Five Minutes With… Andreas Borgmann and Mark Carroll, Founders, Kcal

With malnutrition prevalent, there is an undeniable need for healthy eating choices in the GCC, say Kcal’s founders.

What inspired you to open Kcal Healthy fast food?

We’ve always been passionate about healthy living and we love living in Dubai, a city that poses a challenge when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle. How can people juggle long working hours and eating well, especially when faced with numerous fast food options? This city is a junk food addict’s dream and it’s all too easy to give in to stress and convenience. Bearing that in mind, we saw a gap in the market for people who wanted healthy food but didn’t have the time to plan their meals, shop and cook frequently. Our business was born out of our own frustration at not being able to order nutritionally balanced food for delivery at the end of a long day. You could say that we’re on a mission to revolutionise the food industry.

How has the business developed since 2010?

After the success of opening our first restaurant in 2010 in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, we launched Kcal extra in 2011 as a bespoke monthly meal plan service with daily deliveries to peoples’ homes and workplaces. Each plan is tailored to specific needs, lifestyles and schedules, with clients receiving three meals and two snacks per day. In terms of restaurant growth, by 2012 we had expanded the Kcal family to four outlets and since then have opened another two, bringing the total number of Kcal restaurants to six. We’re located in The Dubai Mall, Tecom, City Tower One on Sheikh Zayed Road, Mirdif City Centre, JLT and Business Bay. We have also launched Kcal Healthy Catering, a service for weddings, business meetings and other events.

What are some of the challenges in catering to health conscious eaters?

It’s a challenge to maintain our position when there’s an abundance of fast-food outlets. A menu made of processed foods affords these outlets the ability to dish out large portions at low prices. Investing in knowledgeable customer support staff cannot be overstated and our fantastic frontline team has been crucial in sharing the Kcal message; fresh, unprocessed food in healthy-sized portions is essential to wellness. More than ever, consumers are aware of what exactly they’re eating, so we know people are on-board with our philosophy. Our online loyalty scheme is one way that we acknowledge the dilemma consumers face; we believe people should be rewarded for positive eating choices and we like to say thanks to customers with a complimentary meal after every eighth online order.

How are you adjusting your meal offerings to health trends?

We adapted to meet the needs of our customers’ busy lives when we launched Kcal extra and we take a flexible approach to our menu development as well. We understand Dubai’s population is diverse, so we have an international menu that will appeal to different cultures and we’re not in the era where healthy eating is strictly rice crackers and water! We enjoy being the go-to company in Dubai for satisfying, healthy and inexpensive food. We both maintain a perspective of ‘what would we enjoy?’ and through consulting with in-house nutritionists and chefs, we come up with new ideas that will hopefully satisfy the varied palettes here in Dubai. We are launching several new dishes this year, so the menu will be updated very soon. We’ve also found that structuring the menu to highlight certain diets – gluten free, Paleo or vegetarian, for example – eases the burden of making decisions when it comes to maintaining a certain type of nutition.

How much of an opportunity do you see for the healthy eating market in the GCC?

There’s an undeniable need for healthy eating choices in the region. The GCC is among the world’s worse affected for malnutrition related diseases according to the United Nation’s yearly global health reports and 33.7 per cent of the UAE’s population is said to suffer from a serious weight problem. By promoting better choices through education and alternative, yet convenient, options, we can move away from this. We want to see a shift in lifestyle, otherwise the economy will see the toll of poor health decisions. Generally, more and more people are looking at their diet and making links between the food they eat and the way they feel, so we think demand for healthy food in the region can only increase.

What are your expansion plans and are you looking at other countries/emirates outside Dubai?

We launched our sixth branch, City Tower One on Sheikh Zayed Road, just a few weeks ago and we’re looking at expanding into Abu Dhabi – our expansion plans have us exploring opportunities in the UAE and beyond.