Idea in a Nutshell

A Reflective Pause is a Raqtan group initiative to share the experience and expertise of Saudi restaurant and cafe pioneers. This initiative aims to put the focus on the local Saudi market rather than foreign markets, helping fellow Saudis hoping to enter the restaurant industry. In the following sections, we will analyse the role that local culture plays in the success of restaurants and cafes. Raqtan will also provide content in Arabic, and we hope that A Reflective Pause will aid in the recovery of restaurants and cafes as members prepare for the reopening of their establishments post COVID-19.

Success story: Java Time and Roasting House

In this report, the CEO of Raqtan group Muthanna Abdulaziz  discusses the Saudi coffee and coffee business sector with the entrepreneur Abdullah Al-Duweish, CEO of the Java Time cafes, and the entrepreneur Osama Al-Awam, CEO of the Roasting House and a member of the International Coffee Association.

Java Time: The Beginning and the project concept

A cafe project initiated by Engineer Abdullah Al-Duweish in 1997 with his partners from another project and the first two branches were opened in 1999. Currently there are 35 branches in Riyadh.

The idea emerged from the need of the Saudi market at that time to increase coffee cafes, thus Java Time is considered from the outset a project with a high probability of success. This possibility increased with Abdullah’s interest and love for the coffee industry. In addition to the most important step in any project, which is the feasibility study of collecting and analyzing information to outline the possibility of implementing the project and its success.

Java Time relied on the idea of growth, that is, establishing branches. From the beginning, two branches were opened at the same time.

Variation and differencein the success of JavaTime

The most important idea in establishing Java Time emerged from the experience of Abdullah Al-Duweish in one of the American cafes in Taipei, Taiwan . Abdullah found a great difference between this cafe and the rest of the cafes he visited in Taipei City, it was a positive difference that inspired him to the idea of ”variation” meaning that the Java Time Cafe becomes a unique experience for the customer through a different environment inside the cafe.

Roasting House: The Beginning and the project concept

A company for selling and roasting coffee beans in addition to tools for brewing coffee. It was established in 2013 and there are currently 3 branches in Riyadh. Roasting House products are available through distribution points and electronic platforms and in restaurants, cafes and hotels.

Roasting House emerged from the founder’s passion for coffee and the search for the right mix of high quality coffee with the roasting method that creates a unique taste of coffee.

The concept and message of Roasting House which is to spread the culture and understanding of specialty coffee is a result of Osama Al awam experience as a coffee roaster in Britain and a trip to a coffee plantation in Bali.

A brief history of coffee around the world

Beware of cross-contamination risk: be sure to disinfect and rinse your cleaning mops, buckets and gloves when you have cleaned, sanitized or disinfected with them!

Humans first discovered the coffee plant 1500 years ago in the country of Ethiopia (formerly Abyssinia). But at that time, the Ethiopian civilization was not developed enough to turn the coffee plant into a commercial product.

After 200 to 300 years, coffee reached the Arabs of Yemen, and they were the ones who produced the coffee drink. Agricultural and cultural development in Yemen contributed to the development of coffee, but only inside Yemen, where it continued as a local drink for 500 years.

Interest in coffee as a profitable economic product began in the Ottoman era after its arrival in Istanbul. This prompted the Ottoman Empire to control the cultivation of coffee and its export to Europe.

European colonialism broke the grip of Ottoman control over coffee and it became a global product, which the Europeans succeeded in cultivating in Asia, specifically in Indonesia.

The Arabs were distinguished by the method of boiling coffee, while the Europeans invented modern methods of distillation and others.

Specialty coffee and the third wave of coffee

Specialty coffee is the best coffee beans that grow in special climates, and it does not include instant coffee and the majority of flavored marketing coffee. Both Java Time and Roasting House are dedicated to providing specialty coffee, as the mission and goals of the two institutions is to spread the culture and understanding of speciality coffee.

The concept of specialty coffee was introduced in 1960 due to the spread of canned commercial coffee. Hence a speciality coffee culture expanded with the third wave of coffee; a movement for the production of specialized coffee that includes improving and developing its cultivation and roasting.

