The first Arabic restaurant in Aberystwyth launches successfully and is ready to grow after lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Run by Syrian-born Ghofran Hamza, Arabic Flavour is the first Middle Eastern restaurant in Aberystwyth. Having engaged with the Welsh Government’s Business Wales service on a different project straight after moving to the UK, Ghofran benefited from start-up and HR support as she set out to take things further and launch her own restaurant.
Introduction to business
Arabic Flavour is the first Arabic restaurant in Aberystwyth run by a family of Syrian refugees. The restaurant prides itself on serving a variety of authentic Middle Eastern dishes, including Lebanese, Syrian and Turkish, prepared with carefully selected local fresh produce.
We asked owner Ghofran to tell us more about her business journey in the UK:
Why did you decide to set up your own business?
I arrived in the UK in 2018 as an 18-year old Syrian refugee. At that time, I thought of starting a cooking project, as I could not find any Middle Eastern restaurants in Aberystwyth. In October 2018, with the help and support of the British Red Cross, we set up the Syrian Dinner Project and did our first cooking event where we raised donations for Syrian families. We received a lot of love and support from the community, so five of us, including my mum and me, decided to take this project forward. I was the only one who spoke English well, so I took the responsibility to register our project as a social enterprise. I created our logo and social media accounts; I also looked after the management, accounting and marketing.
Although we did so well together, the project had limited scope and limited profits. I also struggled to find any other work in a small town like Aberystwyth. So, I decided to set up my own business and employ my family, so we can all work and benefit the community by running the first Arabic restaurant in town.
What challenges did you face?
Until now, we had not started trading from the restaurant due to lockdown, and we are facing a lot of challenges because I'm lacking experience.
Another challenge was that a lot of our equipment had special requirements. For example, I wasn’t aware that the bread oven we bought for £3,000 needed a special canopy extraction. I could not find anyone who does this in Aberystwyth, and it would cost me more than £8,000 to install just one. The oven is now not in use and I couldn't return it. We also purchased a 3-phase dishwasher for £1,800 before realising we only have 1 phase in the property and it would cost thousands of pounds to get 3 phases. Again, we can’t use the dishwasher and the company did not accept a return. We also couldn't find anyone who would connect our gas cooker for commercial purposes. This has caused a lot of stress.
Despite many other problems, including registering with HMRC, employing people, applying for funding and understanding the Government rules and regulations around starting a food business, we are nearly there. We will use alternative equipment for the time being so we can get started.
Business Wales support
Business Wales supported Ghofran and a number of Syrian refugee women to set up the Syrian Dinner Project, enabling them to cook and sell their food to raise money for their families.
Following the success of the venture, Ghofran sought Business Wales’s advice on opening her own restaurant, Arabic Flavour. She worked with our start-up adviser Barry Morgan, who helped her with business planning, premises, establishing target markets and bookkeeping. Our specialist adviser, Catherine Rowland, further assisted with HR matters, including recruitment, contracts of employment and staff handbooks, helping Ghofran recruit staff for the first time. She also helped Ghofran sign up to the Business Wales Equality Pledge, showing her commitment to providing an inclusive service as well as promoting equality, diversity and wellbeing of staff, customers and suppliers.
- Successfully started the business
- Start-up support including HR and recruitment
- Committed to the Business Wales Equality Pledge
Barry was a great help from the start. He helped me understand how to employ people and apply for grants. He also advised us on bookkeeping and accounting, as well as how to manage the business. Any inquiry I had, he was always there to provide an answer. If there was something that wasn’t in his remit, he would pass me onto someone else from Business Wales, who could help.
Future plans and ambitions
We are planning to start serving cooked food after lockdown but also sell Arabic food products, so people can make our recipes with original Arabic flavours at home. As we saw from working from home, our business has potential and I have no doubts we will make it a success if we plan well and work with passion.
Once established, we would like to create a YouTube channel and share our recipes. I hope that we will be able to grow the business and expand the brand with restaurants and shops in other towns in Wales.
If you want to read more success stories of how Business Wales has helped other people like you to start or grow their businesses, visit https://businesswales.gov.wales/case-studies or follow @_businesswales / @_busnescymru on Twitter.