When our journey started, there were no jamaican restaurants in Abu Dhabi offering the cuisine our family grew up on: Sierra Leonean, Trinidadian and Jamaican comfort food. At the time, we didn’t know whether this was because there was no demand for this type of food in the capital or whether no one had decided to go with the idea yet. With one (… or two) fingers crossed and a lot of prayer, we decided the reason was the latter and, in 2018, we opened our first pop-up stall in Yas Mall. Flash forward just four years and the number of West African and Caribbean restaurants in the capital is increasing.
The Latest Jamaican Restaurant
At the time of writing, the latest Jamaican restaurant will be opening in Yas Bay in the next few months. With this trend, we are often asked the question by our guests: ‘aren’t you worried that with more West African/Caribbean/Jamaican restaurants, you’ll have more competitors?’
Historically, one thing our community has been made weaker by, in our opinion, is divisiveness. In many major cities there will be a bustling and thriving Chinatown: a conglomeration of outlets with a focus on Chinese products. The foundation of these economic and social hubs are restaurants … many Chinese restaurants successfully operating side-by-side. There is obviously competition but because there are a lot of Chinese restaurants together, this helps to raise the profile of Chinese food and culture and, consequently, attracts more people than a solitary Chinese restaurant would do by itself … “a rising tide lifts all the boats” and all that.
A real-life example
We view the increase in the popularity of West African and Caribbean restaurants in Abu Dhabi in exactly the same way. In fact, we experienced a real-life example of this a few months ago. A guest dined in. When asked where she found out about us, she said she had tried food at another Jamaican restaurant in Abu Dhabi and she had enjoyed what she ate. She then googled Jamaican restaurants in Abu Dhabi, discovered us and was pleasantly surprised to find out we also offer, cuisine she had never tried before, Trinidadian and Sierra Leonean food.
Are we worried?
So are we worried about a new Jamaican restaurant opening? Our response, in a word, is always, ‘no!’ Yes there will be more restaurants offering similar cuisine to us, but we’re not worried. This is something we embrace and this promising trend makes us think that our decision to open at a time when there were very few restaurants like us was actually the right choice.