A Deep Dive into Influencer Marketing and the Top Food Influencers & Bloggers in Dubai & the Middle East

A Deep Dive into Influencer Marketing and the Top Food Influencers & Bloggers in Dubai & the Middle East

Marketing

Marketing

April 4, 2024

April 4, 2024

Nearly 85% of 3,000 respondents in The Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2024 view influencer marketing as “an effective form of marketing.”

The global influencer marketing industry is expected to reach $24 billion by the end of 2024.

One of the most popular industries where bloggers and influencers is the food-and-beverage (F&B) industry.

The global F&B market is expected to reach $8.9 trillion by 2026, registering a compound annual growth rate of 8.7%, a report by The Business Research Company (TBRC) shows.

In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the F&B industry is growing at an incredible rate. Research forecasts the GCC F&B industry to reach $128 billion by 2029, from $94 billion in 2024.

Food and dining make up a sizable portion of the Middle Eastern travel and tourism experience. People from around the world like to explore the different flavors the Middle East has to offer.

That’s why the number of food bloggers has skyrocketed in recent years. The most popular locations with food bloggers and influencers are Dubai, Egypt, and most recently, Saudi Arabia.

But with some many food bloggers around, where do you go and who do you follow?

In this article, we’ll be taking a deep dive into influencer marketing statistics and research. We’ll also help you discover the top food bloggers in Dubai (and the UAE), along with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East.

The challenges of influencer marketing 

Influencer marketing, no matter how effective, has its pros and cons. From fears of fraud to paid sponsorships that make consumers weary of ‘paid’ food bloggers, there are a few challenges.

According to restaurant and hospitality expert Alexandra Leung, influencer collaborations have “proven to be a highly effective strategy for many restaurants.” Especially those “targeting younger demographics.”

Many food bloggers turn to TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube to showcase delectable dishes, “enticing their followers to visit the featured establishments.”

“In some cases, a single post from a popular influencer can lead to a surge in customers and a significant increase in revenue,” explains Leung.

However, things aren’t always so cozy with food influencers, regardless of where you are in the world.

Many consumers believe restaurants take extra to ensure the dining experience is tailored to get a 5-star rating from the food blogger. In addition, because many restaurants pay food influencers, these influencers cannot be unbiased in their review.

Leung notes that restaurants may sometimes “create ‘Instagram-worthy’ dishes or prioritize the needs of influencers over [their] regular customers.”

Instead of focusing on building customer retention, the restaurants may hurt their good relationship with their guests. Or as Leung puts it, may lead to “a disconnect between the portrayed image and the actual dining experience.”

It’s because of those reasons, many of the top food bloggers in Egypt prefer to order takeout, sometimes even under other people’s names, to give viewers an unfiltered review and experience.

While they may not get the restaurant dining experience, they offer an honest review of the food. The restaurant or diner doesn’t know it’s about to be reviewed before millions of subscribers and followers, so they send the standard quality of food and packaging.

Influencer marketing and the F&B industry

Looking at the data, it’s clear more businesses are turning to influencer marketing.

Roughly 60% of respondents in The Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2024 survey who use influencers say they “intend to increase their influence marketing budget over 2024.”

Moreover, nearly 25% of respondents plan to “spend more than 40% of their entire marketing budget on influencer campaigns.”

While these are general statistics, not specific to the F&B industry, the data offers insight into how different brands use influencer marketing.

For the F&B industry, the best type of food influencers restaurants should collaborate with are micro-influencers, says Paul Davidescu, founder of Tangoo Entertainment, an F&B marketing company.

Davidescu describes micro-influencers as “food hobbyists” with a following of 1,000 to 25,000 “hyperlocal Instagram followers, an engagement rate of 2-10%, an eye for photography, [among other criteria].”

Engagement across the agency’s 50 influencer marketing campaigns reached 7.38%. According to Davidescu, this engagement rate is “almost 5 times the industry average.”

