Hungry for success

When it comes to IT, SMBs have a unique set of challenges to deal with. Appetite Catering decided outsourcing was the best possible solution. Imthishan Giado reports

Tags: E-mailSMBUnited Arab Emirates
  • E-Mail
Hungry for success AL JAYOUCHI: Support could take me as long as 10 hours before, whereas now it takes a professional just half an hour.
By  Imthishan Giado Published  December 13, 2009 Arabian Computer News Logo

There's humble beginnings - and then there's Appetite Catering. The firm began with just two employees back in 2005, while its entire IT "infrastructure" consisted of one laptop.

But fortune smiled on the company and today, it produces over 3000 meals a day from its warehouse facility in Al Quoz, with a full team to ensure that quality standards are maintained.

Unfortunately for managing partner Manar Al Jayouchi, the caterer's IT team has not matched the rapid pace of growth. Or to put it to more bluntly - Al Jayouchi is the entire IT team, despite having no formal training.

He explains the division of labour at Appetite: "I manage the operational side. So everything to do with finance, HR, operational logistics, supplies - it all lands on my table.  Suzy [his wife and partner] does all the other stuff.

"Until recently we did not have a company to oversee our setup. Then we hired one of the companies recommended by Microsoft, one of their partners to manage our IT. Our entire operation is outsourced to Prologix. At this point, they are just making sure that everything runs smoothly. Before Prologix which started three months ago, I was managing the whole thing. But then it became quite problematic; if anything goes down, I have to come back and sort it out," he reveals.

The firm's IT needs are deceptively simple, with the main elements being the Microsoft Excel sheets which manage the sales force, financial software from Peachtree to keep track of accounts and most importantly of all, the Outlook e-mail system. Al Jayouchi underscores the fact that without e-mail, the company cannot function - there would be no orders to carry out.

This is of course, he says, another reason why he took the decision to delegate the work to Prologix: "It could take me around 10 hours, whereas now someone can come in and sort it out in half an hour. He can come in, type an IP address and figure it out."

Even basic IT needs can be difficult to accomplish, as he found out: "We wanted to have a big screen inside the preparation area with all the orders of the day so no one can mess up anything. That's not an expensive exercise, but we had to think about who can provide the screen, how can we can keep it clean - because it's inside a kitchen where there's steam and grease. Nobody came up with a system. Some gave me some ridiculous costing: hundreds of thousands for two remote scanners," he says.

Al Jayouchi did not reveal full budget details, but he did say that it has increased dramatically in recent years: "Now we're trying to improve the entire infrastructure in terms of backups, computers and so on. I can say that just the management is $5445 annually. I would say that we spend another $8160 on upgrades every year. For example, we've just installed Peachtree 2010."

At present, the Appetite team are entirely focused on the opening of their first retail store, which is slated to arrive in January, with a further five pencilled in over the coming years. Al Jayouchi is well aware that he will soon be forced to think of his IT operations in a more structured way when that eventually happens.

"Definitely this is coming to our way when we are running more than one retail shop. These six will need to report to our server here. I need to know what's in, what's out because I cannot be in the six shops at the same time. I can monitor things even in a physical way, but still there's a lot of things which go and come in which I'm not in control of," he ends.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code