The growth of Saudi Arabia’s food and beverage industry — from local startups to multinational chains

The modern Makkah Restaurant  appears  to have had a family section in Al-Bathaa district in Riyadh back in the seventies. (Supplied)
The modern Makkah Restaurant appears to have had a family section in Al-Bathaa district in Riyadh back in the seventies. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 September 2021

The growth of Saudi Arabia’s food and beverage industry — from local startups to multinational chains

The modern Makkah Restaurant  appears  to have had a family section in Al-Bathaa district in Riyadh back in the seventies. (Supplied)
  • With a population of more than 32m, companies are now competing to enter the market in this sector

RIYADH: The culture of imported foods and restaurants was limited until the early 1980s in Riyadh and most cities in Saudi Arabia.

However, the availability of sandwiches, shawarma, and hamburger meals has spread in large cities in the Kingdom such as Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah since the mid-1980s.
Mansour Al-Assaf, an expert in social history, said on his Twitter account that the first shawarma restaurant in Riyadh was called Abu Nawas Restaurant on King Faisal Road. The first broasted (fried chicken) restaurant was KFC and there was a Wimpy restaurant in the same street in the 1960s.
Mixed falafel sandwich meals have been available in Riyadh in Al-Malaz neighborhood on Zaid bin Al-Khattab Street since 1982.
Al-Assaf told Arab News that restaurants had existed in Saudi Arabia since the 1950s, but widespread growth took place in the mid-1980s and 1990s.
“High-end restaurants were present in some cities in the 1950s, especially in the Eastern Province, Jeddah and perhaps even in Riyadh. Most of them were hotel restaurants such as Al-Yamamah Hotel, Zahrat Al-Sharq Hotel and Sahara Hotel in Riyadh,” he said.
“(Hatem Tayi) restaurant in Al-Bathaa district was one of the oldest restaurants in Riyadh in the 1960s. It used to serve kebabs, ribs and kofta — and not far from it people would meet in Omar Khayyam Cafe to watch free wrestling and discuss Ahmed Saeed’s speeches,” he said.
Muhammad Al-Harbi, a government retiree, spoke of when he was a college student at King Saud University in 1975. He said that he used to go with his friends to a restaurant serving a traditional Saudi dish called bukhari.
“It was a small restaurant near the college. As college students, we mainly cooked at home. We only went to this restaurant when we have extra money to spend.”
Al-Assaf said bukhari restaurants had existed since the 1960s but increased in 1987, after which floor-seating dining became popular in Saudi traditional restaurants. 

HIGHLIGHTS

• The first broasted (fried chicken) restaurant was KFC and there was a Wimpy restaurant in the same street in the 1960s.

• Mixed falafel sandwich meals have been available in Riyadh in Al-Malaz neighborhood on Zaid bin Al-Khattab Street since 1982.

• The first Saudi restaurant to sell hamburgers was Herfy, which opened in 1981 under the Gulf Bridge on Khurais Street in Riyadh.

Most of the restaurants in the Kingdom were limited to male customers, Al-Harbi said. He only recalled one restaurant in a hotel called Zahrat Al-Sharq in Riyadh that had a family section.




A group of young men enjoying their fast food meal and Pepsi soft drink back in the 80s.

“Back in the old days, we rarely saw families in restaurants. The majority of those who went to restaurants were male workers and students.”
Al-Assaf said that family sections in restaurants existed in the 1960s and 1970s in Riyadh, Jeddah and many other regions in Saudi Arabia. He said that the majority of restaurants with family sections were limited to open buffets or hotel lobbies. Large international fast food restaurants and multinational chains in the 1980s and 1990s contributed to the growth of family sections.
“The first Saudi restaurant to sell hamburgers was Herfy, which opened in 1981 under the Gulf Bridge on Khurais Street in Riyadh.” 
Herfy was one of the first Saudi fast-food restaurants that welcomed families.
Al-Assaf said that families in the 1980s began to accept the idea of going out to eat in a restaurant as family sections provided complete privacy for them.
“The economic boom also played a role in the spread of restaurants.”
Al-Harbi said that during his childhood in the 1960s, eating out was not an option as his parents would not allow it. “There used to be a sweets store in Madinah that served all kinds of cakes and tarts called Salah Bakery. My brothers and I used to look at the tarts from the window outside because we knew our mother wouldn’t allow us to eat them.”
During the 1990s, coffee shops began to appear and Saudi families became familiar with different types of Italian coffee, donuts, tiramisu and cinnamon rolls.
The food and beverage market witnessed considerable growth in Saudi Arabia after the launch Vision 2030.
With a population of more than 32 million, international and local companies are now competing to enter the market in this sector.
The entertainment industry and the increased number of sports events and concerts in the Kingdom also positively impacts the food sector. This growth already appears in increased mobile delivery applications, food trucks, and international and local restaurants in large cities such as Riyadh and Jeddah and small towns such as AlUla.
Saudi’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, AlUla, has a wide range of temporary food trucks, and several fine dining pop-up restaurants including Anabelle’s, Sass Café and La Cantine du Faubourg.
In previous years, the Kingdom has witnessed many developments in the food and beverage industry as international casual and fine dining options have entered the Riyadh market, including PF. Chang’s, Cipriani and Hakkasan. Michelin star-level restaurants are also opening across the Kingdom, such as Rasoi in Jeddah.

