The most important findings from the «Gastro WebReview 2024» – Dubai Edition 🇦🇪

  • Dubai Mall has the highest guest engagement compared to other malls in Dubai, with an exceptional average of 496.7 reviews per restaurant.
  • 86.38 % of all restaurant reviews are written in English, underscoring Dubai’s international appeal.
  • Dubai’s restaurants generally enjoy above-average re:Scores, indicating high levels of customer satisfaction. Restaurants with the best online reputation are in Dubai Hills Mall (re:Score of 89.3).
  • Fine-dining restaurants are rated highest by their guests, whereas pizzerias in Dubai malls have the least favourable reviews.
  • 90.55% of reviews were positive, with 4 or 5 stars. 
  • 34.3% of reviews received an answer from restaurants, showing a high level of engagement from business owners.
  • Dubai Mall outperformed all the shopping malls in terms of Food, Service, Ambiance, and Facilities. Guests can find the best value for money at Mercato Mall.
  • Guests emphasise the high food quality, excellent service, and the “wow” factor that a beautiful location or the unique presentation of dishes provides. Value for money is the main point of criticism.


The “Gastro WebReview” is the most comprehensive qualitative study of the gastronomy industry. Since 2020, it has been conducted yearly for restaurants in the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland). The study has won wide acclaim, featuring in major European media and publications, as well as prestigious trade magazines and newspapers.

In 2024, the “Gastro WebReview” was created specifically for Dubai, one of the world’s top gastronomy destinations. In this edition, we have focused on the restaurants located in shopping malls. We have analysed over 241,000 online reviews from 945 restaurants across 12 of the city’s largest shopping malls.

This study provides insights into the dynamic landscape of Dubai’s gastronomy industry, offering a comprehensive analysis of emerging trends and challenges and uncovering guest preferences and review behaviour. It also reveals the ultimate ranking of the best restaurants in Dubai’s malls, based on the online reviews written in 2023.

Number of online reviews and languages

Dubai is known for its culinary diversity and boasts an incredible array of dining venues, from award-winning restaurants to small, pocket-friendly eateries. Receiving consistently positive online reviews certainly helps restaurants to stay ahead of the competition, which is why asking for reviews is a common practice for Dubai’s restaurants. 

How many reviews does each restaurant receive?

In 2023, a restaurant in Dubai received an average of 255.8 reviews. That is higher than in Germany, for example, where a restaurant received an average of 154 reviews. This significant number highlights the importance of online reviews in the gastronomy industry and the dynamic nature of Dubai’s dining landscape.

Dubai Mall leads in terms of the total number of reviews written in 2023 and the average number of reviews per restaurant. With over a hundred thousand reviews spread across the mall’s restaurants, it boasts an exceptional average of 496.7 reviews per restaurant. This large number of reviews demonstrates the unparalleled popularity of Dubai Mall and reflects its size. As Dubai’s largest shopping mall, it also has the widest range of restaurants across all shopping malls in the city. 

Dubai Hills Mall follows Dubai Mall, with an average of 310.3 reviews per restaurant. This number is high for a mall that only opened in 2022 and has half as many restaurants as Dubai Mall. In third place is Dubai Marina Mall. There, a restaurant received an average of 288.6 reviews in 2023. 

At the other end of the spectrum, Nakheel Mall, Mercato Mall, and WAFI Mall have the lowest guest engagement, with less than 90 reviews per restaurant on average. 

Where do guests come from?

Dubai is home to more than 200 nationalities, with around 85% of the population being expatriates. On top of having a diverse cultural landscape, Dubai is also one of the top holiday destinations in the world. According to the latest data published by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET), in 2023 Dubai hit annual tourism record with 17.15 million overnight visitors.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that most reviews are in English. In 2023, English reviews made up 86.38% of those written across Dubai’s shopping malls. Almost all reviews in City Centre Deira (96.34%) were in English. On the other hand, Mercato Mall had the lowest share of English reviews, at only 70.84%. 

Arabic reviews vary considerably across malls. On average, 7.44% of reviews were written in Arabic in 2023. Mercato Mall had the highest share of Arabic reviews among Dubai’s shopping malls, with 25.85%, and City Centre Deira had the lowest, with only 1.38%. 

