If you are based in UAE, when was the last time you searched online for a restaurant? Chances are that it was within the last 7-10 days. A recent study by KPMG suggests that 66% of UAE residents dine out at least once a week. Based on restaurant search query data in UAE and KSA, download the PDF for interesting insights that restaurateurs and marketers can apply to better engage with customers during Ramadan and beyond.

Who is looking for restaurants this Ramadan?

When and how do people search for restaurants during the week?

Saudi Arabia and UAE search more for restaurants on weekends, than on weekdays.1 But while UAE searches most on Thursdays, it is Fridays that see the maximum search activity in KSA.

Does mobile matter? Yes it does! More than 70% of search activity in KSA is driven by mobile; the already limited share of desktop falls even lower on weekends. On the other hand, device usage varies significantly through the week in the UAE. Desktop accounts for almost 50% of restaurant queries on weekdays but falls to just below 35% on weekends.

YouTube is now the world’s second largest search engine and why shouldn't that apply to restaurants? 16% of all restaurant queries in the UAE, and 20% of those in KSA were generated on YouTube. The maximum YouTube search activity occurs on weekends in both countries.

When and how do people search for restaurants during the day?

Searches for restaurants peak twice in the day, usually an hour before mealtimes.

In the UAE, afternoon queries peak at around 12:00 PM. On weekdays, the vast majority is driven by desktop. On weekends, we observe a significant shift from desktop to mobile, with the result that 60% of all weekend restaurant searches are generated on mobile devices. We could infer from this data that people searching for restaurants during lunchtime are doing so either from their workplace, or in a work-related capacity. Throughout the week, mobile devices play a key role in dinnertime searches that peak between 7:00 and 8:00 PM.

In KSA, lunchtime searches in KSA peak at around 1:00 PM and a majority of them are generated on mobile devices. The inference of work-related lunch queries would again hold true here, since desktop queries drop to less than 10% of total query volume on weekends.

Late night searches for restaurants in both countries are almost always generated on mobile devices.

How do search trends change during Ramadan?

During Ramadan, search activity follows a similar pattern in terms of device usage but shifts time patterns. We analysed restaurant search data for 2014 and found a clear correlation between fast timings and search activity. In the UAE, lunch time searches still peaked at 12:00 PM, driven by desktop. However, this is likely to be driven by a significant expatriate non-fasting population. The same segment also continues to look for dinner options between 7:00 and 8:00 PM. But the majority of dinner searches shifted to earlier in the day at around 6:00 PM - indicating that these were related to iftaar. A relatively high level of activity continued until 2 AM indicating suhoor-related searches.

In Saudi Arabia, the situation was quite different given the more homogeneous population mix. The daily fast is broken at sunset and restaurant searches peaked approximately 1-2 hours before this. It is interesting to note that queries in KSA peaked at around 5:00 PM. The fact that KSA is an hour behind UAE further proves that these restaurant searches were Ramadan-related.

What does this mean for restaurateurs?

Moments that matter are the new battleground. A micro moment is a mobile moment that requires only a glance to identify and delivers quick information that you can either consume, or act on immediately. Marketeers can use these moments to facilitate impulse purchases.

Search data shows us clear patterns in cross-device usage and searching timings, indicating two clear takeaways for you.

Users search on mobile at a specific time of day, and with specific queries in mind. Make your mobile web presence preemptive to meet them proactively. For example, if you’re a small restaurant in Downtown Dubai that delivers doner kebabs, you might want to do three things:

  • Bid on ‘lunch home delivery downtown dubai’ and ‘kebabs in dubai downtown’
  • Bid more actively during high search hours
  • Ensure that it is easy for your customers to find you - a mobile friendly site and the use of sitelink extensions such as the click-to-call button

Data tells a thousand stories. We have seen how search activity is significantly affected by local events. Use this information to proactively deliver a better customer experience.

  • You could use search activity around local events to build effective brand association in the minds of customers. An example could be interactive brand ads on the Google network which allow booking iftaars within the ad itself.
  • If you’re working with limited marketing resources, digital media will facilitate the most cost-effective use of your budget. You could use location targeting, automated time management and audience targeting to meet exactly the right customer at exactly the right time.


1 Google.com search data June 2014 to May 2015