Member Spotlight: Gabor Szorad, Americana Group

Silicon Foundry’s expanding network of Corporate Members are driving transformation at some of the world’s most respected global brands — from leaders in mobility, mining and telecom, to beauty, retail, energy, financial services and beyond.

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Gabor Szorad is an intrapreneur with a robust background in the food and restaurant industry. He was previously Senior VP at foodpanda, Managing Director at NetPincer and CEO of Central Eastern Europe at Delivery Hero. He’s lived and operated in various regions (e.g. Europe, Asia and the Middle East), and he is currently based in Dubai working as General Manager of Home Delivery for Americana Group, where he focuses on launching high-value products and services.

In your current role as General Manager for Home Delivery at Americana, what are you focused on?

My team and I are focused on providing a consistent, safe and fast delivery experience by delivering the orders generated by our own assets and aggregator partners with our own fleet. This is a markedly different approach in MENA compared to our largest competitors, who mostly don’t operate fleets themselves.

Our customer experience focus goes hand-in-hand with a large-scale digital transformation at a company that has been operating restaurants in the region for more than 40 years without changes until recently.

What specific superpowers have you picked up from past roles that you bring into your current role?

Having worked in China for nearly five years has taught me resilience and calmness in the face of constant change and unpredictability. China has also expanded my problem-solving skills with approaches that I have not yet seen used in the Western business world.

Additionally, my experience running a portfolio of aggregators, each with their own tech teams, taught me how to cut through complexity in large organizations with operations in 10+ countries. While it is not impossible to be agile in a larger organization, it’s certainly more difficult.

How do you think COVID-19 has accelerated innovation in the home delivery space, and do you think such innovations will persist after the pandemic subsides?

I think COVID-19 has introduced new age groups to online ordering and changed customer needs and expectations for home delivery significantly around safety and convenience. I think innovations addressing contactless, cashless needs and new consumption patterns will persist long after the pandemic subsides.

When thinking about innovation by industry, certain sectors have historically been more aggressive and efficient in their approach, while others have often been labeled as traditional laggards. Where do you see the restaurant & food industry sitting within the spectrum?

Technology has allowed restaurant operations to become more scalable, but there hasn’t been a major improvement in the customer experience arena — similar to how the iPhone disrupted the telecommunications industry.

While all restaurants now use digital technologies (e.g. POS, card payments and delivery tracking), these improvements have been mainly focused on (low double digit) efficiency gains.

I think the restaurant and, in a broader sense, the food industry are just starting to figure out how to use modern technologies to provide customer experience benefits. I’m talking about a wow, 10x customer experience improvement. For example, voice ordering is still in its infancy, drones cannot be used on a commercial scale to deliver, and order flows are still too long and involve too many choices. So, we haven’t had massive breakthroughs yet in applying technology in restaurants.

If we were startup founders sitting here, what’s the advice you’d give about working with Americana?

In short: Demonstrate your product by setting up a simple pilot and learn how to manage large enterprise accounts.

Going the extra mile in customer support and responding to requests quickly can give startups an edge compared to larger vendors, who often have their own legacy infrastructures and are historically slower to make changes.

Many startups have promising technologies, but lack the understanding of how to service larger clients (e.g. making changes to the product to seamlessly connect to existing processes and legacy infrastructure, etc.), which can be a disadvantage.

Silicon Foundry is an innovation advisory platform that builds bridges between leading multi-national corporations and global startup ecosystems.

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