During the weekends we usually enjoy it as we relax by going out for a meal. During a hectic weekday at the office, we are grabbing food to go or we lunch out. Not being able to find healthy food options that were tasty (they were actually far from that and tasted like plastic) was something that puzzled Mahmoud & Fadi. Since they were both into fitness, their only option of getting healthy food delivered was to subscribe to a monthly meal plan. The meal plan consisted of 3 meals that were pre-cooked the night before and then delivered the following morning. We would reheat the 3 meals all throughout the day in our offices. And the taste deteriorated with every hour that passed (reheating a salmon tastes completely different to having it on demand). The taste was just not good enough for us to continue paying for a monthly meal plan that didn’t taste great.
What we really wanted was to eat healthy, great-tasting, calorie counted food, on-demand delivered to us. Sustainability towards the environment will always be a prerequisite to profits. The objective was to create long term value for millenials by creating a brand that saw obesity rates lowered, life expectancy increased and the happiness factor improved. Thus was born UAE based healthy food cafe UNDER500.
Co-founders Mahmoud Bartawi and Fadi Ghaly started this from scratch.
Mahmoud is an Ex-Banker, operated a franchised Doner Kebab restaurant and managed the family firm, Bartawi General Contracting Company. Mr Ghaly, on the other hand, is a (foodpreneur and creative director) ran a marketing agency. They are friends and business partners sharing their entrepreneurial vision since 2015. F&B veteran Stephen Priest (Co-Founder of Kitchen Nation – the first kitchen incubator in the UAE ) joined the duo in 2016.
The concept of any business is core for its success. The vision was to build a brand that would be timeless, scalable, sustainable and for everyone that wanted to live a healthy lifestyle. Our understanding was that living a healthy lifestyle depended 20% on your gym workout and 80% on what you ate. We assumed that if a human ate 3 meals a day -under 500 calories each, then they would eventually lose weight. Forging a brand that was timeless, meant that it had to endure the changes in trends, and so using a scientific approach was crucial. Thus we counted calories!
With a primary focus on taste, world-renowned Italian Chef Giovanni De Ambrosis was instrumental in the design and creation of the menu. Not only is he a Chef but also a nutritionist that holds a degree in food science and technology. Our focus has always been on quality rather than quantity. Hence each and every ingredient is fresh, measured and the nutritional value calculated without compromising on the delicious taste of the dish.
Most of the existing healthy restaurants lacked tasty food. Millennials are health-conscious -food lovers at heart looking for nutritional value combined with great taste. This laid out the opportunity to create something that does not compromise on taste and calories. With focus on the nutritional value combined with great taste at low calorie, the UNDER500 is the ideal food joint for a healthy lifestyle. All our meats are hormone and antibiotic-free. We are popular for our Chicken Burrito Bowl and offer gluten-free and vegan options.
Franchising was an essential element in the success of the business. Under500 teamed up with FRANCORP – The world-leading franchising partner, to develop a franchise business model. This includes site selection, supply chain, cost control, build-out timing, marketing and buzz creation. A lot of planning was done to ensure that each market across the country can be easily opened. Mahmoud, Fadi and Steve have visited various franchise exhibitions in Turkey, UK, India, Dubai and Saudi. Thereby in an effort to expand throughout the MENA region by teaming up with passionate partners.
Since the inception of the first store in Dubai -May 2016, they have franchised 4 physical locations in Dubai, with planned unit openings scheduled in Jeddah and Erbil in 2020.
Eyeing the development of dark kitchens in 2019, Under500 teamed up with KITOPI (world’s largest dark kitchens platform) and leveraged on their relationship to expand their reach to 5 countries (USA/ Kuwait/UAE /Saudi /UK). Under500 currently operates 25 KITOPI kitchens worldwide. The primary focus is on scaling the core competency of providing calorie counted, cooked to order and tasty food. In addition to multiple verticals which include corporate catering and hotel in-room dining. We have managed to DOUBLE our growth in 2019 while maintaining our complaints rate of less than 1%
In 2020 we focus heavily on analyzing customer data to deliver quality menus. In addition to using sustainable packaging and marketing efficiently on virtual platforms. And our customer LOVE us for it!
For More information on UAE based healthy food, cafe click here UNDER500.
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