Dubai food tech startup Lunch:on raises $500K seed

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Lunch:on today announced the closing of a seed round of $500,000 led by Wamda Capital, with participation from Arzan VC, Dubai Angel Investors as well as angel investors, Signaling  positive growth for the MENA food tech scene.

Lunch:on was founded in September 2015 by former banker Mohammed Al Zaben and former Procter & Gamble consumer marketeer Dana Baki. The Dubai-based startup partners with popular gourmet restaurants to deliver lunches to office workers, each morning at a set time, a curated menu is sent to customers via text or email. 

“We are excited to be supporting Lunch:on as it begins to scale its offering throughout Dubai and eventually the wider region. This investment is in keeping with our commitment to support exceptional entrepreneurs building disruptive businesses. Lunch:on is reformulating the work place lunch experience,” says Khaled Talhouni, managing partner at Wamda Capital.

Each weekday, a different restaurant offers three menu options: meat, vegetarian and a healthy option. Users reply via text or email to order and their food is delivered no later than 1 pm. 

The new startup’s unique selling proposition (“USP”) lies in the simplicity of its ‘message to order’ platform, according to Al Zaben.

“Office workers are looking for a more convenient way to get lunch and what better way than to reach them through their existing email and messaging apps,” said Al Zaben.

“The beauty of Lunch:on is that it addresses multiple audience segments, not just individual lunchers seeking curated lunch recommendations and reliable food delivery,” said Baki. “But also large corporates wanting to ensure their workers can enjoy lunch time efficiently.” 

For restaurants, Lunch:on enables revenue growth by providing restaurant partners with regular bulk orders of a limited menu by 11 am, a time when restaurant and kitchen staff are generally under-utilized, hence increasing their operational efficiency. 

With Lunch:on, every day a different restaurant offers three menu options: meat, vegetarian and a healthy option. (Image via Lunch:on)

Lunch:on also utilizes conversational commerce tools such as chatbots.

“With our proprietary technology, we deploy chatbots over these messaging channels, enabling a seamless and simplified way to execute the daily lunch ordering process,” said Al Zaben. Chatbots rose to prominence earlier this year at the Facebook Developer Conference (F8), attracting attention as one solution to enhancing customer experience. 

In addition to the chatbots, Lunch:on uses prediction technology and scheduling algorithms. The team developed their own technology internalizes user preferences and ordering patterns to ensure the optimal pairing of companies and restaurants on any given day. 

Office lunch ordering startups have been multiplying globally, especially in the US. Some of the most well-known and highly funded players in this market are 500 Startups-backed, San Francisco-based Chewse, and Zesty. Zesty is a healthy meal delivery service app that raised $17 million in Series A funding last year to drive expansion outside of San Francisco.

Globally however, food tech investment slowed down in the first half of 2016, according to the investing platform AgFunder. In 2015, investment in food tech soared to $4.6 billion, nearly doubling the amount poured into the sector in 2014. But as of Q2 2016, food tech companies worldwide raised a total of just $1.8 billion with total annual funding estimates expected to be nearly 30 percent lower than 2015.

Al Zaben and Baki would not disclose order numbers to date, but the cofounders said the initial traction for the startup has proven very promising, despite increased competition in the region. 

MENA’s food delivery landscape is already populated by the likes of Round Menu, Food on Click, Deliveroo and most recently Uber Eats.

“We’ve already on-boarded a number of major multinationals and regional corporates like GE, Leo Burnett, OSN, Dell, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, PwC, Lenovo, Coca-Cola and many more,” said Baki.

“The seed capital will be directed towards accelerating the company’s growth, both in terms of manpower and expanding our presence across the UAE,” said Al Zaben. The startup will be hiring new talent and with a heavy emphasis on technology and business development personnel.

Feature image via Lunch:on.

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