Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 7 August 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Dubai restaurant forced to close in Covid-19 pandemic back in business after social media support

News of Habet Barakah's plight went viral online, helping its owners to revive their dream

Ahmed Nimer and Nour Assaf  said their restaurant business had been saved by kind-hearted strangers. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Ahmed Nimer and Nour Assaf  said their restaurant business had been saved by kind-hearted strangers. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A Dubai restaurant that was on the verge of closing due to the Covid-19 outbreak was back in business a week later thanks to the power of social media.

Family-run Habet Barakah opened in September last year but it hit hard times when the pandemic struck and restaurants had to close.

Jordanian husband-and-wife owners Ahmed Nimer and Nour Assaf were heartbroken when their culinary dreams appeared to have been dashed.

However, when news of their plight went viral online, they were inspired by the outpouring of goodwill to give the business a second shot.

Never underestimate the value of a good deed, no matter how small. It may change the lives of others

Shadi Shawqi

“We were doing well at first and then Covid hit and the orders stopped,” said Ms Assaf, 38.

During Ramadan, they distributed free meals to needy families and decided that they would close the business for good once the holy month ended on May 23.

“I was so upset. We had invested everything we had into this restaurant and it was a dream of ours," she said.

"It was a family business that we put a lot of effort into," said Ms Assaf, who recalled that every day she, her 43-year-old husband and their three children would be at the Habet Barakah.

She said the family invested Dh500,000 to get the restaurant up and running. The bulk of that funding came from loans.

They had to let all 11 of their employees go when the pandemic hit.

Ms Assaf posted news of her decision to shut up shop on Facebook the day before the restaurant was to close.

“I sent the post and went to bed. When I woke up, I was shocked to see all the reposts,” she said.

Habet Barakah restaurant was given a reprieve after being hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Chris Whiteoak/The National
Habet Barakah restaurant was given a reprieve after being hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. Chris Whiteoak / The National

A woman whose parents had gone through a similar experience in the US state of Michigan contacted her.

From her home in Abu Dhabi, Syrian Alaa Ammar Al Zian, 36, helped save her parents’ restaurant in the US from closure by posting about their plight on social media.

“Nour’s post broke my heart and struck a chord with me because it reminded me of what my parents went through,” said Ms Al Zian.

She then decided to support Habet Barakah by reaching out to social media influencers and asking them to repost Ms Assaf's announcement of the closure.

She contacted social media influencer, Shadi Shawqi, 38, from Jordan.

“I heard about the restaurant through a Facebook group called ERC [Emirates Restaurants Cafes],” he said.

He filmed and posted an appeal to support the restaurant on three of his Instagram accounts, which have thousands of followers. Within minutes, his post went viral and was shared more than 10,000 times.

Bookings came flooding in from diners and Habet Barakah reopened a week later.

“Thankfully, now the restaurant is so busy that they are unable to take additional orders. This is the power of social media, ” Mr Shawqi said.

“We were born in this country and learned in the school of [Sheikh] Zayed. We’ve inherited from him the inherent need to do good and respond to anyone in need.

“Never underestimate the value of a good deed, no matter how small. It may change the lives of others. This was just a short video that did not exceed 50 seconds.”

After receiving an overwhelming number of messages on social media, Ms Assaf decided to open for a week, hiring back her staff, and the orders started to flood in.

“We can’t even take all the calls we are getting,” she said. “It is unbelievable, and the most important thing is that we managed to pay all our employees.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on restaurants around the world with many of them either struggling to remain open or permanently shutting down.

A survey of 1,500 restaurants, 1,000 of which are in the Middle East, by JLL Foodservice Consulting Mena, found that a majority of owners believed their sales in 2020 will be 40 per cent or less of what they expected at the beginning of the year.

Updated: July 12, 2020 05:43 PM

SHARE

SHARE

THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
Sign up to our daily email
Most Popular