Foodics: the Saudis taking on Gulf restaurant giants

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In Saudi, the food and beverage (F&B) sector is one of the largest in the Gulf.

Probably no surprise there, as in MENA food and eating is always an event that includes planning, time, and several people for company. As a result, the industry is a good place to start a business, or at least experiment with one.

F&B sales are estimated to exceed $70 billion by the end of 2016, which sums up to 59 percent of the F&B market in the GCC, as fast food in Saudi Arabia is valued at $4.5 billion.

This market presents big investment opportunities for entrepreneurs in the restaurant, entertainment and food trading business. And for those in the auxiliary fields of delivery, restaurant management and design.

Ahmad Al-Zaini and Musab Al Othmani are looking forward to benefiting from this market now they've established cloud based startup Foodics for restaurant management via an iPad.

Ahmad Al-Zaini (right) with operations manager Moaz Al Abadi. (Image via Foodics)

College friends Al-Zainin and Al Othmani studied engineering together at the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. In 2010, they launched their first company Alwans for providing technical services to companies.

By 2014, everything changed when the partners launched the rapidly successful Foodics that made around 1.2 million Saudi riyals (around US$320,000) only two years after its launch, according to Alwans' O’nile Omar White. As a result, Al-Zaini and Al Othmani ended Alwans' technical services business and focused on Foodics.

“We never had our own restaurant, and now we are experts in this market because we listen to what our customers say,” said White, branding consultant at Alwans and communications director for Foodics.

Foodics is used by more than 100 brands in the restaurant business such as F6orfaris in Saudi Arabia, and others in Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE. Some of these brands have chains that count up to 40 branches, all using this service.

Foodics sells software as a service. This cloud based service offers an electronic menu that works directly on an iPad, as well as a point of sale, a kitchen display system and a logistics system for managing inventory.

The full Foodics features.

What Foodics offers

All services work via an iPad. It provides everything a small restaurant needs for a point of sale system including cloud services and equipment needed.

Competition in this field is limited to global companies such as Oracle's Micros system, Omega's POS and NCR that provide technical solutions for restaurant management. But since its launch, Foodics was a tough competitor for those foreign services available in the GCC market.

This local company differentiates itself from its competitors through presenting a simple alternative depending exclusively on the iPad. The service is unique in supporting Arabic and being connected to the internet, which allows it to store all data and transactions on the cloud without the restaurant needing to build their own internal servers.

White believes the backoffice feature is what matters most to Foodics’ customers.

“Our customers like the backoffice [feature] most and they enjoy using it. Restaurant managers can monitor the performance of all their branches from one place and follow all transactions in real time. They can also compare the performance of different branches and the performance of the same branch from one month to another and yearly as well.”

In addition to that, restaurant managers can control menus, add promotional offers and amend prices remotely through the browser without having to visit the branch itself.

Foodics’ ambitions are not limited to being a competitor in the local market, the company’s team of 34 employees is in four different countries: Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE. “We will launch Foodics in Turkey soon, and we are looking forward to being in the US market by the end of next year,” White said.

The team has just launched a delivery service, with online ordering and phone ordering attached to the same system.

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