The Cloud, co-founded by a Lebanese, wants to become the Airbnb of restaurants

The biggest taxi company without owning a single car? Uber. The biggest hotel chain without even owning a room? Airbnb. Biggest chain of restaurants with no kitchen? This is the title that The Cloud, an Emirati start-up co-founded in late 2019 by Lebanese Georges Karam, would like to claim one day.

Originally from the village of Zghorta (North Lebanon), the young man identifies his model as follows: “We want to become the Airbnb of catering. In other words, the leaders of third-generation cloud kitchens. “The first generation of this type of kitchen, he explains, is made up of a company that has a large area, divided into several kitchens rented to different brands and from which they prepare orders and deliver them to their customers. The second generation is a single company that owns the entire surface and is responsible for preparing the dishes on behalf of several brands with which it has signed agreements. »

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But in the case of The Cloud, and therefore third-generation cloud kitchens, the company has no spaces to rent, no kitchens, and no chefs. Its model is based more on the fact that it allows restaurant owners to make their kitchens available for the preparation of dishes from other brands, sold under their brands. “On the one hand, this model allows restaurant owners to optimize the use of their kitchen and their employees and therefore generate more income, even if they do not market their own dishes. On the other hand, it allows these same restorers to expand their clientele and sell their products in cities or even in countries where they are not present”, explains the CEO.

pioneer models

Georges Karam thus gives the example of a brand physically established in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, but which, thanks to The Cloud, manages to produce and market, through another brand, its dishes in Belgium, the second country in which this company after the Emirates. “On average, restaurants that adopt our model manage to increase the number of dishes produced in four months by 30%”, continues Georges Karam. In these cases, restaurants receive these orders through the mobile applications of aggregators, such as Zomato, Talabat or Deliveroo, who will be in charge of delivering these dishes.

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Nothing predisposed Georges Karam to launch a start-up “a pioneer of this model in the area of ​​catering in the MENA area” and “one of the first to adopt it worldwide”.

At the age of 18, the man who has always lived in the UAE, with the exception of the many summers spent in Lebanon with his family, decided to return to the country to continue his studies there. In 2008, he enrolled at the American University of Beirut (AUB), where he majored in economics three years later. He then won a scholarship to continue his studies in Lithuania, where he obtained a master’s degree in management, specializing in finance. With his diplomas in hand, he returned to the Emirates in 2013 where he held various positions related to his university course until 2019.

Passionate about cooking, in 2017 he decided to “start a new adventure” and opened his own restaurant, without quitting his job. The next few months will be difficult as your restaurant struggles to attract large numbers of customers. “It was with the aim of increasing the restaurant’s sales that Kamil Rogalinski (second co-founder of The Cloud) and I met several times. But little by little, the concept of The Cloud developed, came to life and became a project in its own right,” he recalls.

First, a technology company

Launched initially in Abu Dhabi, then in Dubai, Sharjah and Al-Ain over the next four months, “our business was abruptly interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions that followed, although we showed potential to explore”, he explains. The “return to normality” and adaptation to the pandemic will only happen a few months later, around June. If everything was “very difficult” at the beginning, Georges Karam now sees things from another angle. “The pandemic has been a blessing for us. We were in the right place, at the right time and in the right industry,” with restaurants looking for an escape route to survive and consumers turning even more to an online shopping and home delivery model.

The model is proven, The Cloud manages to raise $1.2 million in September 2020, mostly from the MEVP fund. The start-up installed inside Hub71 – Abu Dhabi’s international technology hub – sees bigger, much bigger. It will successively settle in 39 cities in the United Arab Emirates, Belgium, Lithuania, Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Romania and the Netherlands. Two years later, on September 14, it announced that it had completed a $10 million fundraiser with MEVP, Olayan Financing Company and Rua Growth Fund. This new injection of funds will aim to help the start-up expand its presence in the short term in the MENA zone and around the world. At a regional level, The Cloud intends to set up soon in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to establish its second office in the kingdom, and also intends to settle in Kuwait to strengthen its presence in the Gulf countries. Internationally, The Cloud intends to continue to invest in the European market in the short term and plans to enter the French and Italian markets soon. If the platform now brings together 700 catering brands, it is expected to be able to increase this total to more than a thousand by the end of the year.

At the same time, this newly raised envelope will also allow it to grow its workforce from around 130 employees today to nearly 200 by the end of 2023, while keeping its focus on strengthening its full-time developer team, totaling 15 today. . Because, although The Cloud is a player in the restaurant sector, its greatest asset lies in its digital platform.

Entirely designed and developed in-house under the direction of Kamil Rogalinski, Technical Director, this technological interface allows you to view and analyze in real time all orders that pass through the Cloud. At the same time, and in addition to accessing this platform, the restaurants that adhere to it also benefit from a mobile application, also entirely developed in-house, which allows them to monitor various parameters of their preparation process in order to encourage them to improve their service. Among the indicators presented by this application, the times of preparation of the dishes and delivery, the evolution of sales, the most requested dishes and the regions of origin of the orders stand out. All with the aim of optimizing the production chain.

The biggest taxi company without owning a single car? Uber. The biggest hotel chain without even owning a room? Airbnb. Biggest chain of restaurants with no kitchen? This is the title that The Cloud, an Emirati start-up co-founded in late 2019 by Lebanese Georges Karam, would like to claim one day.
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