A global example of a successful specialty coffee company is the US brand “Blue Bottle”. It started from San Francisco as a coffee roasting shop, and after its success it was purchased by Nestlé  for nearly $ 700 million. The purchase price of “Blue Bottle” is seven times more than its value as it was considered a unique project that emerged at the time and place where it was needed. As a result it achieved immediate success and attracted a huge investor as Nestlé.

Starbucks important role in spreading the culture of speciality coffee:

This American Coffee Company that started in the seventies is considered the primary engine to  boost the expansion of speciality coffee culture. Starbucks was distinguished by the provision of high-quality coffee beans from several countries, including Ethiopia and Colombia.

Speciality arabic coffee in Saudi Arabia

There are current attempts to grow speciality Arabic coffee in Al-Dayer Governorate, Jazan region, in southwest Saudi Arabia. So it is safe to say the future of locally speciality Arabic coffee production will be seen soon, but it is costly due to the special conditions that must be provided for the cultivation and production of this type of coffee.

It is worth noting that speciality Arabic coffee is a continuous pattern since ancient times, and contrary to what some might think is just a wave, we find cafes are currently trying to adopt the Arabic coffee presentation etiquette trying to spread it to foreign countries.

Success factors of java Time and Roasting House:


Variables and constants in business model:

The project business model can be divided into constants and variables as the following:

Constants include the goal and concept of the project. For example, in Java Time, it is a cafe that provides a unique environment. As for Roasting House, it provides different types of high quality roasted coffee beans.

Constants are also the main products and here it is different types of coffee. Whereas if the coffee shop specializes only in Arabic coffee, it becomes the constant and the rest can be changed.
Variables are all that can be changed without abolishing the project’s goal and concept. For instance, side products or tools used in the preparation can be changed. But in the current example, Roasting House cannot change the roasting tools that affect the quality of the coffee beans and therefore the project’s main goal.


Capital is a method not achallenge:

Do not use capital as an obstacle and stipulate the provision of a large amount without reasonable justification. You must follow the financial viability study and analysis to determine adequate capital. Do not follow the widely held perception that entrepreneurship requires huge capital.


Expanding, opening branches and maintaining product quality:

Abdullah Al-Duweish and Osama Al-Awam describe it as difficult and applicable. One of the goals of any project, whether restaurant or cafe, is to expand to several local and then international branches, but the secret to success is to maintain the level of quality. Java Time and Roaster House focus on their main product quality which is coffee. The difficulty lies in applying the same mechanism in preparation and using the same high quality products.It highly depends on skillful staff, and therefore costly, which is one of the reasons that some projects do not adhere to quality in the process of expansion. We should also remember the effect of climate and seasons on the ingredients, and here we find Roasting House provides constant coffee types that are available all year and other types that are seasonal.

Abdullah Al-Duweish recommends an expansion process  based on a book titled

“It’s Not the Big That Eat the Small … It’s the Fast That Eat the Slow”, the process explains the importance of opening the first branch with a completely correct application of the business model and project idea. Then repeat the application model to the rest of the branches, don’t get distracted by focusing on the number of branches. Abdullah also emphasizes on decreasing work flow complications and increasing profit margins.


Focus on the product and the concept:

The definition of focusing on the product in Java Time can be summed up as a cafe that specializes in serving coffee without roasting it. As for Roasting House, it specializes in roasting and selling  high-quality coffee beans without serving coffee drinks.It is important to clarify that focusing on the product also includes keeping up with change. The consumer changes with generations, so new additions must be made without removing the basic product and the concept of the project. An example is  Java Time’s focus on providing a different environment eliminates the idea of adding TV screens and smoking areas like other cafes.

The secret to success is not limited to passion, research and applying project strategies is crucial. One of the factors that combine passion and research in establishing any project is adding personal experience, in other words, addressing the customer from a personal experience and not only as a company. Personal experience attracts the customer to the place and the product that you offer. You must also specify what you want to deliver and the message you want to reach the customer.

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