Saudi food truckers tickling your taste buds can’t find a recipe for parking

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Food trucks doing brisk business at a street in Riyadh. AN photos by Huda Bashatah
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Youngsters enjoy at a food joint in Riyadh.
Updated 31 May 2018
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Saudi food truckers tickling your taste buds can’t find a recipe for parking

  • Pop-up kitchens on wheels have become part of the popular Saudi culture
  • Just like any other business, food trucks have regulations and licensing that owners need to follow in order to operate a food truck.

RIYADH: Food trucks are fast becoming a key feature of the Saudi streets. These mobile food outlets have become a lucrative business in major urban centers across the Kingdom.

It would not be wrong to say that these food trucks have become part of the popular Saudi culture. Only a few years ago, such outlets used to serve the needs of people working blue-collar jobs but today it has become a trend and these eateries are as valued as high-end restaurants.
With a wide variety of foods to offer, this business is gaining popularity among young entrepreneurs mainly because of the minimal costs as compared to setting up a proper restaurant. Yet when it comes to setting up the business, it turns out that it is not as simple as buying a truck and selling food.
Just like any other business, food trucks have regulations and licensing that owners need to follow in order to operate a food truck.
Cities like Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam have regulations for establishing a food truck business in order to obtain a license. There are also regulations for the vehicles, governing safety, size and sanitation. However, rules about where and when to park these mobile eateries appear to be the most difficult for the owners.
Abdulaziz Al-Qahtani, owner of a food truck in Riyadh that specializes in coffee, told Arab News about how owners struggle with the city’s municipal regulations, describing the process of opening a food truck as difficult as opening a regular outlet. But the most difficult part was finding a spot to park the truck.
He said: “They do not have clear guidelines where food trucks can stop or cannot stop,” he said. “It will be better for the city’s municipality to have a spot fixed for food trucks in different parts of Riyadh.”  
Another entrepreneur, Sereen Al-Madani, said: “I’m facing the same difficulties other trucks are facing: Many food trucks lose their businesses due to the unavailability of parking spaces, the absence of electricity or other facilities around the spots these trucks are usually parked.”
The situation in other countries is totally different, she said, adding that the municipalities provide food trucks with necessary facilities.
Al-Madani said: “We are not allowed to leave our trucks parked in a specific area overnight. A number of robberies have taken place at some locations.  In some incidents, generators and other machinery were stolen. I know one girl whose truck was stolen.”  
Some time ago, the Riyadh Municipality had allocated a parking space for food trucks on King Fahd Road but for reasons best known to the authorities the decision was overturned.
Attempts to get comments from the municipality on this issue did not yield results.
Another regulation was about the Saudization policy. According to Jeddah’s municipal website, in order to obtain a license, the workers and owners of the food trucks must be Saudi citizens and cannot be employed at a public authority.
In addition, the owners themselves must work along with their Saudi employees in the kitchen, sales and customer care.
“That is a problem because Saudis expect high salaries compared to foreigners, and if we hire Saudis we will have to increase our prices,” Al-Madani said.
“They cannot live with low income and I cannot benefit from it if I will sell my falafels at the same price as restaurants. There is no way to compete with that and that is the biggest difficulty.”
Despite these obstacles, the city’s municipality made it pretty easy for owners to issue a food truck license. Now permits are issued electronically and generally take two working days to be issued.
Even though Al-Madani and Al-Qahtani faced some issues with their businesses, each of them has a success story to share.
Most food truck businesses are upgrading to become restaurants or shops. A food truck specialized in coffee, now has its own coffee shop boutique in one of the upscale areas in Riyadh.
“The coffee sector in Saudi Arabia is witnessing a boom,” Al-Qahtani said. “Lots of shops are opening. We will have more coffee shops in the Saudi markets in the next couple of years.”
“The environment, the experience, the details that you find in the truck or you find in the shop, our characters, our colors, are all integrated to create an unforgettable atmosphere for the customers by providing board games, music, customer service. It’s actually not one package, it’s many packages that come together and make our outlet unique.”
Al-Madani said her food truck, which specializes in making all kinds of breakfasts, is succeeding because of its uniqueness. “When planning for my food truck to stand out from the pack, I focused on the quality,” she said. “My prices are reasonable, I sell breakfast throughout the day and that is unique.”
She added: “Without the help and support of my family and partner, I wouldn’t have made it: They are the ones who inspired me.”
Some food trucks are considering the month of Ramadan as the peak season, while others are taking this month as a chance to renovate, work on maintenance and think of new plans for the rest of the summer.

