Roger(57), Nada(50), Paul(30), and Mira(23) is an example of most of the Lebanese families – who was brought up with extreme hardwork and determination.
At a time, before huge franchise chains came to Lebanon, small local businesses made our generation get to where it is now. Most of us own family-businesses and have grandparents who basically worked in the same “self-made industry” that our parents inherited or somehow managed to continue. They raised us, put us in good schools, then in reputable universities. We are generally, a generation that is cultivated, educated, and programmed in a way to enroll in huge hierarchical institutions – mostly, we aren’t interested in our parents’ institutions and we aim for something bigger. Others of us believe in the success/unsuccessful stories of our parents’ businesses, and decide to walk the same path adding our self touch in whatever they started.
Jack, George and Bernard are a third type of young men, who believe in the story of Bouchée, which isn’t any of their families’ business, but the investment of one of the boys neighbor. When Jack told me what the three of them have in mind, I got curious to know more about this family that previously owned Bouchée.
Bouchée was previously a video-cassette store – that for obvious reasons wasn’t profitable anymore after the millennium. Roger and Nada decided to open Bouchée in 2000. Specifically, it was Nada and her friend’s idea to open the restaurant. All they asked Roger for was an oven and a fridge. They started out with selling pastries, before starting with their Plat de Jour plates. “I’d have customers wanting to buy a man2oushe, while I was cooking for my kids. Out of good manners, I’d give them some, and they’d love it! Due to my customers’ demand, we starting selling home-cooked-meals. It wasn’t the initial idea of the store, but I thought it was a good idea”, Nada says, “now, if someone asks me for a Man2oushe, I’d scold them saying WHO AM I COOKING FOR? I became like their mom.”
The family lives in the floor right above the store. “Sometimes, there wouldn’t be any food at home,” says Mira, their daughter, “I’d go down to have a bite and I’d get lost in the midst of the chaos at the store. It was always so crowded and busy, I’d runaway back up – without having anything to eat – and wait for it to calm down.” When asked if she is happy that her parents are somehow retiring and there’s a new management for Bouchée, Mira answered, “my mom was always at the store, sometimes she’d stay till 4, 5 am – I’d barely see her an she’d barely sleep, seeing her sleeping standing up was something pretty normal. I think my parents deserve to rest, they raised us well, and they can just take it easy from now on”.
Paul, their older son, and Mira both majored in business. Paul studied Economics and is now working, and Mira majored in logistics and is now doing her Masters. “They both can do it on their own now”, says their father, “we do not have huge expenses anymore, and therefore we don’t have to work as hard as we used to before. Honestly,” he continues, “I was thinking of closing the place if these three fine boys didn’t approach me.”
One thing I admired about Roger is his honesty when he described inflation. “Everything was getting expensive; I had to either keep the same ingredients and profit less, or buy cheaper products and double my profit. Believe me, I tried to be cheap on the products, but I personally couldn’t digest the food. I couldn’t make people eat what I didn’t enjoy. Customer comes first, even if it were going to affect my business”.
Roger knows nothing about food. Previously working with computer gadgets and production, food was not his specialty. However, he believed in his wife and supported her, and it was indeed a good step he took! At Bouchée, Nada does all the cooking, he usually answers the delivery calls and doesn’t interfere with the food. He knows every corner in Beirut, and especially in Great Ashrafieh. He describes the location to Ayman, the delivery boy – who’s remaining at the shop with the new management.
Ayman said that he loved working with Roger and Nada and so far, the boys (Jack, George, and Bernard) seem quite cool. He doesn’t mind the new management; he supports it.
Jack, George, and Bernard were inspired by the family and their hard work. They were looking for a venue/ restaurant to invest in and I guess they found the best energy out there. Having such honest previous owners, with a good heart, definitely encouraged them to start their own business.
I guess with the whole unemployment rates, investing in already made establishments is not a bad idea at all. Instead of closing old shops, and working from 9 to 7, we can use our education to keep those brands going. It’s nice to work in big institutions, but it’s also nice to invest in what is already there and who-knows maybe shift small shops to worldwide Lebanese-originated-franchises. Even if it weren’t our family business, we can look around for other shops out there. It definitely takes a lot of guts but it is worth a shot!
Best of Luck guys, you set an example for the rest of us!