DUBAI (UAE) — Friday will be different.
Dubai’s former first weekend was a party tradition that included a long, hours-long celebration with unlimited supply of seafood, dessert, and Veuve Clicquot Champagne. This event is also known as Friday brunch.
However, starting in 2011, the United Arab Emirates changed its weekend from Friday and Sat to Saturday and Sun — an effort to be more aligned with Western schedules and global markets.
Emirati government workers now work half-days, with plenty of time to worship and gather with family on the holy day. However, most of the country’s expatriate-dominated, private sector workers work the entire day.
This has caused Dubai’s beloved Friday Brunch — a key revenue stream for COVID-19-battered restaurant owners who revel in Instagram-worthy, alcohol-soaked buffets — to be in disarray.
Adrian John and Lucy Melts created a popular website for reviewing Dubai brunches called Mr. and Mrs. Brunch.
Friday brunch in Dubai is more extensive than midday meals in major cities such as New York or London. There’s also the post-brunch brunch for those who aren’t tired from four hours of feasting.
It’s the experience Dubai is famous for. It helped Dubai get on the map,” stated Samantha Wood, a FooDiva restaurant review site.
Each restaurant and luxury hotel has its own brunch style. One steakhouse has a James Bond theme and plays spy movie music. At a brunch inspired in part by “The Wolf of Wall Street”, cash pours from the Waldorf Astoria hotel’s ceiling.
A karaoke brunch features lip-sync battles, while another offers a huge spread of lamb shanks alongside a petting area. The dessert tray is reminiscent of Willy Wonka and features chocolate fountains.
Although fixed prices can seem costly — all-you’ll-drink champagne packages cost more than $200 — there are cheaper alternatives. In a city where every glass of alcohol consumed in bars is subject to a 30% municipal tax, devotees maintain that unlimited booze is still a bargain.
Brunch spots have their own clients. A group of Russian tourists took selfies at CE LA VI, a rooftop with stunning views of Burj Khalifa and CE LA VI. As they loaded up with Parker House rolls, businessmen flashed Rolexes. A group of young, well-groomed women debated where to get breast implants.
Filia is a low-key Italian restaurant located at the SLS Hotel in downtown. A group of expat mothers ate Parmesan from a plate the size of a car and shouted over the louder party music.
Brunch destinations are locked in a culinary arms race for Dubai’s high-end spenders. They want to keep the extravaganza going despite weekend chaos.
With a new tagline, the industry is trying to reinvent itself: “Saturday’s the new Friday” Managers say that Sunday brunches are a hangover breakfast. This allows families to get over their hangovers, and then launch their week with light appetizers and mimosas.
Andrea Sacchi, chief operating officer at the upscale Roberto’s Restaurant & Lounge, Dubai International Financial Center, stated that people party on weekends so Saturday should be the new party weekend. “We have changed the branding, collateral and scheduling as well as reservation systems.
Residents mourn the loss, but uncertainty reigns.
Melts, Melts, and the other half of Mr. Brunch came from Reading, England 12 years ago. “There’s an aspect of sadness.” “It was wonderful to be different from everyone else, to be like: “Look, it’s Friday. We’re brunching, while our friends back at home are working.”
Restaurant executives are now asking themselves if Dubai brunch will survive without Friday.
Many of Dubai’s most popular brunch spots feel lukewarm since the January 2 change.
Arun Edakkeppurath (manager of Observatory Bar & Grill in glass enclosure) said that “the numbers aren’t that great at the moment Saturdays compared with last year.”
Now, the restaurant receives a lot of calls from teachers, government workers, and other people who work half-days on Fridays, asking for information about their famous brunch.
He said, “I believe people will react slowly to changes.”
Other brunch spots reported empty tables after the weekend shift.
Sadhan Adhilkary (assistant restaurant manager at Jazz@PizzaExpress), said that there have been many cancellations. This year, Jazz@PizzaExpress had to scramble to move its brunch to Saturday and to rebook its musicians for Friday’s new party night. It’s difficult to pinpoint the cause.
He said that business slows down when residents cut back on New Year’s Eve spending. The pandemic-era boomtown has seen a return to a feeling of fear as the omicron variant drives an increase in infections.
Nicolas Budzynski (global operations director at LPM Restaurant & Bar), stated that industry-wide, “we still really do not know how people will respond.” “I believe there is anxiety. It has caused some confusion.”
LPM has moved the classic brunch to Sunday. This is in anticipation that Saturdays will become too busy with errands, and Sundays will be more suited for family events and celebrations.
He said, “I can assure you that Saturday does not replace Friday.” “It doesn’t replace a day that was peaceful only because of prayers.”
John still thinks back to Friday’s all-you can-drink brunch aboard a yacht, where he first met Mrs. Brunch ten years ago.
“I can still remember fresh from the boat thinking, ‘Wow! What is this place? He said, “This is incredible, this is brilliant.” Friday brunch will always be romantic. Those years will always be there.