With more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Abdul Kader Saadi and Anwar Nusseibeh were well aware of the issues plaguing both restaurants and suppliers in the UAE and the wider region.
Restaurants often suffer from high food costs due to inefficiency in procurement while suppliers face high operating costs because of inadequacies in the procurement process, says Mr Saadi, a British citizen.
“There is no open marketplace for sellers and buyers to communicate. The restaurant-supplier relationship and how they operate is dated and has not advanced over the years,” he says.
Mr Saadi and his Emirati friend and partner Mr Nusseibeh identified these problems and realised a solution was needed.
The duo launched Eighty6, a B2B marketplace connecting vendors and buyers (restaurants, hotels and dark kitchens) to help eliminate these inefficiencies, streamline ordering and reduce operating costs for both restaurants and suppliers.
It aims to digitise the entire procurement process in the UAE food and beverage industry, from searching for an item all the way to its delivery.
“Eighty6 is a slang word used in the industry for an item that is off the menu as it is no longer available. It is commonly used by chefs and managers,” Mr Saadi says.
The company was founded in March 2021 and the product was launched in October last year. Based in the DIFC Innovation Hub, Eighty6 focuses on the global hotel, restaurant and catering industry worth more than $60 billion.
The start-up currently has 25 employees and the team is growing rapidly.
The Eighty6 app is available to download on both Apple’s App Store and on Android.
About one third of the world’s food is being wasted, equivalent to about 1.3 billion tonnes of food annually, reports by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation show. The cost of food wasted annually is about $1 trillion and the cost of discarding food waste is about $410bn annually, FAO data show.
“Raw materials represent the largest cost category in an F&B operation. Supplier prices are fragmented and vary from one restaurant to another. Procurement is a time-consuming and tedious process, which takes valuable time out of operations and generating revenue,” Mr Saadi says.
The restaurant-supplier relationship and how they operate is dated and has not advanced over the years
Abdul Saadi, co-founder, Eighty6
Meanwhile, suppliers suffer from high customer acquisition cost. Their orders are scattered via several informal and hard-to-trace channels, the founder says.
In addition, it’s difficult for suppliers to communicate quickly and efficiently with their clients about orders, promotions or the launch of a new product, he adds.
With Eighty6, restaurants can use the marketplace to search and compare suppliers’ products to find the best fit, reduce time spent placing orders by 50 per cent, eliminate out-of-stock items and have the flexibility of being able to order on the move, Mr Saadi says.
The platform also allows restaurants to connect, chat and build relationships with suppliers. They can stay up to date with suppliers’ current offers and promotions, place, manage and track orders as well as generate monthly sales data and analytical reports.
“For suppliers, Eighty6 minimises their client acquisition costs, helps them reach a wider audience, eliminates the need for manual data entry, minimises the need for physical visits to outlets and provides cost-effective marketing with guaranteed reach,” he says.
Suppliers can directly market their products to chefs, managers and buyers on the platform, send push notifications to up to 1,000 prospects at once, accept, amend, reject and track orders and stock, update pricing in real time and generate monthly sales data analytical reports.
The business currently has more than 6,000 stock-keeping units on the marketplace and expects to host more than 2,000 restaurants on the platform by the end of 2022.
The number of users, both on the restaurant and supplier side, is doubling month to month on the platform, Mr Saadi says.
Eighty6 aims to launch operations in Saudi Arabia in the first quarter of this year. Once the start-up is well established in the UAE and the kingdom, it will consider expanding to other countries in the GCC, he adds.
“We are changing behaviours and change inevitably breeds a learning curve,” he says. “It’s a new way of working. Users need to get used to it, yet the product is very simple to use. Similar to how one would use Deliveroo or Talabat to order food, restaurants will do the same for their produce.”
The online marketplace is focused on the food and beverage procurement segment as well as consumables, he says.
The founders put in the seed fund for Eighty6. It closed an angel round in the third quarter of last year from investors including Women Spark, a Saudi Arabia-based early stage angel investors network, as well as private Emirati and Saudi citizens, Mr Saadi says.
“We will be raising the pre-series A round in the first quarter of 2022. The start-up has raised a total of about 1m$ to date,” he adds.
Eighty6 also aims to turn the procurement process paperless by the end of this year, the founder says.
“We also want to support local farmers as much as possible by improving their sales with a wider reach, giving exposure to their products and offering them a new customer base. We are now working with AquaFaw, a Sharjah-based hydroponic and aquaponic farm,” he adds.
To a question on how the start-up leverages technology, Mr Saadi says: “Eighty6 is a tech product that was designed using a modular approach. This allows us to adapt to our users' needs by adding new features or integrating with third party apps.”
Q&A with Abdul Kader Saadi, co-founder of Eighty6
What already successful start-up do you wish you had started?
Thankfully, I am already in the position of having launched the start-up that I had envisioned and am on the path to see it blossom and reach its full potential.
What is your next big dream to make happen?
My dream is to use our enterprise as a platform to become one of the top innovators in the industry. I want to be a leader that promotes change and in time will dictate the steps to growth and prosperity, rather than following the trends set in motion.
What new skills have you learnt in the process of launching your start-up?
I’ve learnt to incorporate key elements such as speed and adaptability, which are essential for spearheading success. In addition, one needs to ensure they incorporate modern technology and integrate with multiple providers to create an effective ecosystem for one’s start-up.
If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?
We were fortunate enough to carry out our stratagem exactly as we had intended and thankfully it has paved the way to progress. In hindsight, I wish we had initiated the project earlier.
Who is your role model in business?
I have been fortunate enough to meet and collaborate with several innovative trendsetters in my experience. Rather then highlighting a specific individual, I believe that everyone at the forefront of the industry has the capacity to emulate values and showcase ideals that we can all incorporate into our models.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
We have already begun developing our regional presence and strengthening our brand. Our long-term goal is to take it globally and ensure we have a strong position in the international market.
What would you tell an entrepreneur who is starting out?
Time is of the essence, so if you have the confidence in your concept, then start as soon as possible and be sure to differentiate and incorporate integration. All these factors will ensure that you have the strongest foundation to better guarantee success in your endeavours.