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

The new app will help customers to book and restaurants to manage. (Supplied)
Short Url
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. 


British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

Updated 21 January 2020

British MPs urge UK government to recognize Palestine

  • Palestinian envoy welcomes cross-party call ahead of visit by Prince Charles

LONDON: A group of British MPs has called for the UK to recognize the state of Palestine ahead of a visit by Prince Charles to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

In a letter to The Times, the MPs, along with figures from think tanks and pressure groups, said the move was long overdue and would help fulfill Britain’s “promise of equal rights for peoples in two states.” 

The call comes as the heir to the British throne travels on Thursday to Israel and the occupied West Bank. 

During the visit, he will meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Bethlehem and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin in Jerusalem. 

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

The letter said since 2014, no meaningful progress has been made in the peace process, and Israel’s actions are pushing a two-state solution beyond reach.

“Illegal Israeli settlements, described by the Foreign Office as undermining peace efforts, are expanding,” the letter said.

Among the signatories are Emily Thornberry, a candidate for the Labour Party leadership, and Crispin Blunt, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council.

Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian envoy to the UK, welcomed the move but said full recognition from the British government should have happened many years ago.

“Recognition doesn’t contradict peacemaking and negotiations,” Zomlot told Arab News, referring to the main argument used by the UK against taking such a step. 

“It reinforces the vision (of a Palestinian state) and a negotiated two-state solution. It should happen now because of the threat of annexation (of Palestinian territory) and the killing of the two-state solution.”

FASTFACT

Prince Charles will also attend the World Holocaust Forum to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP who signed the letter, told Arab News that the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government toward Palestine “makes the achievement of a two-state solution more and more remote with every week that passes.”

He said: “The UK has historic and political obligations toward Israelis and Palestinians. There’s now no longer any good reason not to recognize the state of Palestine.”

A spokesman for Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who also signed the letter, told Arab News: “The fact that this has cross-party support shows the growing desire across Parliament for the recognition of a Palestinian state and a two-state solution.”

Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, said the international community needs to finally stand up for the solution that it has had on the table for decades.

Doyle, an Arab News columnist, said the letter is an “indication that many people in British politics think we should be doing this, we should be standing up for the Palestinian right to self-determination, the legal rights, at a time when the state of Israel is doing everything to stop this, to take more land from the Palestinians.”

The letter was timed to coincide with a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday, who discussed the Middle East peace process.

The Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, has been increasing calls for European countries to recognize the state of Palestine as the US has shifted to a more pro-Israel stance, including recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017.

Writing in The Guardian on Monday, Saeb Erekat, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Europe could strengthen its role in the peace process if it recognized Palestine.

“European recognition of this state is not only a European responsibility but a concrete way to move towards a just and lasting peace,” he said.

Only nine out of the 28 EU countries have so far recognized Palestine as a state, compared to 138 out of the 193 UN member states.

In 2011, the UK’s then-Foreign Minister William Hague said the British government “reserves the right” to recognize Palestine “at a time of our own choosing, and when it can best serve the cause of peace.”

In 2012, the UN General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to that of “nonmember observer state.”