How much?

Alexander has a piece of spot on commentary about the price of eating out in Dubai here.

We practically stopped going out at all for a while – it was just getting so ridiculously expensive, it was just not worth the money. Or even half the money. I just don’t understand who is paying the prices being charged at many places in Dubai. Even going out to a pub-like place has become outrageously pricey – $12 for a pint? $25 for fish and chips?

If we did go out, it was to somewhere very cheap, usually serving Indian/Pakistani food. Great value and delicious, but not a dining lifestyle choice extravaganza. Other than that, we’d have people round to ours or go to friends’. Less expensive and lots more fun.

I’m sure no one will have any sympathy for us poor expats in Dubai, but it was an odd feeling, effectively being priced out of the market in your own city.

Recently though, some better value options have begun to spring up – we went to a birthday brunch the other week, which was perfectly decent and cost around 200Dhs. Service was good, food was good, drinks came regularly. It was at a Rotana hotel, which got me thinking…

Years ago, Mrs Saul and I had a ‘Rotana card’. You got 50% of food (for two people, 33% off for three and so on), as well as 15% off drinks. During May and June, I remembered that we’d also got vouchers for 50% of the cost of the discounted meal. You could then use these vouchers in conjunction with the card, to get an even better deal the next time you at at a Rotana restaurant.

We stopped renewing our Rotana card as we found that if we went out it was always to the same places. Mrs Saul Mandated Change and we duly found ourselves trying some other restaurants, getting sick of being ripped off and generally staying in a lot more.

As I usually stay at the excellent Rotana Gefinor in Beirut, I decided to get myself a Rotana card so that I can collect the points when staying there. It’s still great value – 800Dhs for the card, which then arrives with a 250Dh voucher. They’re also doing the same voucher offer deal this year.

Since then we’ve had some absolutely fantastic meals and paid very reasonable prices – we even ended up using our vouchers and card and spending 31Dhs on a meal for two that came in at 553Dhs!

Rotana’s places aren’t the flashiest in Dubai, but that doesn’t mean they are not excellent. They are simply very good rather than being over the top ponce-fests. There’s lots of choice and the hotels are always well put together, with good service and so on. Even the list prices are reasonable – with the card you can eat out at some very good places and actually pay not much more than you’d pay at a Karama taximan joint.

I’d be fascinated to see how the restaurant industry works here. If Rotana can give you 50% off and still be profitable, are the other venues raking in huge profits, or are they putting their prices up so as to make as much as possible from a small number of customers?

And who is going out every Thursday and spending 50Dhs on numerous cocktails, followed by 500Dh brunches every Friday?

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