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AR menus to no food waste: Innovation is transforming the restaurant business

Food technology is on the rise in the Middle East, with local companies capitalizing on data, making our lives easier.

AR menus to no food waste: Innovation is transforming the restaurant business
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

Across the world, technology is rapidly evolving and transforming the food industry, perhaps faster in the Middle East than anywhere else. Advances in food tech are changing how customers and restaurants interact and do business, from digital ordering systems to delivery apps and augmented reality menus. 

One of the most significant and recent impacts of technology in the food space has been the explosive rise of food delivery apps. Companies such as Talabat, Deliveroo, and UberEats have become increasingly popular in the region, enabling customers to order food from their favorite restaurants with just a few clicks. 

These apps have not only made it easier for customers to access a wide variety of cuisines and allowed restaurants to reach a broader audience without investing in additional infrastructure.

Another global trend is the integration of digital restaurant ordering systems. These systems allow customers to place their orders through a tablet or kiosk, eliminating the need for waitstaff and reducing order errors. Restaurants can also benefit from increased efficiency, as orders can be processed more quickly and accurately. 


Syrve Middle East, a Dubai-based all-in-one Point of Sale (POS) system, is working on innovative solutions for the food service market to automatize bars, restaurants, and hospitality businesses. 

In their developments, the Syrve team sees an additional benefit: sustainability. Syrve CEO Alexander Ponomarev says, “For the food tech sector, building sustainable solutions for the market is increasingly important. In the UAE, for example, food waste costs the country an estimated $3.5 billion annually. To solve this problem, local food tech startups and restaurant management businesses are trying to develop new ways of food-sharing and meal-donating with the help of mobile apps and technologies.” 

Furthermore, Syrve uses AI-powered forecasting to help an ordered stock with greater accuracy and confidence, which helps to reduce food waste. “Using real-time and historical data and accurately predicted demand, Syrve’s solution reduces the risk of overstocking, which can result in waste,” adds Ponomarev. 

In addition to supporting restaurants and communication with customers, there are also considerations for wait staff. In the F&B space, Spades provides frictionless ordering and payment solutions. “These solutions are designed to match the lifestyle of young and tech-savvy diners across the Middle East, especially in the UAE and Saudi Arabia,” says  Sirine Fadoul, CCO of Technology for Spades.“

How successful can one platform be? Sirine continues, “We’re witnessing a growing adoption by the end users, restaurants, and hotels. With over 500 restaurants transacting millions of dollars monthly on Spades, our Split, Tip, and Pay solutions have positively impacted the lives of thousands of wait staff who have seen their tips multiply by three.” 

Furthermore, while the Spades app can positively impact all levels of a restaurant, there is also an element of data collection. Sirine says, “Restaurants save valuable time and turn tables faster and thus generate more revenue. Hospitality merchants allow for better personalization of offers and services to further increase the customer’s experience at these venues across their various interactions with the merchants.”


Similarly, another recent addition, Watermelon Market, is bridging the gap between suppliers, restaurants, and customers. Founded in April 2021, it’s a food tech startup with an e-procurement platform catering to restaurants and suppliers across the MENA region, offering an all-in-one solution accessible via a web browser or through the app. 

 “Our app lets you get everything you need directly from suppliers for your restaurant or home. No more going through emails and WhatsApp messages to find when you last spoke with your supplier regarding an order. Everything is readily available at your fingertips on one platform. Chefs can easily order vegetables on Watermelon Market if needed, with new items added constantly,” says Omar AlShamsi, co-founder and CEO of Watermelon Market.

Technology can evolve in other sections of the industry, including payments. Last November, Magnati, a regional fintech company, and Sapaad, a restaurant-tech company providing cloud-based software and services in the F&B sector, partnered to offer F&B business owners a multi-channel cloud-based restaurant management platform. 

“With this partnership, F&B businesses operating on our platform will have the best operational efficiency and hassle-free payments through integrated Magnati terminals, payment gateways, and other value-added services,” says Vishnu Vardhan, Founder & CEO of Sapaad.

At the same time, he adds that Magnati provides a payment platform that delivers improved experiences and increased efficiency. 

In addition to these technological advancements, some restaurants have also introduced augmented reality menus, providing customers with a digital, interactive experience. 

Customers can use their smartphones to view 3D images of dishes and see information about ingredients and nutrition facts. This technology enhances the customer experience and enables restaurants to showcase their dishes visually appealingly. 

Technology has also helped restaurants gather customer preferences and behavior data, allowing them to personalize their offerings and marketing strategies. Social media platforms have also become essential for restaurants to engage with customers and promote their brands.

Overall, technology has profoundly impacted the food space around the world, transforming how customers and restaurants interact and do business. As technology evolves, those in the industry can expect to see even more innovation and disruption.

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Courtney Brandt is an author and journalist living in Dubai, UAE. Her work has been published in Vogue Arabia, Destinations of the World, Forbes Middle East, Elite Daily, The Forward Feed, and Food&Wine among many other publications. More

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