On the up · 10 February 2017

The Halal Dining Club: A new restaurant review app crowdfunding its way to the top

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The app puts halal diners at the centre of online restaurant reviews

Connecting halal restaurant owners with hungry customers who want to find exciting new places to eat, The Halal Dining Club is a fast-growing restaurant review app – a one stop solution for diners who can discover, review and book restaurants, with the aim of transforming the end-to-end halal dining experience.

In August last year, The London and Singapore-based tech business successfully completed its first crowdfund, securing more than £200,000 within a week via Crowdcube, and has also received considerable outside investor interest around the raise.

The company’s founder – London mother of three Siddikar Jaffer – is confident she’ll receive even more investor attention in a further funding round for the restaurant review app planned for later this year.

The platform has been growing in popularity in the UK and Singapore, and in 2018 the entrepreneur hopes to expand The Halal Dining Club into new country markets in Asia, the US and Canada, drastically increasing the user base of the restaurant review app.

The concept is simple – to create a single restaurant review app hub for people with certain dietary restrictions to discover new, high-quality places to eat.

As many as 50 per cent of the world’s population lives with some form of dietary restriction, and by far the widest reaching is the need for halal food – that is food prepared in a way which adheres to Islamic laws.

As many as 1.6bn people around the world eat a halal-based diet, and as a halal diner herself, Jaffer understood all too well the difficulties of finding good halal food, and decided to do something about it.

“When you use mainstream food apps, the resulting experience is still frustrating,” she explained. “Like being directed to a single aisle in the supermarket with a limited product range where you may or may not find what you actually want.”

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Startup founder Siddika Jaffer

It’s similarly difficult to find good restaurants serving halal food. TripAdvisor is the one possible platform online where users might be able to review and compare halal restaurants, but consumers have a distorted experience. “We set out to create a modern online tool with the halal consumer at its centre,” added Jaffer.

Time has flown by for Jaffer since The Halal Dining Club’s restaurant review app graduated from an incubator programme in Singapore around eight months ago.

She told Business Advice that her experience with the incubator, combined with many months since of working 13-hour days, seven days a week, has taught her many important lessons about running a global tech business.

“At every stage, there seems an insurmountable challenge to overcome,” she said. “But then you do it and move on the next challenge, which is even harder”.

With 20 years of corporate experience working as a strategy consultant and innovation development specialist for financial institutions Santader and Cahoot, as well as brands like Cadbury, Jaffer understood the need to have a sustainable business model before approaching investors for her startup.

She believes this is the reason Crowdcube became so interested in The Halal Dining Club. “Because we were well prepared, Crowdcube were keen to take us on,” she said.

“We’d developed the business model over a long period, and had had conversations with many investors who had pledged to back the idea in full. However, the deals were taking some time to close and so we decided to go with Crowdcube as a means to get our funding faster.”

Despite her difficult experience raising first-time investment, Jaffer sees a bright future for what she termed “Islamic ventures”. The fact The Halal Dining Club proved so popular with the crowd is perhaps evidence of a new generation of investor recognising the many needs of underserved Islamic communities.

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Over 8,000 subscribers signed up to The Halal Dining Club website in its first week

Jaffer also explained that Islamic investors outside of the UK, that were once only concerned with property, are becoming less risk averse and increasingly interested in the world of tech.

“There was a moment back in 2014 where the Islamic community realised the potential of tech services, and apps began to get built for everything,” she added.

“While we consider ourselves to be unrivalled in the halal dining space, we identify with several disruptive tech companies, capitalising on demands for halal travel booking and ticketing services, for example.”

With knowledge and acceptance of Islamic finance spreading amongst global investors, Jaffer hopes apps like The Halal Dining Club will act as catalysts, encouraging the growth of a new kind of startup community.

She told Business Advice: “The ecosystem of Islamic Finances for startups is still in its infancy so crowdfunding campaigns like ours will be a good way to get people to recognise and understand the market”.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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