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Experience: Ousama Kafa

Author: 04.09.2015 | experience
OUTLOOK continues its Experience column where our readers can learn career secrets and get business advice from contemporary top-managers. This time our company is a businessman, restaurateur and founder of L’KAFA Group food-field chain! Ousama Kafa tells us about how a place to meet friends turned into a restaurant, what is the most important in selecting staff and how criticism is useful…

Restaurateur is the way of life. It is like being a doctor who constantly has his finger on the pulse to feel the pace of life. He knows what novelties are needed a certain moment, he can tell what is good and what is bad. He understands what people like and what is unacceptable for them. It isn’t necessary to be born a restaurateur – you can become one: most important is to love and understand the profession!

When I was only launching my business, my startup capital was everything I had. I invested all my savings, sold my apartment.. Back then it felt like a huge amount of money. But with my current experience I realize I was spending a lot of resources inappropriately…

I opened my first restaurant as a place to meet. It was later when I began to dig deeper to realize it was a serious business that requires constant attention and only thus one can rise to eminence. The issue of becoming a restaurateur was fundamental for me.

I went on vacation for the first time in ten years in 2008. When my colleagues and friends were telling me “We are on vacation!” – I wasn’t able to grasp, how could they?? And now rest is sacred. I have a great team so I have time I try to dedicate to my family and friends with who we, by the way, only meet on my objects. I can also set on a journey. But it all lined up over many years.

When we select personnel, we emphasize quality of a person. Anyone we see potential in, can become a part of our team. Almost all people on important positions started from point zero, many came from other spheres. Me, for instance, I got education of a doctor.

I am very stable myself and I like stability in everything. But also, alongside stability, development means a lot to me. If a person works and has prospects for a significant time period, it is possible to invest in him or her, people get used to each other, find common ground. And when an employee comes to do a job and leave – that’s not my cup of tea. There are people in our team who work for 14, 10, 5 years… 10 years ago they came and they work now – that’s an indicator! In fact, we try to create best possible conditions for stability and development.

Visitor of our restaurants is a content person. Nowadays I see completely different people in our establishments. Youngsters visit to have some rest with us, families with kids step by, business meetings are held. And this truly pleases me; it means everyone can find something to own taste at our places.

“Different strokes for different folks”. Sure enough, there are certain streams – they call it trends. We follow winds of change when opening a new establishment, no doubt about that. We attempt to offer best diversity we can to suit as many people as possible. Obviously, cuisines are not alike, for instance, by us Italian, Japanese and Eastern ones are most popular. My spouse and I travel a lot and we brought so many cool and extraordinary dishes but they somehow failed to catch on and adjust in our market.

When picking a place to locate a new establishment, security and accessibility are our main guide marks. It isn’t necessary a city center or a residential block – location has to be accessible, where people would feel comfortable and safe.

This is what makes my life complete, I am very happy when I open something new; I look into the eyes of my team and see development… Till now many people tell me to halt and wait, that the timing is wrong and that many investors have run away. The way I look at this life is “Thanks God”. Instead, when we don’t operate – don’t open anything for three months – I feel like a fish out of water.

I do not envy achievements of others. Envy is not about me. The more restaurants there are in the world – the better. It is like some sort of a rainbow – the more various the colors – the more beautiful it is because there is no rainbow of one color. Therefore we travel around the world, visit different establishments, draw inspiration and it results in ideas of our own. But as to copying something – we are strictly against that. I can tell people who copy very well. Everything depends on goals after all – there are purely commercial objectives, set up for a certain time period. But we follow a different principle; we don’t work for just one day.

Healthy criticism is a new ideas generator! Should someone have justified and relevant opinions and comments - we only welcome that. Sure enough, there are people who don’t criticize but are simply jealous. They start telling something extremely negative – in such cases I attempt not to react while healthy criticism is needed in every sphere.

When a visitor calls our hot line, first SMS comes to my personal cell phone. In our establishments we have a phone number specified on every table – the one you can call to leave a feedback or a comment… Many people don’t know about it. But wherever I am in this world, I promptly get an opinion of a person, we take everything into account and it isn’t simply communicated to a manager or call-centre where it stays unnoticed.

Let people tell if I am a professional. I’m no judge to myself but I can positively say that I have a team of professionals – no doubt about that. Serious guys, I would go to a dark-dark forest with them. I love teamwork, I see myself in it. By the way, even if I wouldn’t have become a restaurateur – I’d have become a captain… of a football team, for instance:))

Restaurant business requires constant and sufficient attention. I believed it to be a wrong approach when out of nowhere people who are engaged in a business distant from food-segment, open establishments for their wives, children or simply for the sake of status. But I have a very positive attitude towards businessmen who open a restaurant and put their souls into it despite the fact that they are no professionals in the field and don’t really understand how the market works but who are ready and want to learn.

I had a plan to stop at the age of 40 but I failed. I planned not to stop in terms of development but to stop in terms of working, active participation. But I realized I couldn’t – I like it and that’s it! Now I know I’ll never be able to. If you love your job – it becomes your hobby. I love mine a lot, therefore I’m always ready to develop it, bring something new into it. It doesn’t let me get bored. It’s my life:)

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