Meraas to expand Last Exit food truck centres in Dubai

Meraas will feed Dubai’s appetite for more food truck centres in the hope that it will support the emirate’s tourism ambitions.

In the next six months, the parent of theme parks operator Dubai Parks and Resorts said it plans to open nine more Last Exit destinations that would feature between 20 and 40 food trucks at each location, open throughout the day all week, aimed at commuters, families and tourists.

Meraas opened the first Last Exit in July on Exit 11 on Sheikh Zayed Road between Jebel Ali and Abu Dhabi. The 15,000-square-metre site has 17 outlets.

It declined to give the cost of the expansion.

Each of the stops will have its own design and will be permanent, similar to the first destination, according to Meraas.

The locations include another on Sheikh Zayed Road across from the first project, two on Al Ain Road, one each in Hatta and Al Khawaneej, one on Mohammed bin Zayed Road, two on Emirates Road and one on Al Qudra Road.

“Last Exit was conceived in line with Dubai’s tourism vision,” said Abdulla Al Habbai, the Meraas group chairman. “Therefore we sought, under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE, to expand on Last Exit to cover key roads leading in and out of Dubai.”

Dubai has set a target of 20 million visitors by 2020.

There will be more Last Exit locations in the future, he said. “Works will begin once the required licensing procedures are finalised and the new destinations will be completed in stages over the coming six months,” Mr Al Habbai said.

Meraas also said it would introduce a mobile application next week that would enable visitors to the food truck stops to place an order ahead of their arrival.

Meraas is adding new features to the Last Exit stops, such as entertainment spaces, play zones for children, walking tracks and exercise space, open-air cinemas and business centres.

A spin-off from the American concept where food is cooked and sold from the back of trucks, the current Last Exit features food and beverage outlets from Latin America, Middle East, the US and Italy in trailers designed in a similar way to those in America in the 1950s.

Meanwhile, the consulting group KPMG said that the supply of food and beverage outlets in Dubai outstrips demand. Sales have stagnated or decreased for 64 per cent of the 840 businesses it surveyed in the past year, said its F&B report released this month.

“While the food truck stops may not significantly impact competition in food service, it is likely that more players enter the food truck concept competing for a small share of the basket,” said Rabia Yasmeen, an analyst with Euromonitor International. “Expanding into less-travelled roads or with long lines at the gas stations can drive new tourist routes in the country.”

Last year, Dubai had 16,234 food and beverage outlets, and the number is expected to go up to 19,063 by 2020, according to Euromonitor International. Revenue is expected to touch Dh81.9 billion in 2020, up from Dh52.39bn last year.

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