Dubai-based restaurant reservations platform Eat App has appointed international talent to fill in the role of VP of Commercial by hiring Christo Van Wyk. The announcement comes as the startup prepares for expansion and growth in the global restaurant software business.
Since establishing in 2015, the in-restaurant SaaS solution has seated over 10 million diners across 2,400 restaurants in the Middle East. It counts Emaar Hospitality Group and The Ritz-Carlton amongst its customers.
Tapping on global talent
Nezar Kadhem and David Feuillard, the creators of Eat App, implemented their plan to find leadership skills outside the Middle East by looking for a specialist with experience in scaling and expanding businesses internationally from within an emerging region.
“The hospitality landscape varies greatly between countries and even cities, and this position is very much in line with our goal of providing our customers with the best experience and tools no matter where they are located – Christo has executed on a similar operation for 12+ years.” Christo joins Eat App with substantial expertise in scaling startups in emerging markets, including the Middle East. Previously, he held numerous commercial leadership roles from an international SaaS company, Meltwater.
Kadhem places significant emphasis on the firm’s people-first mindset and its priority on recruiting diverse talent as a key ingredient for business success. “Diversity inspires culture, and that fuels innovation more so than having a narrower team,” adds the co-founder. Eat App currently has 50 full-time employees, representing 20 different nationalities. Last week, the startup welcomed talent from Salesforce, IBM, Audible, and Shopify, a move credited to its remote-friendly company culture.
How has COVID-19 impacted the startup?
The UAE-headquartered company saw its productivity skyrocket in 2020, with engineering outputs up 40% compared to the pre-pandemic business activity. As a result of remote working, Eat App shifted its scalability strategy and began hiring remotely. Today, over 30% of its team works remotely, with a presence in five primary locations: UAE, Bosnia, Spain, the Philippines, and Bahrain.
For the remainder of 2021, Eat App is gearing towards the fast-evolving dining requirements in a post-COVID era. “Our vision is to become the leader in restaurant management software globally. In 2021, we want to make great strides against that vision and focus on supporting restaurants as they begin to re-open around the world,” says Kadhem.
Due to reduced capacity, contact tracing, and operating with in-government guidelines, restaurants are adopting contactless technology and reservation management solutions by default. Given the acceleration of digital transformation in restaurants, the startup is developing and releasing the next generation of restaurant tech with a focus on automation (AI) and improving the guest experience in all aspects.
What to watch for
Eat App has raised $7.2 million in total funding so far, with $5 million of that raised in 2020 alone. Investors have included 500 Startups and Derayah VC and several international VCs, and regional angel investors. “We are currently fundraising for our $10 million Series C, which we hope to close in Q1 2022,” reveals Kadhem.
Globally, the food-tech space continues to attract impressive funding and is growing at an incredible pace. In the 2019-2020 period, Amazon entered the space with its investment in SevenRooms and Dubai’s Kitopi raised $60 million in series B funding.