Like many entrepreneurs, Siddika Jaffer decided to solve a real-life problem by taking it into her own hands
While studying for an MBA in Singapore, the British Muslim businesswoman noticed that diners would stand outside restaurants ‘looking confused’ as they studied menus for dietary requirements.
“We started looking at the market and realised that one in two people suffer from a dietary restriction, whether that’s faith-related or health-related,” says London-based Jaffer. “And we discovered that halal was by far the biggest restriction.”
After successfully raising £200,000 ($255,000) on the crowdfunding site CrowdCube in 2016, Jaffer took the plunge and launched Halal Dining Club, a global restaurant information and booking service. Today the site has 90,000 registered users and over 4,000 listed restaurants across nine global cities.
She stresses that Halal Dining Club is not simply a directory. “We are not a simple app that just focuses on the discovery element. We’re the first platform that allows diners to discover a halal place, review it, book it and also get loyalty points all in one system,” she says. “The system that we’ve built at the back-end is actually very sophisticated and most of our costs are going into the technology development.”
Halal Dining Club has three co-founders and a further seven team members.
Jaffer, who makes her revenues by charging restaurants for each booking, says not all her clients are Muslim. “A lot of corporates have come to us because they want to know where they can confidently entertain clients from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Middle East. So we’re open to anyone.”
Currently Halal Dining Club is targeting the higher end restaurant demographic.” In the UK, there are still a large number of Muslim households that have an income of less than £30,000 annually, but we don’t cover lower end restaurants or takeaways,” Jaffer says.
Halal ‘TripAdvisor and Open Table’
Describing Halal Dining Club as “TripAdvisor meets Open Table meets a loyalty platform”, the co-founder says there is $54 billion untapped halal restaurant market in the nine cities Halal Dining Club covers, which include London, New York, Toronto and Bangkok.
Jaffer says the company has poured cash into building four apps and fleshing out its tech platform, now the focus is firmly on growing the number of restaurants that its users can discover.
To differentiate itself on the restaurant side, Halal Dining Club allows its eateries to create tailor-made marketing campaigns through its proprietary technology. This added value service allows restaurants to connect directly to customers and offer discounts and loyalty programmes.
“The overall opportunity is immense,” she says, “but it’s been challenging to find VC investors in the UK who understand our vision. Halal is a niche market, but it’s a global niche market so the numbers add up to billions of dollars if you consider countries like India, Pakistan and the Middle East.”
Jaffer says there is not yet a global brand in the halal restaurant app space. “With the right investment, we could be it,” she says.