Make way for food trucks in the UAE

Make way for food trucks in the UAE
Roundup specialises in businesses on wheels and covers anything and everything to do with food trucks, including but not limited to financing.

dubai - How one Emirati entrepreneur ushered in a global phenomenon to the UAE


Rohma Sadaqat

Published: Sat 25 Jun 2016, 2:42 PM

Last updated: Sat 25 Jun 2016, 9:25 PM

A pleasant evening out with a couple of friends or the whole family might hit a snag when the time comes to decide on what everyone wants to eat.
Your best friend might be in the mood for shawarma, while your sister might be feeling like having some tacos, and yet another friend says that he wants to grab a burger. The debate is in danger of getting heated until you spot a line of food trucks - an increasingly common sight in the UAE, thanks to the efforts of one young entrepreneur.

"Our tagline is 'to feed your lifestyle'," says Rafia Al Mulla, founder and CEO of 54 East, the global enterprise responsible for launching Roundup in the UAE.

Roundup is the name behind bringing the global phenomenon of gourmet food trucks to the Middle East. Al Mulla describes it as a business solution on wheels, servicing a one-stop-shop for the business-service automotive industry in the GCC with worldwide distribution rights. Roundup makes sure that food trucks are docked at all the major events, gigs and shows in the UAE.

"We are always on the lookout for progressive global growth," Al Mulla says. "As the global movement evolved around businesses on wheels, we studied that aspect and decided to bring and continue that momentum in a global city like Dubai. We wanted to start something new that is nearer to the global potential achieved by similar companies."

foodRoundup specialises in businesses on wheels and covers anything and everything to do with food trucks, including but not limited to financing.
"Not only do you buy your food truck, but you get your trade licence, and we listen to your idea and help you execute it. Basically, all you need to do is focus on your business growth. Having started in January 2015, we already have a presence in two countries, and are looking at global expansion in terms of Roundup," Al Mulla notes.

Currently, Roundup has between 30 to 40 brands and is looking to acquire more. The food truck business encompasses everything from new chefs and large corporations to new menu ideas. It is not uncommon to see them in malls, and she is quick to point out that Roundup is not against the idea, but that the company is against the principal of high capital.

"One of the biggest problems that SMEs in the region today face is financing," she observes. "In case they don't have the required funds, we happily help provide them with that service. This is where the idea came from, and from the fact that we add value to the consumer market. There comes a point where consumers get fed up with the idea of going to the malls and trying the same common brands that they see in the food court. We wanted to try something new where we add a little bit of excitement to menu offerings."

"From a business perspective, an entrepreneur or even a large corporation usually has trouble with access to prime real estate," she elaborates. "Even when you get access, the rents will be high. This is not just an issue in Dubai, as we see this as being the case globally. The demand is higher than the supply, which means that rents will, more often than not, be out of reach of entrepreneurs or SMEs."

This doesn't offer fair competition to small players, Al Mulla explains, but with food trucks you have more than fair competition because you end up with almost equivalent revenues, yet lower costs. With food trucks, you can go to where the clients are, whether it is at concerts, exhibitions or events. In a mall, on the other hand, you are limited in your customers, and it is a seasonal business, she points out.

Asked about Roundup's expansion in the region, Al Mulla says: "Recently, we just opened up operations in Saudi Arabia. Whenever we go into a country, we look for licensing partners, and we ensure that when we launch, we always have all the paperwork and legislation ready. Even though we launched in January of 2015, it took us two years to get the paperwork ready for the whole model. You can try to open a food truck business outside of the Roundup model, but at the end of the day, there is a real benefit in bringing your business to us, simply because of the advice that we offer, and how much of the overhead cost we absorb."

Speaking about the brands in Roundup's portfolio, Al Mulla reveals: "We have a lot of European clients and brands that have brought their menus to the region. The great thing about Dubai is how multicultural the city is, which means that we have the opportunity to launch several different brands spanning all sorts of cuisines. The nature of the city of Dubai is very much events-oriented, so there is no shortage of opportunities for food trucks."


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