The Business Year

With the economy on the rise and growing purchasing power, restaurants are all set to fully benefit from the potential of the Saudi market.

Arif Al-Shehri

Founder & MANAGER, Yemeni Village

14 years ago, we decided to capitalize on our long-standing experience in the food sector to enter the Yemeni food segment. We will launch our next restaurant in the north of Jeddah, and the new space will be bigger and better than the first. We will avoid the mistakes that we made here and will add new features, such as valet parking. Subsequently, the goal is to open a branch in Riyadh and then, perhaps, London. Saudi Arabia’s F&B market has become much more mature, and clients today are mostly driven by quality. There is stiff competition, and we have to look after the details. The fine dining segment is not necessarily a price-sensitive market; if clients decide to eat at a high-level restaurant, they are not looking at costs, but at the value. Our customers seek traditional food, which is why we cannot modify the menu too much, as it would mean changing the identity of the place as well. That being said, there are still a few Yemeni dishes that we will add, and the challenge will be putting the same amount of effort in the current dishes to ensure the same quality. In this sense, the selection and quality of primary resources is paramount: we need high-quality meats and cheese to maintain our high standards.

Aziza Sayema

Founder & Chef, Ugur Restaurant

The idea for the restaurant came about in 2015, when we started developing the idea of setting up a proper restaurant specialized in Turkic food that would offer a homemade feeling. For an authentic experience, we use local materials, ingredients, and distributors. We are still in the process of building the franchise, and we are looking at every detail to improve our operations. The restaurant started off with 10 workers, and now we have 15. Along the way, we have looked into improving kitchen operations, such as changing the type of food, while not compromising on the way we cook it at home. In the short term, we are looking into expanding our kitchen. Then, we have a plan to establish a catering unit by the end of 2019. We are also trying to get into the Riyadh market. On top of this, we want to establish our presence all around Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is a natural choice for two reasons. There is a demand for this kind of food, and there are lots of potential customers. Our price offering is perfect, and can appeal to all segments of society, from lower-middle classes to the upper levels of society. In Jeddah, people are interested in the restaurant’s environment, whereas in Riyadh they focus more on the food.

Wassim Halwani

CEO, Wassim Halwani

The market is fairly unpredictable. We have witnessed some businesses closing down and others expanding to other markets. One major issue we faced was the increase in fees for hiring expats. The main factors that affect and determine our pricing strategies are the cost of raw materials, which is increasing at a rapid pace, and the workforce, whether it is government fees or hiring Saudis with at least double the salary of a foreign worker. Our main advantage at present is that shawarma is considered a cheap substitute for a nice meal on the go. So, our main competitors are fighting to keep their prices steady to attract more customers and keep the cash flow healthy. We predict a higher volume of sales, as customers are looking for a budget meal, and shawarmas at their present prices are unbeatable. We will continue to compete with other fast food restaurants because of the availability and the price. We are about to join a new application that has B2B capabilities. This will connect us with small buyers who want to buy shawarma but do not have the capability or know-how to do it. At the same time, we will continue to expand organically, and we expect to continue opening shops as opportunities present themselves.

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