Bahraini start-up helps restaurants in the GCC market digitize reservations

The new app will help customers to book and restaurants to manage. (Supplied)
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Updated 10 January 2020

Bahraini start-up helps restaurants in the GCC market digitize reservations

  • Company has developed an electronic system for table and reservation management
  • The GCC region is expected to have 5,500 new restaurants and eating spaces by 2020

MANAMA: Fueled by a young population and a culture where nourishment plays a prominent part in most social gatherings, the food economy in the Middle East and North Africa region shows no signs of a slowdown.

This is particularly evident in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, where the food and beverage sector is expected to grow by more than 7 percent annually to an estimated $196 billion in 2021, according to Mena Research Partners.

By 2020, GCC countries will see 5,500 new restaurants and eating spaces enter an already overcrowded market, which makes innovation essential for maintaining profitability.

“The food and beverage sector is very exciting across the whole region right now,” said Nezar Kadhem, founder of the Bahraini startup Eat, which is pursuing a regional expansion with a particular focus in Saudi Arabia.

“In Dubai, we’re looking at Expo as an exciting driver of innovation in the restaurant space. But I think the big story in the coming months and years will be Saudi Arabia.”

His company has developed an electronic system for table and reservation management.

Restaurants in the region are known for generous portions, hospitality and culinary experiences, but business management has remained largely unchanged.

“We are now in a time where tech solutions for the restaurant industry are becoming more robust and can actually help restaurateurs solve some of their biggest challenges,” said Sebastiaan Van de Rijt in an interview with QSR magazine.

The entrepreneur operated 10 Japanese cuisine restaurants in Belgium before moving to California to launch an innovative Asian food franchise called Bamboo Asia.

Kadhem and his co-founder, David Feuillard, were both 25-years-old when they launched Eat in February 2015.

The service is available to both customers and restaurant owners via two separate solutions. Diners get a smartphone app to browse local restaurants, read reviews, view menus and make reservations.

Restaurants are offered a platform handling online reservations, table management and restaurant analytics, as well as a dedicated customer relationship management and marketing system.

“Implementation is incredibly important. All great businesses start with an idea, but ultimately, it’s sustained execution over the years that really drives success for startups,” said Kadhem.

His venture capitalizes on the fact that it operates a locally headquartered solution.

Eat aims to offer its clients local market knowledge, on-the-ground support and engineering presence to deal with technical emergencies, plus strategic partnerships with Google, TripAdvisor, Zomato and other local partners to give restaurants access to potential customers.

However, the regional market remains extremely competitive and challenging to navigate even for a business that does not sell food.

Kadhem describes a sensitive balance that startups need to maintain so they can move forward. He emphasizes funding, a great team and initial traction for the product.

“This is the hard part: How do you get traction without a team, or how do you get a team without funding?” he asked.

Eat started with pre-seed capital of $100,000 from Tenmou. It has now successfully raised a total of $4.2 million from multiple investors and has over 2,000 restaurants across 20 countries as clients, serving more than 10 million diners along the way.

According to Kadhem, however, raising funds was not enough — it was always a challenge to reach the next milestone.

Eat chose to focus first on the smaller Bahraini market and then move on to conquer the tougher ones.

“(It is) a market interrupted by competition, with a great mindset for entrepreneurship, where customers are forgiving and wanting to give feedback,” he said.


This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. 


Egypt arrests alleged serial sexual predator

Updated 04 July 2020

Egypt arrests alleged serial sexual predator

  • Allegations have been widely circulating on social media detailing horrific sexual abuse and related blackmail suffered by women at the hands of the same man
  • Trending hashtags carrying the alleged abuser’s name widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook, urging government action

CAIRO: Egyptian authorities on Saturday arrested a man who allegedly sexually abused dozens of girls and women, in a case that has sparked outrage online, a security source said.
Allegations have been widely circulating on social media since Wednesday detailing horrific sexual abuse and related blackmail suffered by women at the hands of the same man.
One allegation claimed that he attempted to abuse a 14-year-old girl.
“The person accused of harassing the girls has been arrested and will be facing the prosecution following the allegations carried on social media,” the security source said.
“Those affected should submit formal reports of the harm they endured,” the source added.
The source did not identify the suspect.
According to the social media reports, the first of which was published on an Instagram account, the abuse had been going on since at least 2018.
Trending hashtags carrying the alleged abuser’s name widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook, urging government action.
Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) lodged an official complaint with the public prosecutor to investigate the allegations on Saturday.
“The NCW has followed the social media account on Instagram, which was launched by girls and women complaining that a man raped some of them and sexually assaulted and harassed others,” it said on Facebook.
It also said that several victims, who reached out to the council, recounted that the man “blackmailed and threatened to defame them using photos and clips documenting his heinous crimes.”
The council urged the women to submit official complaints to the prosecutor.
Some online reports suggested the perpetrator was a university student.
The American University in Cairo acknowledged the suspect had studied there but said he left the university in 2018.
He “is not a current student at the American University in Cairo,” a statement said.
Sexual harassment is highly prevalent in Egypt.
United Nations surveys have found that most Egyptian women have been subject to harassment, ranging from catcalling to pinching and groping.
Egyptian authorities have criminalized sexual harassment since 2014, but many women complain that the problem remains rampant.