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….


No comments:

Post a Comment