers.

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They say it’s risky playing with a winning formula — especially when that formula results in massive revenue for Covid-battered restaurants and is one of the pillars of a country’s tourism offering.

So, when the UAE government announced it was shifting its weekend from Friday and Saturday to Saturday and Sunday to align with global markets at the start of the year, Dubai’s hotels were quick to reassure its fun-loving residents that their greatest fear hadn’t been realized — brunches weren’t “over,” they were just moving to Saturday.

Brunches in Dubai are legendary. They are known for their extravagant lifestyle and have never been ashamed to show it. These all-you can-eat, all-you-can-drink get-togethers, which typically start at 12.30 p.m. and end after 4.30 p.m., help Dubai to be known as a party capital.

In reality, brunches are a much-anticipated end-of-week treat for the city’s hardworking residents — and make no mistake, despite the designer labels and bumper to bumper supercars, this is a city where people work extremely hard for their tax-free dirhams.

In a recent studyMobile tech company Kisi ranked Dubai as the most overworked in the category Work Intensity. This means that full-time employees work up to 48 hours per week.

The UAE is working to address this issue by introducing a 4.5-day work week for Emirati government workers. This means that they get a Friday off with time for family gatherings and worship on Friday.

However, most of the expat dominated private sector will still work the full day on a Friday — hence restaurants switching brunches to a Saturday — a change that Dubai’s foodies appear to have adjusted to with a shrug.

The only problem with weekenders who are hungry is choosing which brunch to eat. There are many options across Dubai, including Bleu Blanc at The St. Regis Downtown Dubai. There are extravagant creations available, such as a wagyu beef doughnut filled with truffle mayo, and unlimited Champagne for 700 UAE Dirhams ($191) per person.

There are also old-school “classic” brunches such as Bubbalicious at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi resort. Here, diners can indulge in three restaurants and an outdoor terrace for 695 Dirhams. This includes a huge fresh seafood display with lobster, crab, mussels and piles of freshly shucked oysters.

CNBC’s David Tully, head media at Dubai’s Middlesex University said that “I don’t think people needed any encouragement to go back for brunches after the weekend changes.”

“They could switch brunches to Tuesdays and folks would find a way — Dubaians just can’t say no to a pricey, excessive smorgasbord. Covid can’t ruin a time-honored tradition. Nothing breaks the brunch stride here.

The American expat added: “I think Aristotle called it Catharsis — after the slog of the work week, people need a little Dionysian excess on the weekend to let off some steam.”

Brunches are a highly-anticipated reward for hardworking residents of the city at the end of the week.

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Stephanie Hughes, a British managing director of a Dubai communication firm, is an avid brunch-goer and says that the new Saturday brunch is a good thing.

“It’s much better because we now go out to brunch and have a great time, then we have a relaxed, traditional Sunday dinner to recover from the festivities,” she said to CNBC.

She added that there was now more brunch choices, better quality food, and a wider range of timings. 

Victoria Stevenson, a Swedish expat, goes to brunch every weekend with her Scottish husband.

“I think entertainment is more a part the brunches; we’ll really miss it when we go back in Europe for a visit,” she said to CNBC.

Although brunches continued during the pandemic, some were cut back and included safety measures such table spacing, hourly table sanitizations, screens, and table service, rather than the usual buffet setup.

Many of the stricter protocols have now been dropped by Dubai’s hotels — although it may be some time before table service gives way to the usual buffet and multiple food stations set up.

It doesn’t really matter.

Hotels are doing all they can to woo back big-spender brunch clientele and their efforts appear to be paying off with bookings soaring in recent weeks in what appears to be a spinoff of so-called “revenge tourism” — a recent concept that refers to consumers being more eager to travel after lockdown restrictions.

“There has definitely been higher demand this past year,” Elif Yoazoglu, general manger at DoubleTree by Hilton Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence, stated to CNBC.

“There’s a need for everyone to go back to normal, be social, share a meal with family and friends, have casual conversations, and a lot of laughter — brunch is a relaxed weekend option to do that.”

Yazoglu claims that the hotel’s Saturday brunch has been a success in terms of guest acceptance.

“Since the weekend itself has shifted for everyone,” said one person who prefers Saturday brunches to those who used to be off work on Fridays.

She added that after a tough couple of years for the hospitality industry due to Covid, 2022 has been upbeat — supported by great weather, the excitement round Expo 2020, and travel trends going back to normal.

“We have also noticed that there’s a great demand for outdoor spaces — if weather supports — and our biggest advantage is our large garden space with its fabulous views of Ain Dubai [Dubai’s iconic observation wheel]Bluewaters Island,” she stated.

Source: CNBC

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