After steering clear of the pandemic, Saudi food trucks have the recipe for success

After steering clear of the pandemic, Saudi food trucks have the recipe for success
During the COVID-19 crisis, the owner of Daddy’s Grill food truck decided to seize the opportunity by expanding into new neighborhoods. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 June 2021

After steering clear of the pandemic, Saudi food trucks have the recipe for success

After steering clear of the pandemic, Saudi food trucks have the recipe for success
  • ‘Kitchens on wheels’ are increasingly popular; their high mobility means they are well-placed to thrive in a post-COVID era

JEDDAH: Food trucks, or “kitchens on wheels,” have been a growing culinary trend in many countries in recent years and Saudi Arabia is no exception. They are now familiar sights on streets, at beaches, at malls, in parks and other open spaces — in short, anywhere they can park.

During the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, the mobility and flexibility of food trucks meant they were relatively well-placed to survive the crisis by offering an alternative to indoor dining, catering to people who miss the experience of a sit-down meal but want a better alternative than a traditional takeaway or home delivery.
As many businesses focused on finding new revenue streams during the health crisis, Taha Ashi, the owner of Daddy’s Grill food truck, which specializes in burgers, decided to seize the opportunity during the uncertain times by expanding into new neighborhoods. He owns three food trucks in Jeddah and plans to launch a restaurant this year.
Before the pandemic, he said he was serving an average of about 100 customers a day but that sales and profits fluctuated. During the pandemic, he added, sales have increased by about 20 percent.


“Food trucks are well-equipped to withstand pandemic restrictions, as they are naturally to-go and socially distanced businesses,” Ashi told Arab News.
“I focused on ways to maintain my customer base by, for example, connecting with the online delivery services and cultivating a social-media presence. All of that added up to a significant increase in sales.”
In 2016, he was one of the first people in Saudi Arabia to launch a food truck, which has much lower overhead costs than a traditional restaurant. Therefore, for anyone interested in getting into the catering business, especially in the coronavirus era, Ashi believes the food truck sector is a good option, not least because it is supported by the government. In some areas, for example, there are no charges for electricity or rent, which helps to keep costs down.

Truck business
Not all food truck businesses have coped with the pandemic quite as well as Ashi’s have, however. Abdul Aziz Al-Fadel — who owns the X Bite food truck, which also serves burgers, and a restaurant — said many small businesses have suffered in the past year and food trucks are no exception.
He told Arab News his business has had a rough time as a result of reduced trade, but that the challenges have pushed owners of catering businesses to become more innovative and creative in finding ways to connect with customers.

Food trucks are well-equipped to withstand pandemic restrictions, as they are naturally to-go and socially distanced businesses.

Taha Ashi, Owner of Daddy’s Grill food truck

“The sudden evaporation of events, concerts, festivals and gatherings left us confused,” said Al-Fadel. “Sales plunged by 60 to 70 percent.”
As the pandemic wore on, however, he said he began to adapt. He took advantage of the mobile nature of his business and visited more areas, took orders online and signed up with delivery services. He also launched a BBQ kit to the menu, which provides all the ingredients needed to cook authentic X Bite burgers at home. It proved to be a big hit and helped to boost sales.
A food truck is a less risky way to get started in the catering business than opening a traditional bricks-and-mortar cafe or restaurant, said Al-Fadel.
“After running a successful food truck our business grew and we launched a restaurant,” he explained. “A food truck business is cheaper to run and doesn’t need many people in the beginning to operate, so there is no worry about making payroll.”
He also had some advice for anyone interesting in launching their own truck. They must always maintain the highest standards of safety, he said, and need to be prepared to withstand challenges and adapt to adverse conditions.
“Most importantly, this business is seasonal,” he added. “During the summers the business is harsh, and in winter the sales go up. So the prospective owners need to experiment with new ideas that can help them continue to generate revenue.”
The potential rewards of building a popular food truck business are great and include, as the experiences of Ashi and Al-Fadel show, the possibility of expanding by opening a traditional restaurant. For others, the focus for now remains on their kitchens on wheels.
Ahmed Al-Hijri, who owns the CheeseSteak food truck, told Arab News that his business survived the pandemic because he worked long hours and embraced the use of delivery apps and social media to better engage with customers.
“We were actually able to net enough (income) to keep the business moving forward,” he said.
Because they require less capital investment and involve less financial risk, Al-Hijri added, food trucks offer a fantastic opportunity to enter a market that previously presented prospective entrepreneurs with much greater barriers.
As a result, he said, they can establish their brand on a smaller scale before attempting to grow and expand the business by opening a restaurant or franchising the trucks.