Coffee shops have proved popular, especially among millennials — such as Caoua, Jolt, and Dose in Riyadh. Famous local chefs are also opening their restaurants, such as chef Omar Al-Saif’s restaurant KRNSH.

Al-Harbi said that the younger generation were lucky to have so many restaurant options. “You have Italian, French, Japanese and Greek cuisines. Every day a new restaurant opens in the streets of Riyadh, and local Saudi restaurants have definitely outperformed big international ones.”


Qiyadat Global-Georgetown Program to honor female graduate leaders in Riyadh

Qiyadat Global-Georgetown Program to honor female graduate leaders in Riyadh
Updated 25 October 2021

Qiyadat Global-Georgetown Program to honor female graduate leaders in Riyadh

Qiyadat Global-Georgetown Program to honor female graduate leaders in Riyadh
  • Graduates express gratitude for the program, despite conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic

JEDDAH: More than 200 graduates from more than 20 countries who completed a women’s leadership program will be honored in Riyadh on Monday.

Qiyadat Global-Georgetown gives participants the leadership skills needed to thrive in the public and private sectors, as well as in nonprofit organizations.

The women addressed leadership skills in decision-making, organizational change management and organizational performance, and interaction with stakeholders.

They came from different backgrounds: 16 percent were from the financial sector, 14 percent were from the education field, and 12 percent were from healthcare. Others had backgrounds in energy, technology, chemicals, media, and communications.

Of the participants, 42 percent had a bachelor’s degree, 47 percent had a master’s degree, and 9 percent had doctorates.

The graduates expressed their gratitude for the program, despite the conditions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

They were also grateful for the wide range of academic coverage, the diversity of nationalities among the participants, and their interaction with each other.

Qiyadat Global-Georgetown represents a contribution toward achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The 17 goals include education, particularly the quality of education at all levels, gender equality, sustainable economic growth and decent work for all.

Countries have been formulating strategies to target the development of communities while also addressing social concerns such as quality of education, universal coverage of healthcare, provision of social protection, and job creation.


Ministry of Hajj and Umrah cancels 14-day waiting period between Umrah

Ministry of Hajj and Umrah cancels 14-day waiting period between Umrah
Updated 25 October 2021

Ministry of Hajj and Umrah cancels 14-day waiting period between Umrah

Ministry of Hajj and Umrah cancels 14-day waiting period between Umrah

JEDDAH: Pilgrims wishing to perform Umrah will no longer be required to wait for 14 days to book for the ritual, according to the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah.

Dr. Amr Al-Maddah, chief of planning and strategy officer at the ministry, told Arab News that by easing preventive measures, the operational capacity of the Grand Mosque for Umrah and prayers has significantly increased.

“In line with the developments at this stage, which in turn increased the demand in the dates available to perform Umrah, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah made this feature available for pilgrims. This condition is no longer necessary and will achieve a fair opportunity for all due to the high demand,” he told Arab News.

On Oct. 16, the Ministry of Interior announced the easing of restrictions across the Kingdom, including those affecting the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, allowing a full return to operations and capacity.


Saudi Arabia eyes personal status law with main focus on family and strengthening of bonds

Saudi Arabia eyes personal status law with main focus on family and strengthening of bonds
Updated 25 October 2021

Saudi Arabia eyes personal status law with main focus on family and strengthening of bonds

Saudi Arabia eyes personal status law with main focus on family and strengthening of bonds
  • Saudi Vision 2030 also stipulates, in many of its programs and articles, strengthening the status of the family and striving to overcome all obstacles facing its members

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Justice is set to release the personal status draft law with the main focus on family and strengthening of bonds.

