I'd like to take this opportunity to wish Ramadan Kareem to all Caterer Middle East's readers.
This is a common greeting during the Holy Month, but it was not until recently that I discovered the actual meaning of the phrase.
The word ‘Ramadan' is derived from an Arabic word for ‘shortness of rations'. ‘Kareem', meanwhile, is the Arabic for ‘generous' or ‘bountiful'.
This makes the greeting particularly apt for those working in the foodservice industry at this time of year, I think.
Most people tend to assume that, because Ramadan is the month when Muslims practice daytime fasting, it must be a slow period for the food and beverage sector.
Indeed, many restaurants and coffee shops are closed during the day and many operators take advantage of the enforced slow-down in business to let their employees take their holidays or to carry out renovations or work on new menus.
But the change of pace does not generally mean a loss of revenues according to the Dubai-based F&B professionals that took part in this month's roundtable discussion about the operational challenges posed by the Holy Month.
Most agreed with Al Murooj Rotana Hotel & Suites food and beverage manager, Dominique Jossi, that in the evenings during Ramadan it's business as usual and, due to the revenue-generating capabilities of events such as Iftars, Sohours and other Ramadan-related activities, business remains surprisingly buoyant.
"During Ramadan most of families go out for Iftar, so it's good for generating revenue, especially because most of the guests eat at the same time and finish early, which allows double seating in some outlets," explains Jossi.
"Ramadan impacts positively on the profitability of the outlets as we are able to offer two dinner services each night, and it is important to focus on the volume of business rather than on high spending to secure a better profit."
Jossi adds that in actual fact, Ramadan poses very few operational challenges and that guests, especially those from overseas, enjoy the authentic Arabic experience.
"Guests are well-educated these days and they totally respect the local culture. I believe they react positively and enjoy experiencing Ramadan in the UAE," he says.
Of course for Muslims, Ramadan is a time for solemn contemplation of the teachings of the Qur'an. The fast is an exacting act of deep personal worship that is intended to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, cleansing the soul and allowing people to practice self-discipline, sacrifice and sympathy for those who are less fortunate.
While this message must not be forgotten, it is undoubtedly an interesting time of year for the foodservice sector.
Sarah Gain is the editor of Caterer Middle East.
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