Middle East Restaurant Association Teams Up with JLL for Latest ‘MERA Powered by GRIF’ Webinar



  • The sixth ‘MERA powered by GRIF’ webinar was hosted by Duncan Fraser-Smith and focused on COVID-19’s impact on the Middle East’s restaurant industry.
  • Ken Higman, Alexis Marcoux-Varvatsoulis and Dana Salbak of JLL provided exclusive insights on the implications of COVID-19 for the restaurant industry.
  • The weekly webinar series is back on Wednesday, 13th of May at 12pm.


Dubai, UAE –: Following five successful instalments, the MERA powered by GRIF webinar series returned with another insightful session on Wednesday, 6th of May. Duncan Fraser-Smith, Founder & Managing Partner of The Cutting Edge Agency, hosted the informative webinar, which was led by Foodservice Consulting experts at JLL, along with their Head of Research for MENA, who presented expert commentary on the fascinating findings of their recent survey: ‘The True Impact of COVID-19 on the Restaurant Industry’.

‘MERA powered by GRIF’ weekly webinars are part of the Middle East Restaurant Association (MERA) and Global Restaurant Investment Forum’s (GRIF) ongoing efforts to provide an inclusive support system for both the restaurant industry and wider F&B community. The latest enlightening hour-long webinar, which took place over Zoom, focused on the implications of COVID-19 on the Middle East’s restaurant industry, and included the following special guest speakers:


  • Ken Higman, Director for Foodservice Consulting, JLL EMEA
  • Alexis Marcoux-Varvatsoulis, Foodservice Consulting Lead, JLL MENA
  • Dana Salbak, Director Head of Research, JLL MENA


For its ‘The True Impact of COVID-19 on the Restaurant Industry’ survey, JLL collected industry insights from more than 200 restaurateurs, representing 1,500 F&B units, and received responses from over fifty cities across six continents. According to the survey 53% of restaurants in the Middle East have had to stop operations, while 41% of restaurants in Dubai have closed, temporarily, during lockdown. It was also noted that 100% of open restaurants are offering delivery, with 92% using aggregators in the Middle East, and 15% (in the Middle East and Europe) still providing take-out options. According to the survey’s respondents, delivery sales in the Middle East saw a 6% decrease in February and 24% in March, levelling out at an expected minus 30% in April.

The JLL team also highlighted that due to social distancing and other health measures, they expect the foodservice industry to have the slowest recovery profiles across multiple sectors, questioning its profitability at a reduced capacity of 30% or even 50%. Nevertheless, they were also keen to point out the various ways in which the industry has adapted during this crisis period. Many F&B businesses globally are switching to takeaway-only operations and rolling out community support initiatives, while there has also been a rise in fine dining delivery options, as well as an increase in the number of restaurants adding grocery items to their delivery menus.

In addition to the in-depth discussion centring on JLL’s survey findings, Jennifer Pettinger-Haines (Co-Founder of GRIF & MD Middle East of Bench Events) also announced some of the steps that MERA has been taking to stimulate dialogue between the F&B community and the government.

She said, “MERA has recently engaged with the government on behalf of the F&B industry, with the aim of discussing the most appropriate steps to take moving forward during this crisis period. In doing so, MERA has simply highlighted the concerns of the wider F&B community, in the hope of initiating a constructive conversation between the industry and relevant government bodies.”

If you wish to join the next ‘MERA powered by GRIF’ Zoom webinar on Wednesday, 13th of May at 12pm, please email jennifer@themera.org, with “I’m in”, and your name will be added to MERA’s list of supporters to ensure you’re always kept in the loop. The webinar will focus on Talent, Compensation and Benefits, as well as Learning and Development, and how it will change following COVID-19. The panel of experts taking part in the webinar will include:

  • Greg Wright, Co-Founder, Food People
  • Peter Lemperis, Global Director of Compensation & Benefits, Aramex (Ex Americana)
  • Andrew Stotter-Brooks, Vice President Learning & Development, Etihad Airways (ex Alshaya)

*More panellists will be announced over the coming days

A platform for collaboration, innovation and education – MERA advocates for sustainability, responsibility and food safety, securing longevity and, ultimately, a better future for the industry.

Check out GRIF.com for exciting news and announcements, along with enlightening articles over the coming months!



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