Emirati siblings' food truck business takes off

The siblings opened The Gang in December 2019 and serve about 20 customers daily

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 2, 2020.  
STORYBRIEF: Nouf Al Asharqi and her brother, Abdulla (an etihad pilot) who started a foodtruck business from scratch called The Gang Café at the Marsa Mina area.
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Haneen Dajani

An Emirati pilot and a financial analyst flip burgers and serve hotdogs to customers who stop for a quick bite at their food truck in Abu Dhabi’s Marsa Mina.

Every evening, Abdulla Alsharqi, a cadet pilot for Etihad, 22, changes into a waiter’s uniform and takes orders from customers as his sister, Nouf Alsharqi, 23, a former investment consultant, quickly prepares food for the hungry patrons.

Ms Alsharqi prepares the sauces and assorted vegetables as her brother, in his food stained white kandoura, heats up the buns and prepares the serving trays.

“It is fun working together,” Ms Alsharqi said.

Known as The Gang, the food-on-wheels offering is fast becoming a popular stop for street food lovers in the area.

The siblings opened The Gang in December 2019 and serve about 20 customers daily.

Quote
[It] feels good serving food that I make with my own hands, because I know it is good food

The venture has come so far but it was never easy, especially at the beginning.

Ms Alsharqi had no culinary skills when she and her brother decided to start a food truck.

“I took a training course on food safety and the basics of cooking, then I started learning step-by-step what to do; how to clean the chicken [for instance] and test its temperature,” she said.

For someone who has never cooked at home, keeping pace with demanding customers was not easy.

Ms Alsharqi said she has learnt cooking on the job and “feels good serving food that I make with my own hands, because I know it is good food.”

The siblings have been a team since childhood.

They have done almost “everything together” since they were young, and decided to become business partners one day.

After graduating from university, both saved up until they had the funds to launch the venture.

After enough brainstorming, they opted for a food truck as that “was the cheapest option,” Mr Alsharqi said.

“We have been saving money for three years and were eager to start.

“We considered many other projects but none of them worked; we even considered opening a car wash.”

Learning the ropes of business came with its pitfalls.

“We went through a lot of mishaps; we did not know where to find the suppliers or what to do,” the brother said.

“I used to go to other food trucks and ask them where they got their stuff from, nobody answered me of course.”

Being new to the trade also meant meeting devious suppliers.

“They see you are new to the business and would grab every chance to deceive you,” he said.

There were enough roadblocks on the way but both were determined to give their idea a go.

“We created the theme, logo, menu and design ourselves, nobody helped us,” Ms Alsharqi said.

As any entrepreneur has help from family and friends, the Alsharqis found their support in their mother, who has been a mentor to them ever since they were children.

“My mother stayed with us for two months and worked as a waitress because we couldn’t find a qualified one at the time,” she said.

“The idea of founding a business and being independent from the start was inspired by our mother.”

The business partners are currently assisted by two waiters.

While the Alsharqi siblings sometimes argue over business decisions, they are in perfect harmony when they cook together.

The financial background of Ms Alsharqi comes in handy with the marketing strategy of the business.

After a customer orders from The Gang, they are asked to guess the code on a safety box placed outside the window.

“If they guess the digits and successfully open the box, their entire bill is for free,” she said.

The codes mainly consist of dates significant to the UAE.

Hints can be found on the Instagram account @thegang.ae.

Once a code is cracked, a new hint is posted in the story highlights.

“Not everybody guesses it. One guy kept coming back to order water hoping to get the code right,” she said.

Ms Alsharqi's business acumen helps fund some of the philanthropic projects of the siblings.

“We donate an amount of every bill or purchase,” she said.

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