My Business: How to run a pizza delivery service in Kabul
- 13 June 2012
- From the section Business
What makes an entrepreneur? Muhammad Ismael Aarefi tells the BBC's Shogufa Anwari and Tom Santorelli about how he set up Kabul's first pizza delivery service.
Muhammad Ismael Aarefi first decided that he wanted to join the restaurant business whilst visiting friends in Europe.
Some of them owned their own restaurants but conscious of the risks they had taken in starting up their own food outlets, he knew he needed a novel hook to attract his customers.
"At the beginning we were not thinking about the financial benefits or losses, we were just thinking of bringing something new to this country," he says.
While there were already many restaurants in Afghanistan making Afghan, Indian, Iranian, Arabic and Western-style foods, hardly any were serving pizza - the quintessential finger-food.
And none of them offered a delivery service. Muhammad had found his niche.
With start-up capital of around $100,000 (80,000 euros; £64,000) he was able to find a venue for his restaurant in the heart of Kabul. Everest Pizza opened in 2001.
Surrounded by international offices and NGOs, Western workers and their families make up a sizeable chunk of his customers.
But young Afghan families are just as keen to have the chance to eat Western-style food without spending hours in the kitchen and, as Muhammad says, when the phone rings it is just as likely to be an Afghan ordering delivery as it is to be a Westerner: "Afghans love to eat different kinds of food."
He admits pizza-making was a struggle at first. Finding a decent pizza chef in Afghanistan proved impossible, so he looked further afield.
"I couldn't afford to bring chefs in from Europe, it was too expensive. And then I thought about Iran... I brought some chefs in from Iran to train the Afghans about cooking pizza. They were with us for one year and then I had my own trained staff," he says.
He now employs three chefs for pizza-making duties and along with waiters and delivery boys he has a staff of 10.
Sourcing the specific ingredients for the pizzas proved equally tricky but was paramount to Muhammad: "We want to have the best pizza in Afghanistan."
They still import the cheese toppings and delivery boxes from Iran and Dubai.
The delivery service at first had its share of prank orders, just like in any city. Muhammad grew fed up of delivering pizzas to empty houses and losing revenue.
"After that we delivered our food only to customers we knew and who had registered with us," he says.
Over 10 years on the pizza-delivery service is thriving and Muhammad is eyeing up a bigger slice of the pie: "We want to expand our business if the situation gets better around the country."