Scrolling through Instagram last night, I saw a sad thing. Elevation Burger is closing its doors at Muscat Grand Mall, tomorrow. This is my favourite place for lunch in MGM, where I work; I love the food, and the team there. It was the first place I was ever greeted with "Welcome, FatSu!". More than that though, the opening of Elevation was an encouraging sign that big companies from Abroad were taking those of us in Muscat seriously as consumers of quality products.
Among the Gulf states, we have a bit of a reputation for appreciating the cheap over the good. I think it's true that a higher proportion of the market in Oman are bargain-hunters than in neighbouring countries. This comes at the expense of quality for those shoppers, and for the rest of us who would actually like to pay a bit more for something that is obviously of higher value - for example, free-range, fresh-ground, organic beef burgers, versus...what is in other burgers anyway? - we suffer because companies whose concepts revolve around selling quality products are not willing to take a risk on Muscat's residents backing their brand. So it's rare that the good stuff comes here.
Every mall that opens starts off in a heady cloud of rumours - this will be the class act! Proper high-end stuff! Gucci's coming, so's LV! Jamie's opening a restaurant! Then we downgrade our expectations as it's borne in upon us that these companies don't have the slightest bit of faith that we as a market will cough up for their products - or if we do, we prefer to do it in the glamour of Dubai or Paris. Next we come to hear of Shops We Love, and can afford. Boots! Debenhams! Nope, sorry. Not them either. They know we'll flock to the stores at first, then baulk at the prices charged, wait for the (ever more frequent) sales, or stock up over summer.
I'm not saying that cheap food can't be good, nor that everyone has an infinite amount of money to spend on their lunch. But I'm sad about the closure of Elevation Burger; I've had great times there. And here and here. There are hints on their social media that they might open elsewhere in Muscat - I really hope so, and I hope it's in a place where they can guarantee a nice profitable flow of people who are prepared to pay for their product. I'll be going for my final lunch there today, and over my extra-crispy-fries with cheeseburger-no-mayo-no-ketchup-just-balsamic-dressing-and-tomatoes I'll wonder whether, by the time Elevation's replacement comes along at MGM, we'll have moved on enough to appreciate that ingredients do matter (maybe more, even, than that extra rial you pay for good ones).