In conversation with Mr. Nezar Kadhem, founder of ‘eat’, Bahrain’s very own restaurant reservation application
Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. And it holds true for one of the fastest growing online entrepreneurships in Bahrain – eat. It was an arduous experience of making a reservation with a restaurant in Bahrain over the phone, that got Nezar Kadhem to join forces with one of the best technical teams to build this revolutionary restaurant reservation application in 2013. This mobile app that makes reserving a seat at your favourite fine dining restaurant easy, allows you to find restaurants around you and make a confirmed reservation in less than three clicks.
The eat app is freely downloadable from Apple Store and Google Play and has already found dedicated users from among the expatriate and local population of the Kingdom.
Nezar, who is 26 years old, always had the passion for building scalable technology start ups and the eat project is his dream come true. Following are the excerpts from the conversation we had with him, where he shares his vision and the future of the eat application.
Tell us about your vision behind eat…
The team and I are working everyday to push eat to become the leading technology company servicing the Food & Beverage industry in the Middle East. We believe eat has the potential to become the market leader in less than eighteen months, and grow to service restaurants worldwide.
How did you conquer the initial obstacles in introducing an app for online reservations?
We had to focus on two things: listening and educating. We convinced a group of early adopters to try the app. It was only after they made a reservation online, and went to the restaurant to realise it actually works, that we started seeing a strong referral effect. Just as important, we had to listen carefully. We called every single person who made a reservation on eat in the first three months and asked: “How can we do this better?” We quickly changed the product to address their feedback.
How have the last 2 years since the introduction of eat been?
We went from a team of 1, 24 months ago, to now a team of 20,with 600,000 guests seated, and offices in 2 countries. The journey has been incredible, full of challenges and obstacles, coupled with a great learning experience.
What is it that you can offer that others can’t?
From day one, we focused on being a technology company. Unlike our competitors, that are simply introducing existing technologies, we focused on building a product that was different. We listened to restaurants, focused on solving their problems, and built a product that was as intuitive as we could make it. It is because of this that eat has grown to its current stage.
What are the main challenges you’re facing in the market today?
We are ambitious, and currently speaking with the largest groups in the F&B industry, including Starwood, Jumeirah and Emaar. Presenting eat to these conglomerates requires reputation and experience. These leaders allow eat to grow even bigger, and challenge everyone from our engineers to our day-to-day business development team.
How do the company and your technology stay up to date with trends in the industry?
We’re constantly listening to our customers, asking them on how to improve. We also look closely at other inspirational apps, and study their design and approach. Then we A/B test, and select what works best. This has allowed eat to stay ahead.
What is the major lesson you have learnt having introduced the eat app?
It’s a marathon, not a race. We’ve been hard at work for over two years now, and only now do you start to see results. Push hard, and be patient.
What does the future hold for eat?
We’re looking to raise our Series A round in early 2016, and grow eat’s operation into 6 countries. We’re really excited to be servicing more and more restaurants, hotels and groups in the Middle East, and have exciting product updates to share very soon.
What’s your advice for fellow entrepreneurs wanting to succeed with their start-ups?
Get out of the building. Go speak to your customers. Don’t assume features. You need to find what people are most hungry for, and what they would be willing to pay for, and then base your business decisions on that feedback. But most importantly, quit your job; you can’t be successful if you don’t put your heart and time into realising your dreams.