Moroccan Startup LaCartePlz Debuts Online Food Ordering in Rabat
Among the things I love most about my job are the innovation and creativity, but also contact and interaction with people like real entrepreneurial skills. In this category, you’ll find Yassine El Kachchani, the 26-year-old founder and CEO of a new startup based in Rabat, Morocco called LaCartePlz.ma (pronounced “La Carte, please,” using the French word for menu), a real-time web application that connects restaurants to their clients, without fax, email, or phone calls, just via a notification system.
El Kachchani and I had a sunny lunch together last Wednesday in the capital, Rabat, discussing his career and entrepreneurship in Morocco. I had then the privilege to visit LaCartePlz.ma's headquarters and discover a team of six young amazing “startup-ers” in their mid-20s: Nada, Yassine, Kovi, El Hosseine, Anouar and Anasse.
After graduating in Software Engineering, El Kachchani started his career at Logica in Casablanca in August 2009. A few months later, in October 2009, he founded a web development company called FlexCible and started working on LaCartePlz.ma on May 2011. A month later, he left his comfortable full-time in engineering to focus 100% on his startup.
Success came quickly; in August 2011, LaCartePlz.ma won the PNB-NAPEO youth entrepreneurship competition organized by the U.S. state department in partnership with the American Arab chamber of commerce and Wayne State University. With this victory, LacartePlz.ma won four months of incubation at TechTown in Michigan. In January 2012, LaCartePlz.ma raised 1 million MAD (about US $111,000) from new finance vehicle INTILAK (إنطلاق) at the Centre Marocain de l’Innovation (CMI), a Moroccan governmental initiative that encourages innovation and research and development.
The concept of LaCartePlz.ma is very simple: users place orders online for food delivery or takeaway and then pay online or at delivery, and follow the status of their order. They can also chat with the restaurant employee managing their order, via a tablet or a notebook.
For LaCartePlz.ma users, it means a wider choice of restaurants for lunch or dinner, less time spent looking for menus and phone numbers and no more mistakes when placing their orders. Thanks to multiple features that make placing orders quick, easy, and highly flexible, a users can save carts for later use, plan orders for a future date and time, and rate and review their favorite dishes.
For LaCartePlz.ma partners (restaurants, cafés, fast-food joints, etc.), it means multiple and simultaneous orders received, a wider client reach, less time spent answering the phone and less clients lost due to a busy phone line. The restaurants can manage the orders they receive quickly through a dashboard that gives details on each order like the location of the delivery addresses or other specifications ordered by the clients.
“The original idea behind LaCartePlz.ma was simply to build a directory of all restaurants in Rabat,” says Yassine El Kachchani. “Then the idea evolved and became the concept that we now offer.” The business model is also very simple: LaCartePlz.ma takes a commission on each transaction. Other revenue sources will be considered as business develops.
I’ve had the privilege to be one of the private beta testers. The service is only available in Rabat for the time being but will soon be extended to other cities like Casablanca or Marrakesh. From what I have seen, I can honestly say that it’s one of the most promising startups in Morocco. Being a real gourmet, I’m seduced by the concept, the web interface, the design and some features, especially the possibility to manage several delivery addresses and choose one of them when traveling or working in another city than the one where you’re mainly based in.
“After rating and comparison websites and online menus and directories, LaCartePlz.ma is the logical next step in the food business, says Yassine El Kachchani. “It’s a real-time channel between restaurants and their clients, and a disruptive way of doing business in a sector that hadn’t known changes this big in decades.” The team also plans to expand soon in the coming four years to other cities in the Middle East and North Africa, like Beirut, Istanbul and Tunis.
The official launch of LaCartePlz.ma is scheduled for the end of Ramadan. El Kachchani will then prepare himself to go to Michigan TechTown for 4 months of incubation, mentoring and coaching. Good luck to CEO Yassine ( @Kachchani), marketing managers Nada (@chakernada) and Anasse (@AnasseLoubaris), developers Kovi (@kap_joel) and El Hosseine (@HoussineKT), and designer Ringa (@ringa_r). If you're in Morocco soon, let us know your thoughts on “eating smart” with LaCartePlz.ma.
Karim Jazouani is an independent web consultant based in Casablanca, Morocco. He has worked as the former North Africa Head Of Sales at Yahoo!, as the former marketing and communication manager of Menara.ma, and former co-host, radio columnist and creator of the #1 Moroccan radio show on web/IT/high-tech, as well as the founder of press release website @communiquemaroc. Previously, he worked for various digital companies in France and Morocco like Yahoo!, CBS Interactive, Glowria.fr, Diouda.fr, and Maroc Telecom. He graduated from the Paris XII University, and holds Masters degrees in management, coaching and e-marketing, and e-commerce, trade and sales. He’s also an extreme sports addict (longskate, bodyboard). You can find him on his LinkedIn page and on Twitter at @karimjazouani.