“Today, most restaurant orders come from delivery platforms,” says Mohamad Ballout, co-founder of Kitopi.
This reality sparked the idea to launch a “kitchen utopia” by partnering with restaurant giants like Shake Shack, Nathan’s Famous, and Papa Johns to optimize food delivery services.
Ballout is a two-time Endeavor Entrepreneur who, prior to Kitopi, co-founded BMB Group, one of the largest confectionery businesses in the Middle East. After leaving BMB he became an investor and began to explore the restaurant business — an industry that traditionally faces immense obstacles at scale.
Ballout wondered if he could use the logic applied to his candy business to solve the puzzle: since candy brands license their products to factories, could food brands do the same to kitchens? And so he partnered with his childhood friends, Saman Darkan and Andres Arenas, to start Kitopi.
Ballout launched the company in Dubai in 2017 and expanded to three other countries in the Middle East, in addition to London and New York. Each kitchen is able to orchestrate 30 brands, divided by working stations. Now, Kitopi works with more than 200 brands in over 60 kitchens, across five countries.
The name Kitopi comes from the company’s vision: A Kitchen Utopia.
Through an in-house system called Smart Kitchen Operating System, or “SKOS,” the cloud kitchen can maximize efficiency through technology. Beyond renting space, Kitopi actually cooks the meal, and takes care of the entire supply chain, from order to delivery.
The system is so well-orchestrated that if a new brand decides to be Kitopi’s partner, their entire menu can be delivered after just two weeks on the platform.
As new habits rapidly evolved amidst the pandemic in 2020, food delivery began attracting clients that would traditionally dine-in, and Kitopi experienced a considerable business spike. By July 2021, this rapid growth led Kitopi to become the third Middle Eastern unicorn. To accelerate their path, the Endeavor UAE advisory board has played a crucial role, guiding Kitopi to catalyze growth, secure capital, and expand into international markets.
“Our light-bulb moment was when Darkan and I were sitting with our executive team and noticed that every single one of them was smarter than us. We were proud of our ability to inspire and attract such talent,” says Ballout.
As Ballout, Darkan and Arenas grew the business into one of Endeavor’s top-performing companies, they have also expressed their commitment to actively give back to the next generation of successful entrepreneurs.
A notable example is a mentorship session between Ballout and the young aspiring founders of a Colombian startup, Foodology, where the two-time Endeavor Entrepreneur shared personal advice and actionable guidance.
The knowledge that Ballout and Darkan have acquired in the past six years can save other foodtechs years of mistakes, not to mention money. Sharing the best pieces of advice, shortcuts, and best practices are ways of paying it forward. The result? Kitopi’s mission comes even closer to reality, more collectively, and globally.
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