Saudi, US navies begin mixed maritime exercise to protect Red Sea

The Royal Saudi Naval Forces and the US Navy launch the Indigo Defender — 21 bilateral naval exercise in the Kingdom’s Western Fleet. (SPA)
The Royal Saudi Naval Forces and the US Navy launch the Indigo Defender — 21 bilateral naval exercise in the Kingdom’s Western Fleet. (SPA)
Updated 18 min 10 sec ago

Saudi, US navies begin mixed maritime exercise to protect Red Sea

The Royal Saudi Naval Forces and the US Navy launch the Indigo Defender — 21 bilateral naval exercise in the Kingdom’s Western Fleet. (SPA)

RIYADH: The Royal Saudi Naval Forces (RSNF) and the US Navy on Sunday launched a mixed joint naval exercise in the Kingdom’s Western Fleet, the ministry of defense announced.
The “Indigo Defender — 21” exercise was launched in the presence of Rear Admiral Mansour bin Saud Al-Juaid, the Assistant commander of the Western Fleet and commander of the exercise, Rear Admiral Mansour bin Saud Al-Juaid, and Col. Daniel Bailey of the US Navy.
The exercise’s commander said the 10-day maneuvers aim to strengthen relations and military cooperation, raise the level of combat readiness and preparedness between the RSNF and the US Navy.
It also aims to exchange expertise in the field of port protection, clearing land and underwater mines, and contribute to developing security capabilities by protecting and securing the regional and international waterways to ensure freedom of navigation in the Red Sea.


Saudi Arabia warns citizens against travel to Lebanon

Saudi Arabia warns citizens against travel to Lebanon
Updated 9 sec ago

Saudi Arabia warns citizens against travel to Lebanon

Saudi Arabia warns citizens against travel to Lebanon

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia warned its citizens not to travel to Lebanon “especially in light of the current circumstances in the country,” the foreign ministry said on Sunday.
“In view of the current security events in Lebanon, and based on a decision by the Ministry of Interior to prevent direct and indirect travel of citizens to a number of countries without obtaining prior permission from the concerned authorities, including Lebanon,” it said.
The ministry called on citizens to follow instructions issued by relevant authorities, and on those in Lebanon to take precaution and stay away from gatherings, due to their potential threat to citizens’ security and safety.
On Thursday, seven people were killed in violence in Beirut as crowds headed for a protest called by the Iranian-backed Hezbollah group and its Shiite ally Amal.
(With Reuters)


Saudi and Chinese foreign ministers discuss bilateral cooperation

Saudi and Chinese foreign ministers discuss bilateral cooperation
Updated 17 October 2021

Saudi and Chinese foreign ministers discuss bilateral cooperation

Saudi and Chinese foreign ministers discuss bilateral cooperation

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Sunday made a phone call to his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
During the call, aspects of Saudi-Chinese relations and areas of cooperation between the two countries were reviewed, the Kingdom’s foreign ministry said.
The two sides also discussed regional and international developments and efforts made to enhance security and stability, in addition to discussing the most prominent issues of common interest.


