Innovative Approach Helps Dubai-Based Cloud Restaurants Bolster Its Delivery-Only Offerings Amid The COVID-19 Crisis With their business model well-suited to continue operating in these new, unforeseen circumstances, the founders were able to shift their focus towards other facets of their operations, particularly customer satisfaction.

By Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

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Cloud Restaurants

Founded by husband and wife duo Ziad and Rowan Kamel, Dubai-based Cloud Restaurants, was established in 2017 to create a series of online, delivery-only restaurants in the UAE. "The crisis presented us with new opportunities as more and more people turned to online businesses," Ziad says. "Cloud Restaurants is a 100% online, delivery-only restaurant business, so our business model was resilient to the crisis. As a matter of fact, we continued to grow during the crisis. We couldn't have wished for a better business model."

Go! is Cloud Restaurant's first chapter of delivery-only restaurants developed for cloud kitchens, and several different concepts have been created under this banner including Go! Pasta, Go! Greek, Go! Healthy, and Go! Chinese.

Go! Healthy's Build Your Own Bowl option. Source: Cloud Restaurants.

With their business model wellsuited to continue operating in these new, unforeseen circumstances, the founders were able to shift their focus towards other facets of their operations, particularly customer satisfaction. "Early on, we understood that dine-in restaurants –and any businesses where people congregated– would be shut down, while everything shifted online," elaborates Ziad. "We saw how food delivery was designated as "essential business' and allowed to operate. So, we had to quickly adjust our operations, and pivot our strategies to adhere to the regulations, and better suit customer behavior."

Adhering to the regulations meant that the Kamel's had to bring in some stringent changes in the health and safety department, including contactless ordering with delivery partners, a 100% sanitization program, and staff training. Customers could also opt for contactless delivery and provide instructions to the driver like, "Please leave my order near my door." The National Sterilization Program in the UAE meant public transportation was no longer available, so, authority-approved private modes of transportation had to be arranged for.

Related: Increased Shift To E-Commerce Aids Dubai-Based Startup Spotii As It Launches Amid COVID-19

But amidst all these modifications and changes to their day-to-day operations, Cloud Restaurants launched two new brands in their Go! Series - Go! Combo and Go! Cook. Interestingly enough, the latter was also a way of adapting to the new ecosystem. With more people increasingly opting to cook at home instead eating out, the founders felt a new opportunity was created. "Go! Cook addressed the need to cook your own food, and offers our most loved food in DIY cooking kits like pasta, sauces, marinated chicken, etc.," Ziad explains. "During the lockdown, people wanted to cook their own food. They certainly had the time at home! They did it to fill the time, to learn new skills, to mitigate food safety fears they may have, to save money, or just to have fun!"

Spinach Ricotta Tortellini, a part of the Go! Cook DIY kits. Source: Cloud Restaurants.

It is important to note here that Cloud Restaurants had zero layoffs during this crisis; a rare feat during a time when unemployment has risen due to cost-cutting measures. Ziad explains the approaches they took to ensure better financial decisions. "Ensuring cash liquidity was the key for our survival. This means ensuring sufficient top line (revenue), while reducing costs across the board. On the revenue side, although we had reduced working hours enforced by curfews, we worked our hardest to ensure customers felt safe ordering from our brands. On the cost side, less operating hours permitted meant less shifts for staff to work which in turn resulted in lower staff cost of 12%. We had zero layoffs. At the moment, our team is back at full working capacity, and we even resumed hiring! We are super proud of our team."

Cloud Restaurants was built with an ethos of innovation, so it comes as no surprise that even through this crisis, new ideas and concepts were being introduced. Asked about what aspects of their business model have been brought to the forefront during this crisis, Ziad replies: "The only tendency we have learnt is that the only constant in life (and business) is change (and innovation). The values learnt and experienced are now engrained in our business model and our people: constant change, innovation, flexibility, resourcefulness. There is no turning back, and this is a good thing!"

Related: Dubai-Based Travel Tech Startup Hotel Data Cloud Selected As A SemiFinalist In The United Nations World Tourism Organization's Healing Solutions for Tourism Challenge

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed

Features Writer, Entrepreneur Middle East

Aalia Mehreen Ahmed is the Features Writer at Entrepreneur Middle East.

She is an MBA (Finance) graduate with past experience in the corporate sector, and was also co-founder of CyberSWIFTT- an anti-cyberbullying campaign that ran from 2017-2018 as part of the e7: Daughters of the Emirates program.

Ahmed is keen on pursuing and writing stories on people-centric leadership, female-owned startups, and entrepreneurs who've beaten significant odds to realize their goals.

A bibliophile, chai addict, and photography enthusiast, she can be often found (animatedly) talking about Kdramas, BTS, cricket, novels, and comic book films.

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