Hello, Hello Food

Have you seen Hello Food?
Have you tried it?
If you have, what do you think of it?
I can tell you, I’m impressed!

I’d noticed HelloFood ads popping up on Facebook and, apart from registering the fact that someone was doing a persistent advertising campaign, I didn’t pay them much attention.  That is until an email landed in my business inbox asking if I’d heard of them.  ‘Well’, I had to say to myself, ‘yes I have’.

Then I read they were a food delivery website.
I’ve always wanted to start a food delivery business, so clicked over to take a look.
They deliver takeaways.  (Or Home Delivery as the folks in these parts like to call it!)

Now, it just so happens that, a couple of weeks back, Hubster and I were discussing, yet again, the need for someone in this country to take the current home delivery service by the neck and give it a good shake up. And Hello, what do ya know, it looks like someone had the same idea.

Any non-Arabic speaking expats who have ever ordered home delivery in Riyadh know what I’m talking about.  It’s a bit of a process.   Here’s how things usually go for us…

Home Delivery Saudi Style
If we don’t have the contact details of the particular restaurant we fancy ordering from saved in our mobile, or their brochure isn’t stacked in the kitchen sideboard with the rest of the food menus, then we have to look the place up online.  Chances are the home delivery numbers are not apparent on the home page.  (What’s with that!).  So, being persistent types, we dig into the depths of the website and, Hey Presto, there’s a phone number.  But, Unpresto, it’s the number for head office.  (Saudi’s love advertising Head Office for some reason.) 

Obviously, Head Office doesn’t answer their phone around dinner time!

Finding the right number is only the beginning of the ‘Saudi Home Delivery’ saga.  Then, we have to hope someone answers the phone.  Should we strike it lucky we then cross our fingers that whoever answered the phone speaks a smidgen of English.  Or understands our very badly pronounced Arabic. And last, though be no means lease, we hope said person speaks slowly. 

(Note to Arabic speakers answering phones – when we say ‘Arabi shway shway’ – that means PLEASE SLOW DOWN.  We have no idea what you just said in your rapidly spoken native tongue.  Work on the premise we are imbeciles.  Go – one – word – at – a – time.  Not one sentence at a time.  One WORD at a time). 

Of course the process isn’t helped when Hubster, who knows not to ask for anything outside the square, because communicating it can be excruciating, always does!  (I just roll my eyes…) 


 We have discovered that the English speakers at the other end of the line have usually only learnt the English for the menu they are responsible for.  Outside the square requests result in ‘One minute’, silence, a click and then ‘Your order please’ – meaning, the operator is starting from number 1 on the ‘How To Take An Order’ checklist he/she has in front of them.

And that’s only for places that utilize dedicated call centers with a script. Many don’t.  Usually you’re just talking to the guy at the counter, busy with other customers and sounding harrassed.

Once you’ve ordered the food, you then have to explain your location.  The larger food franchises have a system in place for identifying repeat callers and their addresses. ‘You live The Compound?’ ‘Yes, we live The Compound’.  Fabulous. Issues only arise when we aren’t calling from The Compound and instructions for a new delivery address have not only to be given, but understood!

For smaller companies, Caller ID is non-existent and getting our message across is a real art…or extremely frustrating depending on which one of us has the phone! But we are nothing if not persistent, so persist we do. Orders are made, words repeated, and repeated again, and corrected and, when the phone is hung up, we wait to be surprised by, and pay for, what actually arrives.  (Yes, we do pay if the order isn’t quite right because we have chosen to live in this country, to not become proficient at the language and to order takeaways over the phone – so who’s fault is it really if weeny bits of information are lost in translation!) 
When the delivery guy is close he gives us a missed call, we call him back and, if he’s at the gate, delivery is achieved, payment is handed over and that is Home Delivery, Saudi style. 
Occasionally though, things just don’t go to plan.  
One night, after two hours, we gave up waiting and calling to see where our food was and walked up the road for a burger.  Our ploy to get Arabic speaking neighbors on the phone didn’t work this time either as, not only did the guy on the other end not understand English very well, neither was he too hot at Arabic!  
The final call was the last straw.
What number? he asked, when I called again.  I repeated it, again. ‘Where you live?  he practically shouted down the phone.  I told him, again, with what I believe to be perfectly clear, pigeon English/Arabic instructions.   ‘Coming’ he said.  Fifteen minutes later, I get a call on my phone from someone I presume to be the Delivery Guy (woohoo), only to be sweet talked by some Arab bloke who stopped sweet talking and muttered something about ‘delivery’ the minute I handed the phone to Hubster who, not surprisingly, bellowed down the line ‘why did you call my wife?’.  (Companies who give out my phone number to their desperate and dateless mates won’t be getting our patronage again!)

So it was, with that checkered history of home delivery in Riyadh on my mind, that I examined the HelloFood website with interest, and was impressed enough, hungry enough and lazy enough, to try it. And OMG! It’s simple. It’s stress free. And it works!

Basically, with Hello Food you order your takeaways online (or you can use their app), no fuss, no hassle, because they contact the diners and restaurants.  Their website is extremely simple to navigate and there’s a huge range of restaurants participating, most preferring cash payment once the food arrives.  It’s a bit of a wait (about an hour they reckon), however, the process is seamless.

Here’s how our Hello Food home delivery went, last Tuesday.

At 19.20 I signed up online and placed my order – I know because they sent an email, in English, telling me that’s what the time was.  (When you sign up you get to choose your language – Arabic or English).

At 19.23 I received a phone call from a very well spoken, pleasant chap who introduced himself and laughed at my obvious surprise that, one he spoke English very well and two, he’d responded so quickly.  He was checking the address, and directions to it, that I’d written on the form.  (One gets used to giving directions with ones address when one has lived in Saudi long enough to know that one should).

At 19.29 a text message told me that the company whose food I’d requested was aware of my order, and would be at my door in about an hour.

At 20.53 said company delivery guy gave a missed call.
I responded and Hey Presto – Dinner!  Delivery was a bit longer than the hour stated, and I was about to give them a call to say, ‘Hey, what the?, but fortunately the food arrived before such a measure had to be taken.  And it was still hot!

It sounds ridiculous, but tonight when it crossed my mind to order in again, I actually sighed a huge sigh of relief thinking, ‘Crikey dicks, I can do this the easy way’ – no boning up on my Arabic, no attuning my ear to thick accents, no guess work at all.  And over I clicked to the HelloFood page to peruse their Home Delivery options.
If you think I sound like I’ve become a fan overnight, you’d be right.
Try Hello Food.
See what you think.

Ka Kite,


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