Saudi crown prince launches strategic offices to develop Al-Baha, Al-Jouf, and Jazan

Saudi crown prince launches strategic offices to develop Al-Baha, Al-Jouf, and Jazan
Updated 17 October 2021

Saudi crown prince launches strategic offices to develop Al-Baha, Al-Jouf, and Jazan

Saudi crown prince launches strategic offices to develop Al-Baha, Al-Jouf, and Jazan
  • The offices will aim to capitalize on the advantages that each of the three regions have to offer
  • They are part of the crown prince’s vision to bring about comprehensive and sustainable development in all regions

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's crown prince announced on Sunday the launch of strategic offices to develop the areas of Al-Baha, Al-Jouf, and Jazan.
The offices will form the basis for the establishment of development authorities in the regions. They will aim to capitalize on the advantages that each of the three areas have to offer, Saudi Press Agency reported.
They will also ensure the development of a strong investment environment attracting private sector engagement.
The announcement of the strategic offices comes as part of the government’s strategy to extend development to all regions and cities of the Kingdom.
Prince Mohammed said that other strategic offices would be established in areas where there are not yet any development agencies.
These strategic offices will focus on investing in the distinct features and advantages of each region to transform them into sustainable and permanent economic drivers.
The offices will include the private sector in the development plans.
They are part of the crown prince’s vision to bring about comprehensive and sustainable development in all regions of the Kingdom, expanding job opportunities, and improving living standards by upgrading basic services and infrastructure. 
Al-Baha is considered one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Kingdom. The region includes a large number of forests and is home to many ancient villages and forts.
Al-Jouf is known as the “food basket of the Kingdom” as it contains fertile land with abundant water resources. It is responsible for about 67 percent of the Kingdom’s olive oil production.
Jazan is home to the Farasan Islands and Jazan Port which is considered to be the third largest port on the Red Sea Coast.


OIC human rights commission says international community must mobilize efforts to end poverty 

OIC human rights commission says international community must mobilize efforts to end poverty 
Updated 17 October 2021

OIC human rights commission says international community must mobilize efforts to end poverty 

OIC human rights commission says international community must mobilize efforts to end poverty 
  • The IPHRC emphasized the importance of addressing the issue of extreme poverty as a top priority
  • The principle of “leaving no one behind” must guide efforts to eradicate poverty, the commission said

LONDON: The world should recognize abject poverty as a human rights violation, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission said on Sunday.

In a statement released to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty 2021, the IPHRC said the world has a “shared responsibility to mobilize all possible efforts to end poverty.” 

It said the fact that 689 million people still live in extreme poverty with less than $1.90 a day to live on is a “moral outrage.”

The commission added that the effects of the Coronavirus disease pandemic reversed many years of progress in the fight against poverty, and that between 88 and 115 million people are being pushed into poverty.

The majority of the new extreme poor live in south Asian and sub-saharan countries where poverty rates were already high, the commission added.

The IPHRC emphasized the importance of addressing the issue of extreme poverty as a top priority for the international community.

Despite the global focus on fostering development and eradicating poverty, the pandemic has clearly proven that the world needs structural changes to efficiently eradicate poverty beyond the ambitious political narratives that fail to inspire real action, it said. 

The human rights commission called upon the international community to translate the global focus on human rights protection and sustainable development goals into concrete, measurable actions on the ground to effectively address the core issue of poverty. 

The principle of “leaving no one behind” must guide efforts to eradicate poverty at the national and global levels, the commission added.

It urged all governments to strengthen their legal framework of human rights that places human dignity at the heart of policy and action against existing structural disadvantages and inequalities. 

People living in poverty must be meaningfully engaged in decision-making processes that directly affect their lives, it added.

The commission urged OIC member states to redouble their efforts to devise human rights-based and people-centered socio-development policies.

It highlighted that eradicating poverty is a moral and spiritual imperative of Islam and a strategically beneficial goal for the political, economic, and social progress of all member states.

IPHRC also emphasized the international community’s collective responsibility to create a conducive socio-economic environment for the enjoyment of human rights by everybody around the world.