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Restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are coming together to launch their own apps and take on the order-and-delivery portals. Residents will benefit as they won't have to pay delivery charges. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: Restaurant groups in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are now in the final phase of launching their full-scale challenge against food order-and-delivery portals such as Zomato and Talabat, with the rollout of their own apps. And at the same time, ensure customers who order through the restaurants’ owned apps do not have to pay as much on delivery charges.

The Dubai-based group, representing more than 500 F&B businesses, expect to go live with the GoFood app and portal as early as next week. Much of the beta testing has been done, and by having 2,000 plus outlets covered through the app can provide for all sorts of customer tastes and have maximum coverage when it comes to delivery in the city.

The promoters of GoFood plan to enter an alliance with a leading delivery services provider to take care of the last-mile needs.

In Abu Dhabi, another app/portal – Orderat - from restaurant owners will also be going live, most likely in July. “As UAE citizens and F&B owners ourselves, we know the pain UAE restaurants are feeling… and that they deserved better,” said Mubarak Al Ghanem of Orderat. “There will be no signing up fee for restaurant partners, no annual fee, and only a small charge per order no matter how big an order is.

“All restaurants will see both immediate and long-term savings that will be substantial.”

Brought on by sheer necessity

We welcome competition as this will only benefit UAE restaurants. This was the premise behind our idea to help F&B operators in the first place

- Mubarak Al Ghanem of Orderat

A spokesperson behind the GoFood initiative UAE restaurants’ survival will depend on generating the maximum savings on their operations. “That won’t happen if restaurants have to lose up to 35 per cent on each order generated through a food “aggregator” (platforms such as Talabat and Zomato),” said Shanavas Mohammed, Partner at Golden Fork Group. “Consumers too are getting hit with too high a delivery charge when they order through these platforms.

“Restaurant owners in Dubai/UAE have been talking to the platforms for a long time now about reducing their commissions – they never listened. Now, with restaurants operating under the COVID-19 created situation, they cannot afford to lose up to 35 per cent per order.

“We have to do our own thing, and that’s the reason for GoFood.” (The commission structure imposed by Zomato/Talabat vary with the F&B operator. The 30-35 per cent commission includes the delivery fees as well. On orders alone, it could be between 10-20 per cent.)

Reduced tariffs

For a GoFood tie up, restaurants need to pay a 2 per cent market fee and payment gateway charges of 2 per cent in case it is done using a credit card. For providing delivery services, it will be a flat Dh10.

Partner restaurants will also have access to a direct ordering link on the GoFood website, and which can integrate it with their social media pages and even on WhatsApp.

“The best part is that there will be no delivery charges for customers - they will have the same experience of ordering directly from their neighbourhood restaurants," said Mohammed. "And that’s exactly who we represent. What we are doing now through the app is extend their reach and at less cost than with the aggregators.”

They will have the same experience of ordering directly from their neighbourhood restaurants

- Shanavas Mohammed of Golden Fork Group

Will the tactic work?

Going it alone comes with associated risks for restaurants. The food platforms have the strength of an extensive database of consumers who have ordered through them already. It will take time before the restaurant collectives in Dubai and Abu Dhabi can build up their own databases to those levels.

But industry sources say if they don’t make an attempt now, it will only be a matter of time before the current business climate ends up consuming them.

“Dining in numbers will take a long time to revive – so, effectively, we are now operating only on the basis of orders coming in,” said an F&B owner with a network of outlets in Dubai. “And if on each of these orders, we have to pay 20-35 per cent to aggregators, it will only hasten our exit from doing business. Landlords are not listening to us on reducing rents for the near term – there have to be other ways to make savings.

“Restaurant-owned apps give us a chance to reach consumers, and with the promise of lower charges for them.”

Promise of lower costs

It’s a sentiment Al Ghanem can empathise with - “We are committed to fully guarantee that orderat will not seek any income when it comes to delivery charges. This commitment will allow restaurants to fully recoup their delivery costs

“Orderat has established a team with more than 25 years of experience in IT, F&B and business strategy for this. The idea was born with UAE restaurants at the front of mind. Not using expensive offshore solutions has allowed us to keep overheads substantially down.”

Fight to the end

For the restaurants, the battle lines are drawn. “We weren’t going to sit idle and let third party aggregators shape our future,” said David Abi Daoud of Mezza Lebanese Kitchen and one of the founders at GoFood. “Some might think it’s a daring move - but these are daring times.

“This allows us to preserve the customer experience, pass on greater savings and reduce our losses. It's mutually beneficial for customers and restaurant operators.

“We have a comparable user experience as the other apps, a commission scheme that’s in the interest of restaurant operators, more than 2,000 restaurants behind the initiative and the support of the UAE community. I think the other apps should be concerned.”

Some might think it’s a daring move - but these are daring times

- David Abi Daoud of Mezza Lebanese Kitchen