These entrepreneurs fight food waste, one smartphone at a time
Gebni co-founder Mohamed Merzouk was raised in Algeria and lived there until the age of 21, but shortly after arriving in the U.S. and teaming up with two other entrepreneurs, Ali Dahmani and Sid Merzouk (his brother), he set out to do something special, "We all came to this country with dreams and desires to succeed and positively impact the world around us." recalls Merzouk - and they are doing just that.
Mohamed Merzouk co-founded Gebni with Ali Dahmani and Sid Merzouk with the mission of creating a less wasteful food system.
Merzouk's company, Gebni, is a mobile application that works with restaurants to improve efficiency and reduce waste. We interviewed Merzouk to get his perspective on how Gebni is helping create a sustainable food system, his inspiration, and more.
A: What initially interested you in creating Gebni?
M: I would say my drive and desire to bring my own contribution to the world is what initially sparked the entrepreneurial spirit in me. Also, coming from a background and culture that values food and views it as resource that is not be taken for granted has (steered) me in this direction.
During my program at Pace University, I worked as a graduate assistant and was in charge of reviewing student groups’ budget requests for events on campus. So, I got to see first hand how much funding was being allocated to catering and how food was being treated. I later started researching the topic of food waste on a broader level and realized that the problem was much bigger and had deeper roots than what I had imagined.
After realizing that most waste happened at the retail and consumption levels, at least here in the U.S., I started researching restaurant practices and learned a great deal about their day-to-day operations. We also realized that this sector suffered from inefficiency due to a lack of technologies dedicated to address those issues.
We then set out to tailor a platform that responds to what we believe are the most pressing needs to take the online food ordering space to the next level of efficiency.
A: What separates you from other food "apps"?
M: I would say that what makes us stand out is the fact that we are solving a three-fold problem with a single platform.
We are helping restaurants boost sales by optimizing pricing practices.
We are lowering financial entry barriers for users to allow them to save money through dynamic pricing. And lastly, we would significantly reduce waste by lowering excess inventory for restaurants.
This would ultimately keep food from reaching landfills and therefore reduce greenhouse emissions.
A: How does Gebni keep foods preserved for future purchases?
M: Our Future Ordering feature is a tool that allows users to save money and earn discounts on their orders. Since users can pre-order and plan their meals up to 3 weeks ahead of time, restaurants will have access to order details ahead of time, which will help them streamline operations.
With this said, restaurants will not make the food until the day and time of the delivery.
A: How can Gebni reduce food waste on future and current food orders?
M: When working together, Gebni’s features of on-demand orders and future orders would create an eco-system that would (reduce) food waste.
Future orders provides a tool for restaurants to accurately predict orders for upcoming days, which will help them make more informed decisions when it comes to purchasing supplies and streamlining operations. This feature will take the guesswork out of the picture and help restaurants order just enough supplies to make upcoming orders.
The on-demand feature deals with the problem of real time excess inventory. So, when demand levels are low, Gebni’s software makes it possible to instantly adjust prices of specific items.
New prices would get updated on our platform in real-time for nearby customers to take advantage of in the form of online delivery or pick up orders. We believe a market economy approach to food prices would lower excess unsold food and therefore food waste.
A: What features will the (next) version include? Who will be the target users? Where wil this be available?
M: The Beta version will only include the on-demand feature initially. Under the future orders tab, we will be including a short questionnaire to get a sense of what users would like to see this feature include. We care a great deal about user driven experience hence the approach we are taking with this feature.
Our target users for the beta release are going to primarily be students living around East Village and Alphabet City in Manhattan, New York. More broadly speaking, our target demographic will be people under 40 years old that are looking to save time and money on their online food orders. This can include students, busy professionals, working mothers, people with dietary goals..etc.
As far as the location of our beta, it will take place around the East Village and Alphabet City areas. We currently have 20 restaurants signed up for it. I would like to mention that, we will have an Alpha launch prior to our Beta and for that we will be working with Sullivan Bistro in Greenwich Village, NYC.
A: How do you see Gebni's growth in a year's time?
M: One year from now, we see Gebni starting to gain traction and popularity among the NYC population and become New Yorkers’ go-to Takeout App. We would also like to build a brand and establish ourselves as the leaders of this movement.
We would like people to refer to us as the environmentally friendly food app that offers quality restaurant food at a real market price. On the tech side, we have already started working on guidelines and features of our future App updates.
So our next releases would feature more relevant options and offer a better user experience. More importantly though, in a one year’s time, we would have completed a fully working version of the Gebni software, which aims to automate the process of price optimization according to real-time demand and supply dynamics.
This software would not only benefit restaurants but would also help grocery stores, supermarkets or any retail store that deals with perishable products for that matter increase profitability, efficiency and reduce waste.
More information at www.gebni.com
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