Applebee’s parent to swell presence in UAE with 16 new outlets

The UAE’s dining scene is set to get even more competitive with the addition of digital options and restaurant outlets.

The New York-listed restaurant company DineEquity, the owner of Applebee’s Grill and Ihop Restaurants, has signed deals to have 16 additional franchises in the UAE, up from the current 10, in the next five years.

Of that, the first four will come on stream in the next year. That is a part of its regional expansion of 41 outlets in the Arabian Gulf, adding to its existing 46 outlets.

Each new restaurant would employ about 50 to 60 people.

DineEquity also plans to reduce the size of its new restaurants amid rising competition for space.

“It is always harder to find good real estate, and also it is more efficient investment-wise,” said Daniel del Olmo, the president of international markets at DineEquity.

The California-based company is not the only one looking for a bigger share of the pie.

The Indian restaurant information aggregator Zomato plans to expand from being a restaurant information site to a full-fledged food ordering service in Dubai by the end of next month.

“With the growth of the restaurant scenario in the UAE, consumers want to use technology that makes dining more convenient,” said Pankaj Chaddah, the co-founder and chief operating officer at Zomato, which lists 14,000 restaurants across the country.

The company offers a platform for diners to select dishes and place their orders online. Restaurants manually accept each order and handle the logistics of food delivery. In Dubai, 1,000 restaurants have signed up to Zomato’s new delivery service out of a total of 6,000 listed.

Zomato already has 10,000 restaurants listed for its delivery service in India and also plans to branch out in Indonesia, Australia and the Philippines.

This week, the Priceline chief executive Darren Huston said his company plans to expand the services of OpenTable, its online dining reservation service, to Dubai over the next 12 months.

OpenTable, which lists 36 restaurants in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi, will compete with rivals such as and Roundmenu, which started in Dubai in 2012, lists about 1,250 restaurants and fast-food outlets in the emirate.

Another 1,600 food and beverage outlets could open by 2019 in the UAE and the sector will grow an average of 4 per cent annually over the next four years, according to a report from KPMG this month.

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