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Urban Gourmet – the next level digitalization of restaurant culture

Dieta Oy | 14.06.2024

Right towards Kallio from Hakaniemi metro station you can find something that you can’t find anywhere else – a unique restaurant concept – or in the truest sense a unique lifestyle concept, because that’s what Urban Gourmet, familiarly UG, is actually about.

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UG_tilatBehind the UG concept there is Doron Karavani, a successful entrepreneur with major experience from restaurant business. (Photos: Juuso Jatkola)

Behind the concept there is the founder of Fafa’s Doron Karavani, a successful entrepreneur with major experience in restaurant business. The idea of UG also relies on Karavani’s experience. “I wanted to use my gained knowledge to create something new with potential to do something good for others”, Karavani enlights. Originally, he came up with the idea of UG during covid. “Covid was such a sad time, so many dreams just blew away and there where so many bankruptcies in our business field”, he recalls and continues: “I wanted to do something to help young chefs succeed and try out their concepts in a less risky way.”

For a young restaurant entrepreneur, the start can be very difficult. As a chef you are an artist, but once you start your own company you should also understand a lot about the market and the business. “I didn’t want to see a future where we only have international fast food chains running the show”, Doron clarifies and continues: “So I planned a platform that lets chefs focus on their art and that helps them with everything else.” The choosing of the chefs to UG was a bit like the TV format MasterChef. The chefs were able to apply for UG and then a group of professionals together with Karavani went through the applications and picked the best ones to fit the concept idea.

UG is everything but a typical food court. It’s more like the neighborhood's open huge living room or “kerhohuone” as Doron says. The space is large enough to gather around with friends, family, colleagues etc. to eat and socialize, work, chill, listen to music or enjoy various events. You can take a seat anywhere you wish and all in the entourage can pick a dish and beverage from any of the five various restaurants or from the bar. The different style restaurants ensure that you and your company will always find something nice to eat or a new dish to try. To make it as convenient as possible for every quest, everything can be easily accessed and ordered via the UG application – no need for waiting or queueing.

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New opportunities through data

Though all described above makes the concept already pretty unique, that’s only the beginning of the story. The entire idea of the concept puts flesh to bones, after you start visiting UG more often. “I chose to go digital, because that is where the world is moving”, says Doron and continues: “But that also gives us opportunities we never had before – our goal is to gather enough data and use the data to understand how business can benefit our customers the most.”

In the near future the UG application will be implemented with features that take everything to a whole new level. Every time you visit and eat at UG you can give feedback related to your profile via the UG application and then after a couple times of visiting and leaving feedback the application will start recommending you different dishes based on your earlier reviews and the profile you have defined for yourself. For example, you could tell the application that you are an active person interested in taking care of your health and the application could then start recommending you dishes that support your health goals. Dishes that ensure you get enough energy to keep up with your activeness, meanwhile also taking care of your nutrient values. Or if you are not there yet – UG could help you eat more healthily and support you in changing your lifestyle. “Most people don’t know what they want and also unfortunately make bad decisions”, says Doron and continues: “The UG application will help you eat healthily and choose food that is good for you.”

Some people have wondered the necessity of downloading the app. There is a clear difference between older and younger generations. The youngsters of today are native in digital environments, they are more open, naturally curious and ready to try new things. For UG you can buy membership which gives you the opportunity to focus your meals to UG with a very reasonable price. You could start the morning there with breakfast and coffee, work there in between, then have lunch, maybe something refreshing in the afternoon and then you can even stay for dinner. “It’s hard to change elderly people's habits, but this concept has been created for upcoming consumers, students and young adults, who are self-aware and want to feed themselves healthy mentally and physically”, says Karavani. We are yearning for more time and UG is also a solution to this. With a membership you will spend less time buying and cooking food – you can just gather around with your dear ones to enjoy and eat.

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Sustainable choices and partnership

Environmental thinking is seen in everyday decisions at UG. Also, the application gives a great support on environment friendly working. “We can connect the kitchen's backend to our suppliers”, says Doron and continues: “We can go down to zero waste”. The restaurants can also help each other by sharing ingredients. Also, the portions are smarter sized which helps controlling the waste. It is easier to stay in the zero waste target than for example in a buffet restaurant. “When people start understanding the values, they hopefully might start making different kinds of choices. Buffets make lots of waste compared to portions”, summarises Karavani. Using all ingredients wisely also helps keeping the price of the food reasonable.

In UG you can also find some equipment from Dieta outlet's ReLife collection, which consists of secondhand equipment that has gone through an in-depth maintenance, where the needed spare parts are changed, and the equipment is fully fixed. “I want to be sustainable, so we also bought a lot of stuff secondhand”, says Karavani. This kind of reuse is one form of saving or global resources. Via profound maintenance we can benefit from used, already existing equipment, and we don’t necessarily always have the need to buy everything new. 

Dieta has been Karavani’s partner in professional kitchen equipment and tableware along the way. The reason is mainly our sales manager Keijo Saatsi. “My favorite guy is Keijo. You can trust him; he knows what he’s doing, and he’s got his limitations.” Also, the professional approach and the ability to quickly understand the customer's need makes the co-operation commendable. “He always does his best, also when it comes to pricing and delivery”, says Karavani. Aissa Mouton, our area sales manager in tableware instead gets thanks for her help in finding right kind of tableware to meet the needs of the UG’s different restaurants.

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UG_ReLifeIn UG some equipment are from Dieta's ReLife collection, which consists of secondhand equipment that have gone through an in-depth maintenance.

 

Towards the future

“It could be so that, most people don’t go for their dreams, because they are afraid to fail. But there is nothing to fail with, if you have nothing”, states Karavani. So, we could say that the biggest failure is actually to not even try. “I’m very satisfied with the fact that I was able to take an idea and then with a team of professionals, we were able to take it to this point”, says Karavani and continues: “Now UG is like a laboratory that develops through the data it’s gathering. Actually, we are more like a tech company than a restaurant.” Without the software the full concept idea couldn’t exist and develop.

The startup model at UG is a real opportunity for chefs, because they don’t have to worry about rent or capital to start with and they get a kitchen with all the needed equipment, and they receive all the direct feedback to support their product development. “It’s like the perfect world for chefs to start and to try out their ideas”, says Doron.

But since UG is still a startup, it is still on its way to achieve its full potential. Unfortunately, also the media can sometimes be harmful when you start doing something totally new. Sometimes reviewers make their own opinions and express them as the truth about something without truly evolving to understand the wholeness of the idea. “Here we are trying to create something totally new to this world. And it has been tough, because the idea is very much ahead of any restaurant model that we are familiar with”, explains Karavani and continues:”New ideas always take time.”

The long-term vision of UG is to help people in spending less money for good and healthy food, to have a great place to socialize and meet up and to help chefs getting a good start to their business. “The challenges are part of the process, but if I we get the support and the needed time – it will reach its potential and it will work, because this is where the future is going”, summarises Karavani.

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Urban Gourmet  |  Porthaninkatu 2  |  00530 Helsinki  |  www.ug-urbangourmet.com

 

 


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