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The Many Shades of Food Tech: Restaurant Tech
Startups in MENA are tackling food tech categories such as food delivery, restaurant tech, online chef/caterer hire, and food subscription. The following section on restaurant tech and subsequent installments of this article illustrate the diversity of the food tech categories and business models found within MENA and call attention to some of the most prominent players, key investments, and active markets. The 10 markets that have been included and analyzed are Lebanon, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Morocco, and Oman.
Food Discovery Platforms
Over the last few years, food discovery platform startups, which allow consumers to discover restaurants, dishes and cuisines, have become consumers’ go-to for deciding where to eat out at or order in from. Offering a combination of restaurant data with menus as well as basic information like location, opening hours, and more, these startups not only target consumers but also restaurants looking to market their products.
The MENA region is currently home to 9 food discovery platforms spread across all 10 markets. While Zomato is indisputably the leader when it comes to restaurant search and discovery, regional players are starting to make their way into the spotlight. Round Menu, a restaurant discovery platform, received an investment of $730K shortly after being launched in the UAE in 2012 and has since expanded to 7 other markets. ElMenus, an Egyptian-based food discovery platform, also recently raised $1.5M in Series A funding, and boasts over one million monthly users.
Reservation platform startups, which allow consumers to browse restaurants, book specific tables for specified dates and times, and view offers and promotions, are using technology to modernize the reservations process. Aiming to tackle and resolve the pain point associated with the inconvenience of booking a table, these startups not only help diners make last minute reservations, but also help restaurants manage and boost their businesses and promote their events.
Although a hot sector, the online reservation business is nearly 20 years old – global restaurant reservation leader OpenTable launched in 1998 - and the majority of MENA’s reservation platforms have been around for a couple of years. Out of the 7 reservation platform startups in the region, ReserveOut, launched in 2012, and Eat, launched in 2015, lead the sector. Jordan-based ReserveOut currently functions in 6 markets and has raised $5.4M in funding to date, and Bahrain-based Eat functions in 4 markets and has raised $2.2M in funding to date.