From Lebanon to the world .. Entrepreneurs are flying outside the country

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) – George Bandar and Yara Abi Joudeh quit their jobs in the banking sector to create a healthy salad restaurant. But what the two friends did not predict is that after a year the worst economic crisis in Lebanon will begin and the explosion of the port of Beirut will lead to a further deterioration of the economic and living situation. The two young people decided to expand their work beyond the borders of the country, specifically Dubai.

The case of George and Yara, as well as a large number of Lebanese. Some of them closed the door completely and some expanded abroad to alleviate the suffering that Lebanese experience daily in Lebanon, which is fraught with financial, economic and living problems that have continued since October 2019.

“We started in December 2018 as the first salad restaurant in Beirut. We discovered there was a lack of healthy food, so we started with this idea and it was a huge success,” George Bandar, CEO of SALATA, said in an interview. . with CNN Arabic.

He added, “We left our job in the financial sector in banks and had no knowledge of how to prepare food. A year later, Lebanon witnessed events that included popular protests, the economic crisis and the explosion of the port.”

Despite the competitive market in Dubai, George and Yara decided to launch a distribution service and adopt what is known as the Cloud Kitchen. “Dubai is a competitive market, but we are optimistic,” said George.

SALAD, plain textCredit: SALATA Co

Economic problems at home

In debt-ridden Lebanon, the Corona pandemic exacerbated the financial crisis, which included problems with food, food, fuel and electricity supplies, migrant workers and Lebanese, the devaluation of the national currency, and banks set a deposit ceiling. withdrawals, despite the fact that the law “Capital Control” was not formally adopted.

The decades-long electricity crisis has also forced citizens to rely on generators, who in turn are facing fuel shortages.

As for Mario Haddad and Rabie Fakhreddine, expansion into countries outside Lebanon’s borders occurred before the crisis, but they intensified their efforts to increase their field of work as the crisis complicated the flow of work in Lebanon.

Haddad, who opened Lebanon’s first sushi restaurant in 1997, said the situation in Beirut is complicated. It is estimated that 60% of Lebanese restaurants are out of service, which gave those who can continue a stay.

He told CNN in Arabic: “If we reach a stage where there is no oil and no electricity, we will be forced to shut down.”

For Haddad, his restaurant chain, which includes Italian cuisine, suffers no losses, as the revenue is barely enough to cover rent, employee salaries and other operating expenses.

He stressed that salaries are low and that the dilemma with which salaries will be raised will result in rising prices in restaurants and consequently will lose customers.

Haddad says: “Enter the restaurant and notice that it is full because the price is equal … For example, the $ 100 that the customer used to pay in the past is now equal to $ 25.”

In Lebanon, whose currency is pegged to the US dollar, traders buy goods at a different exchange rate from the official exchange rate.

Haddad said: “We have become more cashiers than restaurant owners and we worry when we buy goods at what price we will sell them, and worse than that, there are 3 different exchange rates.”

Haddad recently opened a “Mariolino” pizzeria in Egypt’s North Coast region, which is experiencing a real estate boom in line with economic growth in Egypt.

Haddad noted that without foreign capital, he would not be able to take this step.

He added, “With Capital Control, we can not get our money out of the banks, they are all there. And when we want to open (restaurants) in other countries, we have to open without capital, which makes it impossible and impossible. “

Mario’s second stop will be in Egypt, in Cairo to launch restaurants with other investors that suit different tastes, like sushi, fast food and pizza. Subsequently, it is seeking to enter other markets in Europe, such as Athens, Spain and Portugal.

Haddad stressed that the expansion came in order for him to stay in Lebanon, as he has 300-400 employees, and given that he is obliged to comply with employment laws in the country in Egypt, it is not possible to limit the workforce with Lebanese .

The solution is abroad to ensure continuity within the country

Recently, Rabea Fakhruddin took over the golden residence in Dubai and settled with his family in the Emirates after the massive Beirut bombing on August 4, 2020.

Fakhreddine launched Management 7, a company that runs restaurants and entertainment clubs, in 2011 in Beirut. The company now has more than 12 diversified investments.

He told CNN in Arabic: “Dubai was the first choice … after the Beirut bombing, we lost hope … So should I make a final decision and close the company? I have 265 employees under my responsibility.”

Fakhr El-Din spoke of the same daily suffering in the operation of his four restaurants in Lebanon from price reprogramming, and although the tourism sector has witnessed a recovery in Lebanon in the recent period, it was seasonal and “does not reflect the deteriorating sector “. he said.

Fakhruddin aims to open 5 new restaurants and entertainment clubs in the UAE before the end of the year. “Cafe Beirut” and “Antica Bar” started in Riyadh. He expected that the Saudi market, like Egypt, would experience a major “explosion” in the entertainment and tourism sector.

He is also looking to open restaurants and entertainment clubs on the north coast of Egypt next year. He will also open 6 restaurants and entertainment clubs in Cairo, with his company setting foot in the European market through an Italian restaurant in Athens. .

Photo of Antika Bar
“Antica Bar”, simple textCredit: Antika Bar / 7 Management Co.

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