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Illustration by Harper Cho

Behind Best Bites Abu Dhabi

In conversation with Rachael Partington, CEO of Best Bites Abu Dhabi, on the Facebook group’s humble origins and current work.

Nov 17, 2018

Best Bites Abu Dhabi, with 28,500 members, is one of the biggest, most active Abu Dhabi-based Facebook groups, and it has now evolved into a website with information that allows residents and visitors alike to navigate the local food scene. The Gazelle conducted an interview with Rachael Partington, CEO of Best Bites Abu Dhabi, on the group’s history and current work.
TG: How did Best Bites Abu Dhabi first come about, and with what motive?
RP: When we first arrived in Abu Dhabi in 2010, everyone knew almost every place in town to eat and drink, but by 2014 there were loads of new options springing up. People were talking about them on their personal Facebook accounts, and I decided that we needed a public forum — specifically about Abu Dhabi — to ask and get answers.
Within a year we had reached 3,000 members; by this point, industry professionals began to see the potential of the group and started offering discounts and requesting promotion. In 2016, I made the decision to get a trade license and start charging for advertising, simply because it was taking so much time. I was going to meetings and discussing marketing campaigns with businesses, and inevitably had to quit my initial job.
We are now at 28,500 members and remain the best platform to promote food and beverage as well as the best place to find information about where to go to eat and drink in Abu Dhabi.
TG: How did the group grow to such a massive community in Abu Dhabi? Is there active participation from the members of the group?
RP: While we have grown quite quickly, we don’t add members randomly; we only add people whose profiles suggest they might be able to access food outlets in Abu Dhabi. A lot of people join Facebook groups to make friends, and we try to avoid such type of requests. Recently, we had a wonderful situation where we added someone who was planning to visit Abu Dhabi, and she planned her entire vacation around places recommended by Best Bites. Overall, engagement in the group is very high and members are willing to share their wisdom on food scene, which is what makes the group fantastic.
TG: How does the group operate? Who makes contributions to reviews and the official website?
RP: Anyone can review on Best Bites and those who are less confident with writing can enter the Pic of the Week competition to show off their photographic skills. The reviews from the Facebook group then go onto our revamped Reviews page on the Best Bites Abu Dhabi website.
The Best Bites team members review as well; we are very conscious of the fact that our business rests on our integrity, so we won’t present something as amazing if it’s only average in reality.
I have an amazing, hardworking team: Nathalie Christodoulides, Rebecca Rouen and Cody Preston, without whom Best Bites wouldn’t function. We are also incredibly lucky to have the services of the best graphic designer in the UAE: Monica Modesign. She is an outstanding web designer and has brought Best Bites Abu Dhabi from being just a Facebook group to a successful business.
TG: How does the discount and offers with restaurants in Abu Dhabi work?
RP: We are lucky that restaurants around the city offer discounts to members of the group. We don’t reach out to people; in fact, they come to us. As we grow in size and become better known, we get more businesses come to us to discuss about group discounts and promotion. One of my favorite things about Best Bites is that we get to help people save money, and that our discounts often make a difference in making eating out more affordable. We would ideally like more hidden gems to offer deals to cater people who need them the most.
TG: Best Bites Abu Dhabi has expanded to not only focus on food, but also on covering Abu Dhabi’s general food and entertainment scene. How does the group aim to operate and expand in the future?
RP: Because we have well-run platforms across both social and digital media, we are often asked to cover events in Abu Dhabi, such as the Mubadala Tennis Open and the Abu Dhabi Food Festival. We no longer just do restaurants but are involved in anything that involves food and drinks in the city.
Soohyun Hwangbo is Deputy Features Editor. Email her at
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