Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Birth of a Dream

“Every time a man puts a new idea across he finds ten men who thought of it before he did - but they only thought of it.” --Anon

It was the Fall Semester of my junior year in college. We had come back from the summer and I noticed there was something new and exciting about the campus vibe near my dorm. Right next to my apartment a Qdoba Mexican restaurant opened. I was completely enamored by this place. I was enthralled by the simplicity of its menu and the ability to create a myriad of options using the same ingredients but combining them in different ways. Qdoba was an instant hit on-campus. There were long lines snaking around every time I went – which was very often.

The rest of my junior year was super busy, in particular during the start of the spring semester gearing up for landing a summer internship. For those that don’t know much about the Wharton culture, internship season is a stressful experience and scoring a prized offer is in many ways a crowning achievement. By that measure I was fortunate enough to ultimately land a gig at Morgan Stanley. For me, Investment Banking was a complete thud. The only silver lining from that experience was meeting Brendan Petri, known as the Petri Dish. Petri was a character, from playing the air guitar a la Jack Black in School of Rock, to serenading me with ridiculous songs; the Petri Dish made the summer a lot of fun.

That summer while Petri and I banked like champions we would order dinner and eat together. Brendan would order something different every night meanwhile I would crush the Kabobs. It got to the point that a couple of weeks into our internship Brendan nicknamed me ‘Amir Kabob’ which quickly caught on and became my nickname in the office. One evening mid-way through our internship we were anxiously surfing seamless web to figure out where to order from for tonight’s dinner. After a couple minutes of surfing, Brendan threw his hands in defeat and turned to me and said “Amir Kabob, order me what you normally get yourself’. That night Brendan and I both ate Lamb Kabob platters with a bowl of hummus some bhaba ganoush and pita bread. After the meal, Brendan turned to me and said, “Amir Kabob, this food is awesome how come I haven’t eaten this stuff before?” At that point, I thought to myself, how come Brendan hasn’t eaten this kind of food before? He’s clearly a worldly and adventuresome guy, yet he’s never enjoyed Kabobs, how could that be? The more I thought about it the more I realized most Middle Eastern restaurants tend to be hole-in-the-wall shops and very ‘ethnic’ in nature, and nicer places tend to be too expensive for regular dining. Thus, it made sense why even though Middle Eastern food is pretty awesome, it’s not as widely known and consumed.

I thought to myself someone should bring Middle Eastern style food in the same format that Qdoba was serving Mexican food. To me the concept made a lot of sense since Middle Eastern foods can be prepared in a similar assembly line process and you can create a lot of different food combinations with a limited number of ingredients. Not to mention, if done right Middle Eastern food is healthier than Mexican foods since Kabobs are grilled and nothing is fried. To me, the idea had merit and no one was doing it the way I had envisioned it…

Thus, it was then and there during the summer of 2005 that the idea was born, it just took a little while and some convincing along the way to pursue it….


Thursday, June 3, 2010


“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.” --Babe Ruth, American baseball player

This past month has been extremely busy for us. As we inch closer to our target launch date, we are quickly realizing how much work is in store. The good news is we are very close to signing a lease on a location we are very excited about! It’s a turnkey restaurant on a university campus with strong foot traffic throughout the day. I’ll tell you more about it once it’s confirmed!

In the meantime we’ve made progress on a lot of other fronts. For one, we’ve incorporated our LLC and opened up a small business bank account. We’ve continued to work with our architect on the interior design phase of our restaurant. He sketched a potential layout for the fit-out that was hard to grasp at first but overall seemed to be on the right track. Now we have to meet him in person so we can view the material samples and decide on the actual tiles, paint colors, tables/chairs, etc.

We’ve also begun the process of interviewing people to partner with us as a Chef/Kitchen Manager. This has been very interesting and we have some strong leads at the moment. Believe it or not the majority of our candidates came through a Craigslist post! We’ve talked to people that run the gamut… young cooks straight out of culinary school, veteran executive chefs with decades of experience, and even some folks who didn’t know a kabob from a falafel! At this point we’re hoping to set up some in-person meetings and tasting sessions with the candidates we are most excited about. Given how important it is for the chef to be able to cook the food perfectly, this will be a really crucial (and fun!) step in the process :)

In other news I’m going to be on the road for the next few weeks so will do my best to keep up with the blog (as if I’ve been doing a great job of that already)! But we should have lots of updates once we finalize our space and get the ball rolling on the construction of the space… after all, we’ve got less than 4 months to hit our deadline. Stay tuned!