Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

30 December 2012

Ethiopia: Facefood - the Facebook of the Restaurant World

Facefood is a new eatery in town with the "look and feel" of Facebook. Except at Facefood, unlike its online muse, there is a waiter that takes your order, prepares your food and serves you.

A short walk from Atlas Hotel, on Cape Verde Street, the restaurant occupies the former premises of Yod Abyssinia Cultural Restaurant, near Dessalegn Hotel. The sign, on a blue background, but in a white font, different to Facebook's, attempts to imitate the world famous social network.

Parking space is limited at Facefood and a long line of cars can be seen parked along the side street. The large number of cars is evidence that people are out and about exploring one of the city's newest attractions. The blue and white car parked directly in front of the premises, with the Facefood logo embellished on the side, also serves as an additional attraction to passers-by. If that is not enough, then the aroma of burgers grilling in the open air kitchen should be sufficient to entice anyone inside.

Once inside, the interior is bright, with lots of electric lamps, encouraging customers to appreciate the paintings, which hang from the walls.

There are two sections to the restaurant, divided into a bar and dining area. The kitchen, which is located in the courtyard and surrounded by tables, is not luxurious, but is, however, extremely well equipped.

The furniture inside the restaurant is painted blue and white, as are the exterior walls, staying true to the Facebook theme. The chefs and waiters are also dressed in white uniforms, complimented by blue buttons and blue handkerchiefs. The only contrasting colour is the bright red of the bar, which attracts the customer's gaze.

The menu, too, is in tune with the Facebook theme, and has "Log In" written on the front cover. The restaurant offers just four categories of food; salads, pizza, burger and traditional food. The last page is dedicated to hot drinks, soft drinks, water and beer. There is also a separate bar menu.

The most expensive food is "face pizza", which costs 90Br.The special of the house is the fillet tibs hut, which comes in at 70Br.The tibs is served with the flame still blazing on it.

There were some two dozen customers when Fortune visited the place, early on Tuesday afternoon.

"I like the food and the service, even if it is just my first time here," said Aziz Mustafa, from Jedda, who was enjoying the tibs.

Another customer in the restaurant, Ashenafi Mulugeta, who was having a pizza and burger with a friend, said "the service is incredibly pleasing and makes your meal more pleasant; plus the food is obviously lip-smacking. If you want to enjoy good food, then Facefood is the perfect spot."

The friendly and helpful staff makes customers truly feel like they are a part of the place. The fast and clean service, too, leaves a big impression, and this is probably exactly what the owner was aiming for.

Nur Ahmed, 30, is the owner of Facefood, as well as the executive chef and general manager. His wife, Samira Muhammad, 25, is a nurse who now works as a cashier at the restaurant. Nur studied cooking, at Global Cooking andCateringSchool, and Hotel Management, at Roha Tourism andIndustryCollege.

He says that he has harboured the desire to have his own eatery for years.

"This is a big start for me," he said. "I have been waiting for this moment."

Nur says that he has acquired experience, working within a variety of hotels. He has another company too, 'Smart Hospitality, Counselling and Organising', which offers various services to hotels, particularly those just starting out. Nur took advantage of the resources at hand and contracted Smart Hospitality to furnish the interior at Facefood.

Facefood employs 25 people, including 10 chefs. He pays the chefs a 1000 Br monthly salary, plus tips.

He named his restaurant Facefood so that it would grab people's attention.

"I just want to make something different, beyond the things that we know," Nur said. "I wanted the name to be as popular as Facebook, so people cannot pass by without seeing what is inside the restaurant."

In addition, Nur arranged for the waiters to be chefs as well, or, at least, chefs-in-training, in order to provide superior service and to make customers feel more content.

"It did not take me much money or time to set up the business. I had a lot of existing contacts with suppliers, and I already have the know-how, which is more than adequate."

The restaurant was established with a capital of 500,000 Br.

Facefood is already expanding its list of services and has now begun providing catering to a variety of events. Nur is also promoting his new restaurant, using Facebook, as well as handing out fliers, twice weekly, to movie goers filing out of Edna Mall.

If the positive start is anything to go by, Facefood will soon be an established spot within the city.

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