Mahmood Bartawi and Fadi Ghaly, childhood friends and co-founders of Under500 reveal ambitious global expansion plans for their healthy eating concept
What is your professional background?
Mahmood: I am Emirati-born and come from a commercial background, while Fadi has vast experience in creative industries and business start-ups. I have a degree in business from the American University of Sharjah and a master’s in international business from the University of Wollongong in Dubai, and when I’m not dedicating my time to my culinary pursuit, I work as a corporate banker. Fadi’s expertise spans start- up companies to small home-based businesses and large, multinational corporations. He also has a lot of experience in the management of creatives that build a brand’s unique personality and story.
Why did you decide to launch Under500?
Fadi: We have been friends since childhood and our shared interests and healthy eating habits has strengthened that friendship. As consumers, we wanted to eat healthily and maintain an active lifestyle but also wanted to order food that tasted delicious, because we always found that low calorie food was unsatisfying from a taste perspective. We decided to create dishes that are low in calories but provide all the protein, natural fats and carbohydrates the body needs, without compromising on taste.
Please describe the concept of Under500?
Mahmood: Our new home-style cafe concept offers wholesome, healthy meal options, with each dish designed to have less than 500 calories. Menu items include a selection of salads, wraps and mains, with dishes such as chicken lettuce tacos, tasty grilled salmon and avocado, and lean steak and kale wraps. And if you require gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, low-carb or high-protein options, Under500 offers these too. We have two branches, in JLT and Business Bay, Dubai.
How does your business model work?
Fadi: The Under500 concept has been created based on the average person requiring 2,000 calories per day. Each of our meals contains fewer than 500 calories, so you can enjoy three per day plus a couple of small snacks. We offer a selection of gourmet meals, including chicken lettuce tacos; grilled salmon and avocado; and lean steak and kale, which are each made fresh daily and designed to incorporate nutrient-dense ingredients.
What are your plans for the future?
Mahmood: We created the concept with a greater vision. Recognising the need for adults and children in the region to eat and live healthier, we have gone on to consult with food specialists from around the world to perfect our recipes and tastes to offers the perfect balance of nutrients and goodness. With the consultancy support of one of the industry’s leading franchise specialists, Francorp, we aim to take Under500 to the world with an aggressive growth plan of 50-70 stores in the MENA region over five years.