The other languages included in the top 5 are French, Russian, and German. Their shares range from 1% to 2% across the surveyed malls. The highest degree of language diversity appears in reviews for Dubai Mall. There, the shares of French and German reviews are larger than those in the other shopping malls. Meanwhile, the share of Russian reviews is the highest in Nakheel Mall. 

Online Popularity

Online reviews significantly impact a restaurant’s image or online popularity. Guests share their opinions online and with a large audience, thus influencing the restaurant’s reputation. The most important criteria to both guests and search engines are:

  • Number of reviews and (average) rating
  • Timeliness of reviews
  • Content of reviews
  • Responses to reviews

How good are the restaurants in Dubai?

The re:Score is an online reputation score that objectively measures online popularity. The re:spondelligent algorithm analyses all reviews quantitatively and qualitatively on a scale of 1 to 100 (value >80 is good, >90 very good).

Search engines better find restaurants with a higher re:Score, and potential guests more frequently decide to visit them.

In 2023, all twelve malls had higher than average re:Scores, indicating a generally high level of satisfaction among guests. The city average was as high as 88.2 points out of 100. To compare, this number is higher than the country average in Switzerland (83.6) and Germany (84.4). Such a high score confirms that the city’s dining scene is very competitive, and restaurants strive to maintain excellent reputations with the hope of attracting and retaining guests in a crowded market.

Where are the best restaurants in Dubai?

Dubai Hills Mall had restaurants with the best online reputations. This mall had the highest re:Score of 89.3 in 2023. Dubai Mall lagged by just 0.1 points, standing out due to its exceptionally positive online reviews.

WAFI Mall had the lowest re:Score of 84.4. Compared to the other shopping malls, restaurants in WAFI Mall received more critical reviews with lower star ratings. Most of its restaurants’ complaints concerned the food quality and portion size relative to price.

Which restaurant categories have the best reviews?

Dubai’s shopping malls house different categories of restaurants, from fast food to fine dining. In turn, guests also tend to review such restaurants differently. For example, the service speed is important across the board, whereas for fine-dining restaurants, guests value the ambiance, the location, and the view. 

This study revealed that fine-dining restaurants are rated the highest by their guests. With a re:Score of 90 points, they showed the highest level of guest satisfaction. 93% of all reviews written for fine-dining restaurants had 4 or 5 stars. Food, Service, Ambiance, and Facilities are rated higher for fine-dining restaurants than for restaurants in other categories.

Those in the Tea- / Coffeehouse / Bakery, Café / Bistro, and Bar / Lounge / Pub categories came second in the re:Score ranking and have almost equally high results. The most negative reviews are for pizzerias in Dubai’s malls. Their re:Score is 76.9 out of 100 points, and 15.3% of all reviews written for pizzerias have only 1 star. Across all restaurant categories, pizzerias have the lowest marks in service. Guests also complain about the bad food quality and, consequently, poor value for money.

How many reviews are positive vs negative?

Guests are mostly positive and award top ratings to the restaurants they visit. In 2023, 90.55% of the restaurant reviews had 4 or 5 stars. This high share of positive feedback indicates widespread satisfaction among diners in Dubai.

1 and 2-star reviews have a share of 6.4%. When leaving negative feedback, guests are more likely to give 1 star.

Having observed guests’ review behaviour over the years, we see a trend that many online reviews are extreme – either 5 stars or only 1. Reviews in the middle of the rating scale, with 2 or 3 stars, are rare.

How many reviews were responded to?

Restaurants in Dubai’s malls respond to, on average, 34.3% of all online reviews. In comparison, European restaurants respond less frequently, with Swiss restaurants responding to 25% of their reviews. Such a high response rate signals that restaurants perceive online reviews to be very important in Dubai.

There is a notable disparity in the response rate across different malls. WAFI Mall leads with the highest response rate, with 76.6%, followed by Mercato Mall, with 54.1%. On the other hand, restaurant guests at Ibn Battuta Mall received responses to their reviews in only 15.7% of cases.

