Top restaurants in the UAE say they have been flooded with dinner reservations for Valentine's Day, despite the fact that they could not serve alcohol. But hoteliers lamented a lost opportunity for revenue from beverage sales.
This year, with Valentine's Day falling the evening before the prophet's birthday, authorities declared it an alcohol-free night for hotels. The night is normally a prime opportunity to boost revenue from food and beverage sales, with hotels offering lavish packages for the occasion costing thousands of dirhams.
"[On Valentine's Day] we will obviously have a drop in beverage revenue," said Mark Patten, the vice president of culinary at Atlantis, The Palm, in Dubai, which has 17 restaurants and bars, including Nobu and Ossiano.
"We're still seeing good numbers coming through, so I wouldn't say it's a total disaster and we'll do what we best can throughout the remaining part of the week to maybe catch up a little bit."
He said he still expected a number of the restaurants at Atlantis to be fully booked for Valentine's Day.
In a survey conducted by Yahoo Maktoob Research, half of the respondents said they planned to go out for dinner to celebrate Valentine's Day.
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Some customers celebrated on Sunday instead because of the alcohol restrictions and Mr Patten said he expected some guests to make bookings for a romantic dinner the following evening.
"In terms of booking demand we're seeing a little bit less than what we had last year. However, we're feeling confident that people will still come out. We had a few guests celebrating [on Sunday] night in some of the restaurants.
"Guests still can come in and enjoy the dinner without any alcoholic beverages. People are still booking. I think we'll be busy but maybe not as busy as last year. It's always targeted into one day, so what we've done is we've offered the Valentine's Day menus outside the dry night."
The recently-launched At.mosphere at the Burj Khalifa, the world's highest restaurant, located on the 122nd floor of the tower, which demands a minimum spend of Dh450 per person was fully booked for the night.
"At.mosphere ... is fully booked for February 14 - for both lunch and dinner, at both The At.mosphere grill and The At.mosphere lounge," a spokesman for the restaurant said. "The regulations, announced much earlier, have not impacted bookings. In fact, the restaurant has received overwhelming response since its opening in January."
Okku, a Japanese restaurant in the Monarch Dubai hotel was also fully booked for dinner.
Meanwhile, in the capital, the restaurants Frankie's and the Marco Pierre White Steakhouse and Grill at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel were fully booked for Valentine's Day ad were almost fully booked for tonight. The hotel also expects a number of people to celebrate the occasion at the weekend. "Although the revenue in restaurants is diminished slightly on February 14th because of the dry night, we certainly make up for this in the amount of room bookings as guests have decided to prolong their Valentine's experience," said Arshad Hussain, the director of sales and marketing at the hotel.
In Abu Dhabi, food and beverage revenues across Abu Dhabi's hotels reached Dh1.1 billion in the first ten months of last year, representing a 13 per cent increase on the same period during the previous year. Food and beverage revenues account for 36 per cent of all hotel revenues in the emirate compared to 30 per cent for the same period the previous year, according to the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority.
"We had some guests who celebrated the occasion [on Sunday], however the number was much less comparing to the reservations in these two restaurants we received for [Valentine's Day]," said Sascha Bartz, the general manager of the Park Rotana hotel in Abu Dhabi, explaining that hotel had put together Valentine's menus which included mocktails.