Global dining

Want to have a quick, yet healthy and luxurious dinner? Gourmet Egypt is the first retail company that serves fine imported seafood, cheese, exotic fruits and meat via online and phone. Al Masry al-Youm meets the founder, Jalal Abu Gazaleh.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: How did you start the food business? Did you study catering?
Jalal Abu Gazaleh: I studied civil engineering, but never worked as a civil engineer. I was living in Australia since 1991 and was doing some importing and exporting selling Australian good to the rest of the world including Egypt.
I have an uncle who owns a restaurant in Cairo and I once told him, “Why don’t I send you a container of meat?”
That was in 1996, he loved it and then I started a company called AM foods, supplying meats to hotels and restaurants. First it was called AM foods, and the company kept expanding from meats, to seafood, to bakery and chocolate. We became a large company focusing on high quality goods.
I used to go back and forth between Egypt and Australia. Then I met my Egyptian-Palestinian wife and we settled in Egypt in 2000.
Al-Masry: How often do you cook?
Abu Gazaleh: I cook a lot. And I enjoy it. This is how I started the business. I would invite people for dinner, and they asked me where I got the food from. That’s when I thought, “Why don’t I open a shop and sell imported food to the public?”
That’s how Gourmet Egypt started. And it started very simple. We had one mobile and a menu of ten items. Then we printed an A5 brochure for our relatives and friends and the parents of our children’s friends at school. All of a sudden people started ordering a lot. We developed a business plan and we started a company two and a half years ago.
The company grew as the demand grew. We designed a store and recruited specialized staff who are no less competent than their counterparts in any retail shop in the world. Although we import our meats from Australia, we have butchers that can produce any range of cuts for filets, burgers, sausages, etc.
Al-Masry: And who are your clients?
Abu Gazaleh: At the beginning, all our clients were foreigners and wealthy Egyptians.
Al-Masry: But that’s your target, right?
Abu Gazaleh: I target the local Egyptian community that wants to enhance their lives through great food. Ninety percent of what we sell is, believe it or not, extremely competitive and affordable.
Al-Masry: You have a call center, so do you often get your orders by phone or online?
Abu Gazaleh: Most people check the website and order by phone. Partly because people are used to the phone and partly because the website is difficult; you need to fill a form to order. It will get better though, and already online orders are increasing.
Al-Masry: What is your projection? Do you want to remain a retailer or are you thinking of producing your own food?
Abu Gazaleh: Production is not our field yet, although I started offering very high standard, locally-produced food by Pico. For example, Pico’s strawberry is produced in Egypt and sold in Europe. It is picked at the right time, graded and frozen in the right temperature. Everything has to be done right to get a perfect product. Most of fruits and vegetables in Egypt are damaged by handling. We are not producers. We are retailers and we prefer to deal with the best producers.
Al-Masry: But do you see the market going more for international food consumption?
Abu Gazaleh: Sure, it is becoming more and more a global world. People are traveling a lot. We have more exposure to international cuisines like eastern, and especially with the busy life we are leading and more couples working, there’s basically no time for traditional cooking. For example, when I got married, at our first dinner party, my wife took two days to prepare a huge meal. And she kept asking me what we are having for dinner. I told her anything. And then on the dinner day, I was standing in the kitchen at 6 pm thinking what to have and I did something great and quick. That is the rhythm of today.
Al-Masry: With a hot and humid climate in Cairo, how do you ensure the quality of food?
Abu Gazaleh: This is the responsibility of everyone in Gourmet. We are very careful about expiry dates. We have regular shipments. We have people that monitor the shelves closely and we have highly equipped cars, trucks and bags that keep the food in the same temperature.
Before the expiry date approaches we let our customers know of the exact date of expiry and give them the choice to buy at a discount of 50 per cent.

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