August 29, 2013

Lebanon's Restaurant Industry is Shaking: The Wake Up Call!

I’m being asked lately which is my favourite restaurant, or "what in my opinion is the best restaurant in Lebanon" but unfortunately I don't have an answer to give. Each and every restaurant has a problem but mostly, the main problem seems to be bad staff, which equals to bad service, which equals to unhappy customers, which eventually of course leads to the closing down of the establishment. I am sure that some of you are already raising an eyebrow, saying, here he goes again. I am shedding the light here as a customer, as a concerned citizen and I know for a fact that most of you, if not all of you feel the same way... So please read, share your thoughts and be part in making a change.

And in my opinion, "Service" is 50% of the grade. If we can’t get good service we might as well just eat at home for 10 times less the price. What do we expect from our country today? Nothing! Nothing seems to be running like it should be – starting from the top, right down to the bottom. Our castle of cards seems to be falling down like Olympus.

The only tiny little service we can still offer and live from is the restaurant industry, which is slowly boiling on low fire ready to roar like a volcano just waiting to be erupted. If waiters and their service continue this way, a new crisis is going to hit our country in no time. With more than 680 restaurants, from four corners of the globe, reviewed on NoGarlicNoOnions, I think I have seen and experienced enough to be able to compare, especially in our beloved country.

Tic Toc, the alarm is ticking – sounding on a huge problem, which will be hitting the country soon.

Despite the current situation and I know most of you will be saying, “what the hell is this guy talking about, especially now with everything that’s happening.” But this is exactly my point. With everything that’s happening, more than thirty new restaurants open monthly in Lebanon, each with an investment bigger than the other. Millions of dollars are being spent on amazing decorations that magazines compete to have the exclusivity to feature on their pages. Buy Curve Magazine, Commerce Du Levant, or Deco Magazine among others and read the stories, ideas and investments behind each and every establishment where dozens of partners have joint forces together to realize their dreams. A dream for fame and wealth... A dream of doubling their capital in a year then buying a Porsche to impress their other friends… Don’t give me that look, because you know darn well that what I am saying is true. So let’s say things as they really are, emotions aside. The restaurant opens its doors after millions of dollars spent, months of hard work on planning a big opening party, inviting all the media and friends to come discover the place and delicious food prepared for the big day… and that’s where it stops.


In our country, everyone wants to be a manager; every waiter wants to become wealthy even before reaching the age of 30.

Reality doesn't take too much time to see the light: Bad welcoming, bad service, untrained waiters and an unsustainable quality of food – a series of things that will drive any sane customer away.

Opening a restaurant and succeeding is a mix of inseparable things: The management, the place, the service and the food.  I believe that good service can compensate for a lot of things.  A professional waiter can make you smile, can cover adequately on mistakes, find solutions to let the customer leave happy and entertain guests making you want to come back for more.

Then… bad food will be swallowed unnoticed, unattractive architecture won't be an issue but people will start talking about good service and a refreshing experience – something that has been missing for quiet a while now in Lebanon, and it’s only getting worse.

We all have accepted foreigners working in the industry. We all have accepted bad services in pubs and bars, burger shops and pizzerias... But the tolerance for bad service is being pushed further. Now bad service, rude waiters and unfriendly personnel exist everywhere all restaurants genres. Albergo, Table Fine, Yabani to name a few of the recent places I have visited, and have left in shock where you pay up to a $100/person to only be served by unprofessional repulsive and untrained waiters!

  1. Restaurants in Lebanon have become way too expensive... for nothing
  2. Value for money has become ridiculous
  3. We are paying illogical amounts in places where even Michelin starred restaurants don't charge in Europe
  4. Quality and service offered are unsustainable

At a restaurant, the price you pay covers several things including the location, the decoration, the ambiance, the food and service.  And in my opinion, "Service" is 50% of the grade. If we can’t get good service we might as well just eat at home for 10 times less the price. Let's state the facts as is:

  • Waiters lack manners and proper Savoir Vivre
  • Almost all staff members speak little or no French and English
  • How many times have you heard the waiter welcome you in a friendly way. "Good morning sir, welcome to ..."!: Up until now, I only heard it at Marky's
  • A smile, a continuous smile? That’s a rare luxury
  • Doesn’t it make you furious when your plates are thrown on the table and placed on top of each other? And I am not describing a situation at a Lebanese restaurant
  • It's great when wine glasses are filled to top as if it was water. No?
  • I enjoy it when a waiter takes the order while looking elsewhere
  • How many times has a waiter abruptly leave your table, while you're in the middle of talking, to go welcome other guests?
  • Weren't you pushed by a waiter at least once in your lifetime without any apology?
  • Don't you feel that almost all waiters don't even feel like working and hate their jobs?
  • Did you ask to see the manager without him accepting to approach the table

Unfortunately in our country, everyone wants to be a manager; every waiter wants to become wealthy even before reaching the age of 30. And the list doesn’t seem to have an end…Training, training, training... Training is needed on all fronts. We are proud of our culinary industry; the only thing left standing in this country. Please take care of it.

Are we turning into an "Arguile Nation"? Is this what restaurants are all about? Huge and quick profit in an unhealthy way?

Dear waiters, a simple effort can make you reach your goal quicker:

  • Smile, customers will leave you more tips... Your goal will be closer than you think
  • Leave your troubles at home. The friendlier you are the happier your customers will be and the more they will reward you
  • Restaurant owners do visit other restaurants: You will very easily catch the attention of a headhunter and maybe get a better position elsewhere…
  • Life is like a ladder, it should be climbed a step after the other... A small salary will increase quicker than you can imagine. Becoming a manager is an easy aim that only needs to mature
  • Google has an answer for everything: If you don't know, just research
  • How hard is it to search for the pluses and minuses of the competition? It's a great selling tool to have an answer to everything a customer asks for

Dear Restaurant owners:

  • Please stop blaming the situation for your bad service. The situation is not the issue, training your staff and putting more efforts in recruiting professionals is essential to your business... You have invested a lot in opening this place - make sure you have people that truly represent your goals
  • Reward your waiters with what they deserve
  • Do not hire foreigners: Paying few dollars less will make you lose a handful of clients. Nothing can compare to a well trained Lebanese employee
  • A minimal decent salary is to be considered. Life has become more and more expensive and again don't blame the situation for their low salaries. Your staff is what makes or breaks your place
  • Please put some efforts in training your personnel. You can't expect them to give you something they don't have a clue about

Visit Fouad, this restaurant up the mountain with no Internet, no research, no training and no ISO. Fouad has great service, a welcoming attitude and savoir-faire far better than many restaurants in Beirut. All staff members act like they own the place and welcome guests accordingly. Smiles, jokes and fun don't seem to have limits. Hours pass like minutes at Fouad. Fouad has discovered the perfect recipe to make you come back for more at least twice a month.

Hundreds have called and messaged asking for this article! Yes! Lebanon's customers are not happy... Wake up people! If you’re thinking of other points like cleanliness, safety measures and others – each is worth an article on its own. So I'll skip them for now.

So please, Lebanon is screaming and begging you to take measures: We, the consumers, are not happy. Your comments can make a difference... The wake up call is on!

We Have the Right to Choose!

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