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Danielle Issa 19 Dec 2014

You’ve Got to Roll With It: Wassim Haddad Shakes Up Beirut’s Food Scene

Meet Wassim Haddad, the 21-year-old co-founder and marketing manager of the sensational new food delivery startup, Cup & Roll (formerly Pizza Cups). Surely you’ve seen their ads while browsing online, and if you’re on Instagram, there’s no doubt their delightful edible creations have made it to your Explore Feed. Offering various savory and sweet bites in the form of cups and rolls, aptly, the team operates from a central kitchen in Zalka and delivers almost anywhere in greater Beirut.

We were fortunate enough to intercept Haddad, one of the young visionaries behind the concept, who spills all—everything from his atypical educational path to his foray into entrepreneurial waters.

Beirut.com: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Haddad: I grew up in Beirut, graduating from the Beirut Orthodox School network, presently known as Eduvation. I decided not to pursue a university degree. In fact, I dropped out of college because I felt that I could get things done quicker and more effectively my way, gaining digital marketing and Food & Beverage experience directly with top brands. This exposure boosted my confidence, and thankfully all the hard work I’ve invested in my career is already starting to pay off.

Beirut.com: How did the idea for Cup & Roll originally come about?

Haddad: It all started in the home kitchen of Salpi Apelian, the mother of my best friend Khajag. Salpi is known among family and friends for her culinary passion, and we wanted to share that with a broader group of people. In 2013, Salpi, Khajag and I selected one of the recipes, a dough-based dish. It took us a couple of months to launch the first prototype of the brand—Pizza Cups—and then we started offering oven-to-door services from the Apelian family house. At the moment, we are joined by additional young entrepreneurs who helped us transition into a full-fledged start-up and move to a central kitchen.

Beirut.com: How supportive were your parents and family when you broke the news to them about your venture?

Haddad: My parents and family have always encouraged my decisions and endeavors. But I will admit that their initial reaction to my dropping out of college was extreme resistance. That gave way to slow acceptance when they witnessed the level of dedication and focus I pumped into Cup & Roll. Today, they’re unconditionally supportive because they see how the concept has taken off in the right direction.

Beirut.com: How well was Pizza Cups doing before you pulled out of the market to define your product lineup, rebrand the company as Cup & Roll, and establish a kitchen in Zalka?

Haddad: We worked for almost a year from home, relying purely on organic growth and word of mouth. The results were rather impressive: we produced over 14,000 cups and rolls and catered around 30 parties (including a wedding!). The passion we poured into our unique products helped us grow the brand’s exposure.

Beirut.com: Why did you decide to introduce salads, fresh juices and smoothies to the menu?

Haddad: The decision to expand our menu was deeply considered after a long brand rebirth timeline. We believe in both sustaining and reinventing tradition, and we wanted to offer a menu that is wholesome, fulfilling and versatile. The feedback on our new items has been very positive. We have a lot of regular customers who order our meal package (6 cups/rolls, small salad + fresh juice OR 3 cups/rolls, big salad + fresh juice).

Beirut.com: How many cooks are in the kitchen?

Haddad: It was important for us to grow the business but not compromise on the homemade quality and taste that our customers adored. We presently employ five mothers trained by Mommy Made, in addition to three professional kitchen team members.

Beirut.com: What are your operating hours? What is your delivery scope?

Haddad: We currently cover areas between Dbayeh & Ras Beirut, and we operate from 10:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m.. Plans to expand both coverage and business hours are already being discussed internally, as the demand is overwhelming.

Beirut.com: How are you funding Cup & Roll’s start-up costs?

Haddad: Not too long after we launched our home venture, our product caught the attention of a small group of young and enthusiastic entrepreneurs who shared our long-term vision for the brand and shared the same values. Ultimately, we partnered up and were reborn as Cup & Roll.

Beirut.com: Where do you see Cup & Roll in a year? Three years? Five years?

Haddad: In one year, we’ll definitely have a couple of physical outlets around town! In three years’ time, we foresee a franchise expansion in the region with the help of regional partners. Within five years, we imagine extending beyond the region. We are confident in our brand, our dynamic team and operational structure. The passion that everyone has poured into making this business a success story is our guide.

Beirut.com: Any other ideas for potential start-ups that you are toying with?

Haddad: Riding off a fresh success inspires one to do more. But patience is important, and that’s why we’ve decided to pause other ideas and focus exclusively on Cup & Roll. Having said that, stay tuned!

Cup & Roll
Zalka Highway