That said, Davidescu notes that “proving sales was a bigger challenge.” He explains that online sales are limited at most restaurants, making it harder to gauge the number of people who saw the influencer campaign and visited the restaurant.

Moreover, many food influencers “like to ‘warm up’ their audience with a brand awareness campaign” to see how audiences will react to the campaign and brand.

Research by Statista expects nearly 6% of total revenue in the food industry to come from online sales in 2024.

In other words, when running an influencer marketing campaign for your restaurant, find out how to measure its impact beforehand. 

Top food bloggers in Dubai 

The following are our top picks for food influencers in Dubai and the broader UAE. They’re not arranged in any specific order.

Samantha at Foodiva 

Foodiva, The Restaurant Whisperer, is a restaurant news, reviews, and food features website, housing various experts.

Managed and curated by a British-Greek-Cypriot foodie, Foodiva runs the successful Foodiva Newsletter, offering an “inside guide on restaurants in Dubai.”

There is a free monthly newsletter, along with 3 paid tiers for newsletter subscriptions.

Foodiva describes itself as an “impartial, intelligent” source for restaurant reviews, food features, and dining experiences.

Check out the Foodiva Website. Find them on Instagram (33,200 followers), Facebook (6,600 followers) and LinkedIn (2,000 followers). It’s not clear how many newsletter subscribers Foodiva has. 

Where My Food At 

Hosted by Dubai-based Indian couple Kim and Den, Where My Food At is a leading food blog in the UAE.

Although Where My Food At began as a hobby. Fast forward 10 years and the award-winning couple is still going strong, exploring food around the UAE and the world.

With nearly 92,000 followers on Instagram, Where My Food At is a foodie account you want to keep your eyes on. 

Dubai Confidential 

Dubai Confidential, now Dubai and Abu Dhabi Confidential, is a Dubai food influencer sharing unique dining experiences across the two busiest emirates.

The food blogger describes itself as a “no-fuss practical lifestyle website for women, regardless of their age, nationality, income, relationship status, and size. Our philosophy is to inspire, motivate, and help women discover and explore hidden gems around the UAE.”

Dubai Confidential also has a weekly newsletter, but it’s unclear how many people are subscribed to it. They also have YouTube and Twitter accounts that seem to be inactive.

Follow Dubai Confidential on Instagram (39,000 followers) and Facebook (nearly 500,000 likes and followers). Check out the Dubai Confidential website, featuring articles and blogs on recent dining events and experiences.

Mr. Taster 

One of the most followed food bloggers in Dubai is Mr. Taster with 1.9 million followers on Instagram. Hubert Sepidnam, known by his food blogging name Mr. Taster is an international food blogger, based out of Dubai.

Mr. Taster visits restaurants, patisseries, and takes photos with other influencers and celebrities in the hospitality industry. (No one will miss the chance to take a photo with Saltbae, aka Nusr-et.)

His posts vary between images and long and short videos. Mr. Taster saves his really long videos for YouTube.

In his videos, Mr. Taster showcases the incoming food, the dining experience, eating, his discussion with waiters, and more. His Instagram posts are detailed, clarifying his overall experience at each restaurant.

Follow Mr. Taster on Instagram (1.9 million followers), Facebook (599,000 followers), and YouTube (115,000 subscribers). Check out Mr. Taster’s website for information and collaboration. 

Around2UAE 

Around2UAE is a popular food blogger, traveling the UAE for food and beverage experiences.

Less known by his real name Omar Alzaabi, Around2UAE visits restaurants, diners, and coffee shops. They also explore special celebrations and events and share their experiences via Instagram videos.

Alzaabi has also visited other countries, and shared their food experiences, including Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Follow Around2UAE on Instagram (23,800 followers) and Facebook (personal account). 

Top food bloggers in the GCC and the MENA region 

Despite its burgeoning status as a hospitality destination, the food scene is still gaining ground in Saudi Arabia. That’s not to say there aren’t food bloggers in Saudi Arabia, there are many, I’m sure.

Here are the top food bloggers and influencers in both Saudi Arabia and the broader GCC.

