Kout Way, a new Kuwaiti fast food joint in Salmiya, located on Baghdad Street next to a strip of popular quick dining spots, is one of the country's latest innovative eateries.
The restaurant's owners, Dawood Al Jarrah and Jasser Al Jasser, describe it as a blend of the tasteful Kuwaiti ethnicity and the modern fast food lifestyle, aiming to serve the best of Kuwait's favorite dishes in a creative and fast way.
Al Jarrah and Al Jasser sat with Khaleejesque to talk more about their recently developed restaurant.
Tell us more about yourselves and how you came up with this idea…
Dawood: I studied in the College of Sharia and Islamic Studies in Kuwait University. As a local, Kuwaiti food was always my favorite and it is this love for it that pushed me into thinking "why not a Kuwaiti fast food restaurant?" The point was to have an outlet that would serve quality food but very fast, within minutes! After researching for a year, mainly with our mothers who made the food in our homes, we came up with our actual recipes. It is a mix of old Kuwait (Kout) with a modern touch (Way). This is my first business venture, and I still have my position in a bank on the side.
Jasser: I, on the other hand, studied Business Administration and Accounting, in KU as well. The major itself always promoted the qualities of small businesses. I work at the Kuwait Finance House, although I wasn't planning on getting into the food industry. I met up with Dawood and we plunged into this project. It got me motivated, and even though I had no experience, I slowly picked up and enjoy Kout Way more than just as a financial income.
In the beginning, we were worried about people not accepting the concept; but slowly it created demand for itself. There was a high exposure on social media that anticipated the outcome; the teens and youth wanted it. About 90% of our clientele is Kuwaiti, and a good share of them is female, unlike most Kuwaiti restaurants which gather young groups of men usually. We even set new serving sizes in order to attract these different demographics; from small size, to regular plates to group trays that can feed up to 6 people or so.
We are not unique per say, but the quality definitely differentiates us. For a year, we conducted a market research and sat with our mothers to discuss the traditional dishes. The smell, taste and quality had to be similar to the homemade meals.
What are the products that Kout Way has to offer?
For now, we offer five main dishes; machboos meat, machboos chicken, meat biryani, chicken biryani and merabyan. Like all fast food restaurants, we have a couple of combos possible; meals include tomato sauce or vegetable stew and chili paste on the side (Daqqous, Marag, Maabouch). You can add a green salad with a soda or water for an extra 500fils.
In addition to our main products, we have a selection of finger food: freshly homemade baked chips, jalapeno cheese poppers, vine leaves, cucumber yogurt, kubbah, sambousa and fried vegetables (Khobz Eroog).
There's a range of about ten salads that include cucumber salad, Taboulla and Fatoush. We make our own special spicy sauce called "Lahoob" as well as a green and/or red chili paste (ma'abouch), which you can buy as takeaway. "Lahoob" is a hit, and even people from around the Gulf have asked us to ship a few to them. We're working on new mixes too. We also have some in-house drinks such as fresh juices, Sprite with Vimto.
For desserts, there are fresh fruits, dates, mehalabiya, strawberries with Nutella, basboosa but also the good old frozen orange Sunkist and thick watermelon slices with their peel; to be enjoyed with your hands just like old Kuwaiti tradition.
We'd like to add that all our homespun products are sold in glass bottles or containers – we tried to keep the store as environmentally compatible as possible. We don't use any Styrofoam, the plastic used is eco-friendly and the dishes are served in paper plates.
What is a typical order at KW?
Our best selling meal would definitely be the meat machboos, with "Lahoob" spicy sauce. For starters, people love our fried cheese jalapenos. Our meat is the best in town as it comes to us fresh every day. Whatever your dish is, you can add extras of whatever ingredient you'd like, to adapt to each appetite and taste.
What issues were you confronted with?
We realized the size of the store is to be reviewed – we only have two tables. People would call us before coming in asking if the outlet is full, forcing them to order take-away when they find out it is. Also, an issue we're having is that we only have one delivery car; due to the lack of in-store space we have to capitalize on delivery. We'd like to have more drivers and cars but the Ministry of Social Affairs & Labor tends to limit the business.
What are your future plans for Kout Way?
At the moment, we are concentrating on menu expansion. Our next goal is to gain entry to food courts in malls, and, why not, maybe branch out to the GCC in general. We've received franchise offers but we've kept them on hold for now until the brand and its recognition becomes stronger. For now, our biggest challenge is malls across Kuwait.
Kout Way was created to become an international franchise. The staff is well trained, the brand identity is made to stand; each dish should have the exact same taste in any and each outlet of KW. There are specific guidelines to be followed whether it's for recipes or the way of cooking, and also in terms of aesthetics and physical space. Kout Way was made not for Salmiya only but anywhere and everywhere.
– Yasmine Mehdi