Al-Qahtani said he has a clear plan for how his business will go in the summer. He said: “In Ramadan, we will sponsor Shalky (Exhibition). We are taking this position to capture the eyes of more clients.”

Decoder


Saudi Arabia witnesses unprecedented achievements one year after MBS became crown prince

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has become the government’s face of reform, modernization and change. (SPA)
Updated 22 June 2018
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Saudi Arabia witnesses unprecedented achievements one year after MBS became crown prince

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the architect of a wide-ranging plan for social and economic reforms known as Saudi Vision 2030
  • Vision 2030 seeks to make Saudi Arabia non-oil based economy and the large developments at the Red Sea, Qiddiya and, NEOM, are part of the efforts to lure in investors and promote tourism sector.

JEDDAH: June 21 marked one year of Mohammed bin Salman as crown prince of Saudi Arabia.Since assuming the role, the crown prince, fondly known as MBS, has been working for the socioeconomic transformation of the Kingdom.
He is the architect of a wide-ranging plan for social and economic reforms known as Saudi Vision 2030, which aims to diversify the economy of the Kingdom and reduce its dependence on oil income.
Among the reforms envisaged in the Vision 2030 plan are the reopening of cinemas and allowing both sexes to attend concerts.
Another major development is the lifting of a ban on women driving. From June 24, women in Saudi Arabia will be able to take the wheel. The crown prince’s Vision 2030 reform plan seeks to elevate women to nearly one-third of the workforce, up from the current 22 percent.
In a statement issued to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that as the architect of Saudi Vision 2030, the crown prince was inspiring the country’s youth and introducing structural changes to the Saudi economy and society.
Al-Othaimeen said that in one year he had taken many important initiatives at the national and international level and reinforced Saudi Arabia’s leading role in defending and supporting issues related to the wider Muslim world.
In this area, the OIC chief said, the most notable achievement was the creation of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition.
Vision 2030 seeks to boost the Saudi non-oil based economy, and the large developments at the Red Sea, Qiddiya and NEOM, the futuristic mega city, are part of efforts to attract investors and promote the Kingdom’s tourism sector.
Saudi Minister of Telecommunications and IT Abdullah bin Amer Al-Sawaha said that the Kingdom is geared up to achieve the goals of socioeconomic transformation as envisaged in Vision 2030. He said that during the last year Saudi Arabia had achieved great success in this ambition.
Civil Services Minister Sulaiman bin Abdullah Al-Hamdan said that last year was characterized by many achievements. The Kingdom, he said, witnessed the continuation of the successful implementation of the crown prince’s Vision 2030, which covers all aspects of life.
Saudi Education Minister Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Issa said: “Our country is looking forward to a bright future in line with an ambitious vision. It is standing at the threshold of great transformation.”
Saudi Arabia has also witnessed several unprecedented developments since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began implementing his reform plans. In a bid to ensure transparency in the financial system to promote international investments, the Kingdom launched a drive to root out corruption from society without discrimination.
Saudi Justice Minister Dr. Waleed bin Mohammed Al-Samaani, who is also president of the Supreme Judicial Council, said that the crown prince is a leader whose impact has surpassed local and regional levels. He has emerged as one of the most influential figures at the global level, he said.
Islamic Affairs Minister Dr. Abdulatif bin Abdul Aziz Al-Ashiekh said: “The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 is a comprehensive national development program that seeks to achieve prosperity for the country. The crown prince has worked very hard to achieve many goals in record time.
“The Ministry of Islamic Affairs has received a great deal of support and attention from the crown prince to help fight extremist and deviant ideologies.”
The minister said that these efforts come within the framework of Vision 2030 to eradicate all sources of corruption.
MBS’s history of philanthropic initiatives has earned him many awards. In 2011, he established the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Foundation (Misk), which enables young Saudis to learn, develop and progress in the fields of business, literature, culture, science and technology, and sociology.
“The crown prince’s initiatives in relief and humanitarian work have been admired and praised by the UN and its related organizations,” said Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief) and an adviser to the royal court.
Al-Rabeeah said that the crown prince had allocated $66.7 million to fight the cholera epidemic in Yemen, in addition to his efforts to help the needy throughout the world without discrimination.
He said that the crown prince had worked hard to build a new phase of progress and prosperity for the country with the help of the youth who are the core of the Kingdom’s future.
In recent years, the crown prince has become the government’s face of reform, modernization and change. In a country where about 60 percent of the population is under 30, the young crown prince is widely seen as an icon in the push toward socioeconomic reforms.
The crown prince also heads the Council of Economic and Development Affairs, which aims to establish a seamless mechanism to achieve Vision 2030 goals.