Hussain Sallam, S7S 

While there are many Saudi food bloggers out there, few have acquired notable fame as S7S.

Hussain Sallam, better known as S7S, is one of the most popular food bloggers and influencers in Saudi Arabia, the GCC, and the MENA region.

With over 8.72 million YouTube followers, S7S explores restaurants and eateries around the Middle East. From his hometown in KSA to the UAE to Egypt and more.

S7S shares his dining experiences with millions of followers across YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Follow Hussain Allam S7S on YouTube (8.72 million subscribers), Snapchat (2.29 million followers), Instagram (3.3 million followers), Tiktok (6 million followers).

It’s worth mentioning that for Saudi audiences, YouTube and Snapchat are the top social media channels. Tiktok and Instagram are also important, but Facebook isn’t popular among Saudi audiences. 

Sheika Hesa Al Khalifa of HK.Finds 

Unlike many food bloggers on this list, Sheikha Hesa is a member of the Bahrain royal family. She’s also a long-term resident in the UAE.

Sheika Hesa is a foodie and a chef. According to The National, Sheikha Hesa “has built a career out of developing menus for a range of restaurants.”

She has curated menus for The Abu Dhabi Edition Hotel, desserts for The Bench on Al Raha Beach, along with many Khaleeji dishes for Sharing is Caring.

You can follow Sheikha Hesa on Instagram (229,000 followers) and Facebook (personal profile). You can partner with her by contacting Kuisines Magazine. 

Chef Issam Rhachi, Park Hyatt Marrakech 

Chef Issam Rhachi is a different type of food influencer on this list. Though not a food blogger, Rhachi is ‘the’ chef heading TFAYA, the brasserie arabesque at the Park Hyatt Marrakech hotel.

Over the years, Rhachi has gained eyes as people enjoy his Moroccan culinary expertise.

Join the Chef’s 21,500+ followers on Instagram.

Top food bloggers in Egypt

Egypt is home to hundreds, if not thousands of food bloggers. But it’s important to follow foodies who really offer insightful experiences, including pricing and pros and cons of dining in certain areas.

One of the top issues with food bloggers in Egypt is how much restaurants pay those bloggers to dine at their venues. This leaves little authenticity as food bloggers end up having to note that all the food was ‘delicious.’

That’s why, authentic and honest food bloggers don’t inform restaurants they’re ‘coming.’ So that nothing is prepared for them.

Similarly, some food bloggers in Egypt, specifically, would order takeout and try the different dishes at home to avoid restaurants taking time to make dishes ‘perfect’ for them for a positive review. 

mon3esh – منعش 

Mon3esh (Arabic for ‘refreshing’) is a popular, honest, and super funny Egyptian food blogger.

The former dentist-turned food blogger, shares his food and dining experiences across Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

Mon3esh doesn’t often share his experience inside restaurants as many Egyptian food bloggers do. Instead, he orders food and reviews meals at home. This reduces the chances of restaurants making special considerations for his order.

Mon3esh regularly shares videos comparing different quick-service and fast-food restaurants and diners.

Follow Mon3esh on Facebook (2.3 million followers), Instagram (199,000  followers), YouTube (706,000 subscribers).

It’s worth noting that for Egyptian audiences, Facebook is a more popular channel followed by YouTube and Instagram.

Amr Sherif 

Another popular Egyptian food blogger is Amr Sherif. Like Mon3esh, Sherif orders food, desserts, and dishes at home to try, away from prying eyes.

Sherif regularly features fellow foodie Mohamed Hazem, of Hazem Cooks, in his videos, especially when trying out and comparing different desserts and dishes.

Amr Sherif also manages a food podcast, which he calls ‘Foodcast’ on Instagram and YouTube.  

Follow Amr Sherif on YouTube (1.25 million subscribers), Facebook (802,000 followers), Instagram (241,000 followers). He also has a YouTube Shorts channel with over 62,000 followers.

Posted by :

Mohammed Rafy

Marketing