Network International: COVID-19 impact on food delivery business in the UAE

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Dubai, UAE: Standalone restaurants in the UAE saw a significant increase in online food delivery spend as e-commerce payments surged in 2020 following the coronavirus outbreak, according to Network International, the leading enabler of digital commerce across the Middle East and Africa (MEA)*.

Nandan Mer, Group CEO of Network International

As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated demand for cashless transactions, Network International continued to enable UAE businesses to take their services online. Network is the UAE’s largest merchant acquirer and reported a 45% year-on-year increase in overall e-commerce payment volumes in H1 2020[1]. Growth rates remained high through July at 61% y-o-y with more customers opting for contactless transactions to avoid the possibility of virus transmission.

In the food and beverage (F&B) sector, e-commerce transactions for standalone restaurants in the UAE, accepting orders online or through food aggregator apps, showed remarkable growth. Online transactions climbed more than 15% in May over reported volumes in March, growing further by over 30% in October as delivery became a popular and preferred choice following lockdown restrictions. Internet-based food ordering also rose as more outlets signed up to list their menus on multiple platforms to cater to growing market demand.

According to Statista, global revenue in the online food delivery segment is projected to reach ~ US$151.5 billion in 2021[2]. Recent reports suggest that in the Middle East and North Africa region, the UAE is the second-largest market for online food delivery with annual market size of US$ 834 million. Industry reports also suggest that restaurant operators in the GCC region have begun using a combination of cloud kitchens and aggregator platforms to launch new virtual brands[3].

Meanwhile, although dine-in point of sale (POS) transactions reduced in the first six months, footfall began to slowly pickup June onwards as restaurants opened under strict protocols and guidelines with regular inspections to ensure compliance. Resident dine-in spending at standalone restaurants in the country naturally saw a sharp decline in the earlier part of the year, falling by as much as 70% in Q2 2020 over the previous quarter, but rebounded to the single and low-double digits by the final quarter of 2020 as the UAE economy continued to ease restrictions. Broadening acceptance of digital and contactless payments including the option to pay ‘in-app’ even when dining-in, has further helped food outlets ensure and reassure customers of a safe experience.

Nandan Mer, Group CEO of Network International, said: “Our payments insights are intended to help the F&B sector and related businesses understand spending patterns and chart new opportunities based on evolving customer preferences. As the leading enabler of digital commerce across the MEA, we remain at the forefront of change giving our clients the opportunity to seamlessly adopt the latest payment trends in a rapidly changing environment.”

Network International is the largest merchant acquirer in the UAE. Figures are based on Network’s analysis of its ecommerce and POS transactions for restaurants and food aggregators across the country from January to December 2020.

About Network International:

Network International comprises a group of companies and is the leading enabler of digital commerce across the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, providing a full suite of technology-enabled payments solutions to merchants and financial institutions of all types and sizes, including acquiring and processing services and a comprehensive ever-evolving range of value-added services. 

Network International Holdings Plc is the holding company for Network International and the group companies.