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Dining out for future success


All over the world, it would seem that 2023 was the Year of the Restaurant. After the hiatus of the pandemic, people everywhere were ready to party and eat out, exploring new culinary trends and various restaurant options.

Proof of that is an AP report that says American and global manufacturers slowed down their engagement with China in building factories and outsourcing production, but when it came to fast food and restaurants, American fast-food chains have decided a market of 1.4 billion people is simply too delicious to pass up.

From KFC to Starbucks and McDonald’s, these megalith food companies have ended 2023 and begun the new year with the promise of multi-million dollar investment in China. As the famous meteorologist Edward Lorenz said, “The flapping of a butterfly’s wings in Tokyo can cause a tornado in Texas”. 

This is just as true for the business scenario as it is for the climate – the restaurant trend has galloped around the globe and Bahrain too has seen an explosion of eateries and dining-out options of all kinds: from global franchises to home-grown food trucks and cloud kitchens and talented home-based caterers. 

What I want to ask is, how has this impacted the employment opportunities for Bahrainis? Because, I look around me and I see most restaurants being owned by Bahrainis but managed and run by expats. Even those which promise an authentic Bahraini gastronomic experience have expats in the kitchen and in the front-of-house.

Barring very few Bahrainis, the “face” of the restaurant boom in the Kingdom is most certainly expat. In the ‘eighties, we used to have an active Supreme Council for Hotels and Catering which ran an institute for training Bahrainis for the hospitality industry. The idea was to replicate the success of the banking sector in terms of nationalisation.

Nowadays, the movement of the industry has changed and we need to recalibrate our training and attract Bahrainis to all levels of the hospitality industry. With tourism booming, we need to have our act in place to make the industry work for our youth and give them wings to soar. On that hopeful note, I wish all my readers a very happy and productive 2024.

(Captain Mahmood Al Mahmood is the Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Tribune and the President of the Arab-African Unity Organisation for Relief, Human Rights and Counterterrorism)