On average, negative reviews receive responses more frequently than positive ones, but the difference is slight. However, some malls respond to positive reviews more frequently than negative ones, as is the case for Dubai Festival City Mall, Dubai Marina Mall, Mercato Mall, and WAFI Mall.

Content analysis

Online reviews are unstructured textual data. Although they are rich in qualitative insights about guest sentiments and behaviours, they may be difficult to understand and quantify. At re:spondelligent, we use advanced machine learning algorithms to analyse guest sentiments in reviews and assign them to over 40 industry-specific categories, thereby identifying trends and creating actionable insights. 

In this study, we have summarised the findings into the following five main categories: Food, Service, Ambiance, Facilities, and Value. 

It is unsurprising that in restaurant reviews, guests primarily comment on food and service. In both positive and negative reviews, feedback about food and service has almost equal shares of approximately 40%.

What are guests talking about in Dubai?

Overall, Dubai’s dining scene boasts high ratings across the board, with an average rating of 4.5+ for Food, Service, Ambiance, and Facilities. The main point of criticism is value for money, which resulted in a relatively low average Value rating of 4.28.

Dubai Mall outperformed all the shopping malls in 4 out of 5 categories. It stands out with the highest average ratings in Food (4.56), Service (4.57), Ambiance (4.67), and Facilities (4.67). According to online reviews, guests can find the best value for money at Mercato Mall (4.45). 

City Centre Deira scored lowest in Food (4.34) and Service (4.33) compared to the other malls in the city. Regarding Food, most guests complained about the quality of dishes (being overcooked, undercooked, or lacking flavour) and often mentioned the temperature (food not served hot). Mistakes in orders, staff inattentiveness, and long wait times resulted in lower ratings in Service.

WAFI Mall received the lowest Value rating (4.03) across Dubai’s malls. As described earlier, the discrepancy between the price paid and the quality received in the mall restaurants resulted in the overall low star ratings and re:Score.

Top Topics: Positive and Negative

Naturally, restaurant guests comment about food and service far more than other aspects, such as ambiance or facilities. The restaurant’s location or child-friendliness, for example, are usually mentioned only when guests perceive them to be exceptionally good or bad.

Which topics do guests mention most frequently in online reviews?

Positive mentions:

In Food, apart from overall satisfaction, guests mentioned the wide variety, beautiful presentation, and the freshness of produce. Guests especially appreciated when dietary requirements were catered for, such as when restaurants had vegan and vegetarian dishes available. Drinks are also one of the top 10 most mentioned aspects.

In Service, guests mentioned valuing the friendliness and professionalism of staff. In particular, the first impression is crucial, when guests are welcomed and seated at the table. The atmosphere and location of a restaurant also play a significant role in the guest experience. Together, they constitute approximately 10% of mentions. Lastly, when the guests are happy, they tend to recommend a restaurant to their friends, family, and other readers online.

Negative mentions:

18.41% of negative mentions are about food quality and taste. In particular, apart from general dissatisfaction with their order, many guests complain about small portions and the food being served cold. Most criticism in service is about the professionalism of staff. Poor training and unhelpfulness are common reasons for bad reviews. With the general standard of customer service being very high, guests have great expectations and feel disappointed when they go unmet.

Value for money is closely connected to Food and Service. If those aspects are not on par with guest expectations, the perceived value for money is low. In 13.2% of negative mentions, guests described their experience as “overpriced” or “not worth the money”. 

Waiting time is another common concern for guests who are used to fast service in Dubai. Finally, guests complained about the atmosphere when they found the restaurant to be too crowded, busy, and noisy.

Methodology: Study “Gastro WebReview 2024”

This study was conducted on restaurants in Dubai for the first time.

For the study, we selected 945 restaurants from the 12 largest shopping malls in Dubai. In total, we analysed over 241’000 online reviews from the most important review platforms.

The UAE and Swiss company re:spondelligent conducted this independent study. The results serve to define industry standards and create benchmark values. Furthermore, the study provides insights into guest behaviours, preferences, and expectations. The study is conducted annually.

Data from this study is free to use, provided the source is indicated and includes a link to this page. If you have questions about this study, don’t hesitate to contact us.