Speaking at the Saudi Family Forum 2021 on Sunday, Justice Minister Walid Al-Samaani said that the personal status draft law announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman within the system of specialized legislation was based on several goals. The most important of these was a focus on family status, strengthening the family bond wherever possible and reducing the negative impact of separation.

Al-Samaani said that the project focused mainly on stressing a woman’s agreement to marriage, preserving her and her children’s financial and alimony rights, as well as other issues related to divorce requests.

During his participation at the forum, Al-Samaani said that many public policies, including the basic law of governance, had focused on empowering the family to achieve sustainable social development and overcome any challenges.

Saudi Vision 2030 also stipulates, in many of its programs and articles, strengthening the status of the family and striving to overcome all obstacles facing its members, he said.

The minister explained that one of the decisions that contributed to enhancing the sustainability and stability of the family was the amendment made in the executive regulations of the legal pleading system by adding a legal text that refers all personal status disputes to the reconciliation center to try to reconcile spouses.

Al-Samaani stressed that by applying this amendment, personal status disputes related to divorce, alimony and other issues decreased by more than 20 percent, and said he hoped this would drop further. On the development of procedural aspects in personal status disputes, he said that the establishment of the cases audit center contributed to a decrease in the duration of judicial sessions in personal status cases by more than 30 percent.

The goal of digital transformation in the Ministry of Justice was not just to enable service provision, he said, but to facilitate procedures, especially regarding the quality and nature of cases such as personal status ones. Filing cases from home or elsewhere had also enabled the judicial and relevant authorities, such as the Human Rights Commission, to exercise their role and assess the societal situation.

Al-Samaani said that the ministry had launched 120 electronic services and that judicial sessions did not stop during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1.5 million sessions were held, more than 1 million rulings were issued through electronic litigation, and more than 3 million requests were submitted electronically.

He said that the Ministry of Justice had applied artificial intelligence techniques to their system. The first cases to which this was applied were personal status cases so that judicial authorities could predict 80 percent of the verdict in advance.


Saudi Arabia’s falcon auction houses exhibit the finest birds of prey

Saudi Arabia’s falcon auction houses exhibit the finest birds of prey
Updated 25 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s falcon auction houses exhibit the finest birds of prey

Saudi Arabia’s falcon auction houses exhibit the finest birds of prey
  • Falcon’s type, age, length, weight, and color contribute to setting of exorbitant prices at auctions

RIYADH: Some of the world’s most exquisite falcons have been auctioned at the Saudi International Falcons Auction, with prices elevated due to fierce competition between buyers at the 45-day event which began Oct. 1.

One peregrine falcon, not yet a year old, became the most expensive of its type in 2021 when it was auctioned for SR405,000 ($108,000) last week, breaking the previous record price of SR206,000.

Saad Mallouh Aldahmashi, who bought it, and who owns the Sultan Falcon Center in Arar, told Arab News that the peregrine immediately drew his attention. “I said to myself, I will buy come what may,” he added.

“My friend confirmed to me that the falcon was in perfect health and looked stronger than the videos published about it.When the auction began, I did not say anything and waited until the price hit SR280,000. Two more people were bidding on the price until it reached SR480,000,” he said.

He noted that if the price had kept going higher than that, he would still have bid and not stopped until he got it. “I thought the price would stop at SR605,000, but it did not.”

He pointed out that he sold a similar falcon for SR610,000 two years ago at his center. At the time, the falcon, which was also less than a year old, registered the highest price in the auction.

Aldahmashi, who has more than 15 years of experience in the field, hopes to increase the number of auctions in Saudi Arabia’s regions, to increase competition, and to allow residents of the regions to attend auctions up close, stressing that this is an essential requirement for amateur enthusiasts.

Nawaf Mamdouh Alshraim, another falconer, said that the falcon’s type, age, length, weight, and color all contribute to setting the price. As someone who has been in the business for 16 years, he said that breeding falcons requires significant experience.

“You have to have the ability and experience to know when the falcon is normal, sick or tired. You should teach him how to get the prey and return to you,” said Alshraim.

“The quality of the falcon is reflected in its ability to hunt prey,” he explained.

The saker and peregrine falcons are the most expensive, especially the youngest birds. He explained that they are small in size, 16 inches wide and another 16 inches tall, adding that the perfect weight would be around 1.1 kg and above.

Alshraim, who lives in northeast Saudi Arabia, believes that the Malhem auction is the go-to place for falconers. “The auction has many attractions for amateur falconers, and it is held during the bird migration, and has attracted many of the experts and amateurs in the last years through the facilities it offers,” he noted.

