From poke bowls and frozen yoghurt to the Peruvian food craze, food trends are one of the drivers behind the success or set-back in the industry and here, Dubai Tourism, along with food writer Samantha Wood, list out the top 10 food trends that are set to make their mark in 2018. While the past decade has seen Dubai become home to numerous restaurant concepts created by world-renowned celebrity chefs, the effect of the influx of international standards to the region has not only inspired an upsurge in quality across the board but has also led to the rise of native talent in Dubai. Over the past few years, we have seen a steady increase in the number of high-quality home-grown concepts spring up around Dubai. This is only set to continue in 2018, with plenty of exciting new independent establishments under development locally by restaurateurs based in the region. The timing is also just right as diners are increasingly looking for an array of locally developed concepts that are well executed. The third wheel: More hotels are working with external specialists for restaurant solutions, which can result in a host of benefits for everyone involved. With an independently operated restaurant, the restaurateurs are the F&B experts, bringing their knowledge and business acumen to the table, while the hotels can focus on rooms and leisure options amongst others. The high-low mix: While high-end luxury will always have its place, gone are the days of superlatives where everything needs to be the biggest, best and most glamorous. Echoing global trends for independent, smaller concepts that do not cut corners on quality, this year we anticipate the further rise of mid-priced licensed restaurants in a casual setting. Increasingly there is a realisation that one doesn’t need to always pay top dirham to enjoy great quality food in an enjoyable setting – affordability is a key decision-making factor when dining out this year. Bang for the buck: With affordability a key decision-making factor when dining out, residents and visitors are looking for more bang for their buck. The success of culinary promotions has steadily grown over the years and with developments in technology it is getting easier to give added value dining option to foodies. If it’s not through an app, clever F&B promotions can do the same job, allowing more people to try a greater range of choices within the city’s vast dining sphere. The Arabian Fusion: In the year ahead, we’re anticipating an increase in the number of both traditional and modern Middle Eastern and North African restaurants, with regional flavours becoming more of a cuisine of choice in Dubai. With home-grown concepts gaining popularity, we will begin to see more Arabian flavours and spices infused into European and Asian cuisines, giving our city its own unique fusion flavour reflective of our cosmopolitan population. Micro-districts: With the evolution that occurs in any growing city, Dubai has blossomed into an emirate with plenty of character across many of its neighbourhoods. Whether JLT, Barsha, or Business Bay, each of these micro-districts comes with its own identity and a plethora of cafes and small eateries spanning every cuisine under the sun. Many “hidden gems” are also cropping up in these newly-developed areas, making them even more covetable places to visit. Experiential Dining: With people becoming ever more conscious of how they spend their free time, diners are now seeking something beyond a traditional restaurant experience. Pop-ups and supper clubs, local and global guest chef appearances at Dubai restaurants, cooking classes paired with a meal or even live entertainment weaved into the dining experience are all now part of the scope when enjoying an evening out, making it more of an occasion, than a simple meal. Feed on the go: Convenience and affordability go hand-in-hand, whether you’re looking at takeaways or food deliveries, options offering the chance to save time and hassle are growing at an exponential rate. A multitude of apps deliver restaurant-quality food straight to your home, in an impressively quick time frame. We have also seen a rise in meal plans, chef-for-hire services and domestic caterers. Keeping it local: What began as a niche option for those in the know, the farmer’s market scene has steadily grown over the last few years, offering local and sustainable produce to both consumers and trade. Hydroponic vertical farming for micro herbs is also present here, with plans for growth. Local and regional fish and seafood are easily available at the newly revamped Waterfront Market and Umm Suqeim Fishing Harbour. The UAE even boasts its own oyster farm in Dibba Bay that supplies restaurants in Dubai. This shift towards keeping things as local and sustainable as possible has also seen both restaurants and consumers minimising food wastage a greater priority. Health is Wealth: People are demanding healthier food both at home, as well as when dining out, with an upswing in the number of health-focused food trends and the demand for more suitable and specialised options. We will continue to see more interest in vegetarian and vegan dishes, while flexitarianism is also on the rise. Consumers are seeking more gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo and low-carb options. Among the key dietary regimes for the year ahead is gut-friendly foods that encourage positive gut health such as probiotics, prebiotics, fermented foods, activated charcoal, turmeric and cumin.