The Saudi Falcon Club provides medical examinations for falcons and also provides accommodation for owners before the auction is held. The auction is aired on live TV and the club’s social media accounts. There is no fee on sale transactions, and when a falcon is sold, the club issues an export certificate and official documents for the transaction.


With animal welfare increasingly in the spotlight, there’s nowhere for abusers to hide in KSA

With animal welfare increasingly in the spotlight, there’s nowhere for abusers to hide in KSA
Updated 25 October 2021

With animal welfare increasingly in the spotlight, there’s nowhere for abusers to hide in KSA

With animal welfare increasingly in the spotlight, there’s nowhere for abusers to hide in KSA
  • In fact, there are already strict rules governing animal welfare and tough penalties for anyone found guilty of breaking them

JEDDAH: In part because of the reach and power of social media, awareness of issues surrounding animal abuse has never been higher in Saudi Arabia, and there have been calls for greater official efforts to protect animals.

Videos and photographs posted on social media have highlighted examples of abuse such as animals abandoned on the side of the road, and creatures that have been, starved, beaten or burned. There are also concerns about how animals are treated at facilities such as slaughterhouses.

In fact, there are already strict rules governing animal welfare and tough penalties for anyone found guilty of breaking them, including the possibility of imprisonment and hefty fines.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture warns that the penalty for a first offense is a fine of up to SR50,000 ($13,000), and this amount is doubled if there is a second violation within a year.

If there is a third incident, the fine increases to SR200,000 and, if applicable, the facility dealing with the animals can be closed for 90 days. In the event of a fourth case of abuse a fine of SR400,000 can be imposed and the facility’s license can be permanently revoked. Prison terms are also a possibility.

Lawyer Waleed bin Nayef told Arab News that the punishments apply to anyone who causes suffering to animals, whether they expose them to danger, are unnecessarily cruel during slaughter or the preparation of sacrifices, cause them stress or suffering during races, or fail to take into consideration the age or health of animals they are working with.

Other offenses include forcing animals to act in ways that are unnatural to their nature, giving them illegal drugs or growth hormones, catching or transporting them in inhumane ways, failing to treat them when they are sick or injured, sexually abusing them, or disposing of them in an inhumane manner.

“The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture has provided, through its website, a way to report any abuse or torture and these reports are dealt with seriously,” bin Nayef told Arab News. He added that a robust animal welfare system is enshrined in the aims of Saudi Vision 2030.

In cases where abuse is suspected, he said, whether it was caught on video, discovered by a surprise inspection or after investigating the death of an animal, the ministry decides whether to refer the suspect to the Criminal Court, which will investigate and decide on an appropriate punishment if required.

For a number of reasons investigations can be difficult. For example, it might be hard to trace the origin of videos or images showing abuse, and it is possible that they might have been faked. However, Saudi authorities have successfully used cybercrime units to identify and catch abusers.

Mohammed Al-Hatershi, director general of slaughterhouses in the General Administration of Makkah Region, told Arab News that while it is better to work to raise awareness of animal abuse issues in an attempt to prevent them happening in the first place, strict laws and tough penalties are also required because the authorities are responsible for ensuring animals are cared for.

“Shariah law is clear about animal care, as it says that we are responsible for our flock and facilities must take these rules seriously,” he added.

Social worker Mona Al-Thiyabi, told Arab News that animal abuse can be an indicator of low psychological stability in an individual, and can be linked to some mental disorders.

“It might also be an indicator of low stability in the family, as the presence of a person’s hostile behavior against an animal might originate from the family,” she said.

Psychological, verbal or physical violence in the home between spouses, for example, causes suffering and psychological pressure, which can cause a person to treat animals in the same way, she added.

“On the other hand, violence in all its forms against children might cause psychological repression in them, which may lead to the practice of hostile behavior against animals,” said Al-Thiyabi.

People who are cruel and violent toward animals sometimes progress to violence against humans, she added.

The Gus Hope shelter is a nonprofit organization that runs a shelter for cats and rescues strays.

“As a community, we need to be more responsible for animals,” its owner, Um Asma told Arab News. “Everyone needs to spay and neuter their pets and stop supporting pet stores that sell animals.”

“The laws are good but they need to be implemented more. Some animal stores treat animals like a product rather than a soul and they need to be stopped.”

The Kingdom’s Ehsan platform, the national charity website, also plays a part in animal welfare by highlighting the need for donations.

One of the campaigns on the platform, for example, states: “Many rescued animals suffer from their inability to continue living on their own, so they need care and attention and the provision of food and water. With your donation, you contribute to feeding them. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said: In every wet liver there is a reward.”