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Inspired by Arab Street Food, Restaurant Expands in Brazil

São Paulo – Three young entrepreneurs of Lebanese descent found in street food a way to innovate in serving Arab cuisine in Brazil. The concept inspired the creation of the Falafull restaurant in São Paulo. The brand is currently in two shopping malls in São Paulo.

The restaurant was established in 2019 by Kevin Zehil and the brothers Gabriel (pictured above) and Fuad Nicolas, sons of Lebanese families, combining recipes from mothers and grandmothers. However, looking at street food in Lebanon, a country visited every year by the Nicolas brothers to see their family, the insight to create the brand came to mind. The concept is also trendy in other world regions, such as the United States, Europe, and Asia.

“To create Falafull, I was inspired by several Lebanese companies. Since I was a little boy, I have gone there every year, and there are several beautiful places in Lebanon where there are no tables to sit; you grab your lunch and go,” said Gabriel Elias Habib Nicolas, operational director and one of the founders of the restaurant.

With two units in shopping malls in São Paulo, Center 3 and Pátio Higienópolis, by mid-year, Falafull expects to be in a third one and, by the end of 2024, have ten points of sale. With an initial investment of BRL 500,000 (about USD 101,000 at the current rate), the chain has a central kitchen ready to meet the demand of up to 10 restaurants and started raising funds via equity crowdfunding on the Kria platform, intending to raise BRL 1.8 million (about USD 363,400).

Restaurant and menu design

In April 2019, the restaurant opened a unit for the first time in the Frei Caneca shopping mall. But with the pandemic’s arrival, the store was closed months after its opening. To remain in the market and keep the dream alive, they restrained operations to takeout until, in February 2021, they opened a Falafull unit again, this time on a street in Vila Olímpia, on the south side of São Paulo city.

“The street wasn’t that busy, but we insisted and kept building the loyalty of the people who passed by. Over time, more people came, and the business was going well until we had to close the space due to the pandemic again. A while later, we opened again; however, the idea of having units in malls came back; after all, our concept had always been street food, something more casual, to eat quickly, fast food style,” recalled Gabriel.

One of the company’s founders said the average amount consumers spend is BRL 40 (about USD 8), with a main course, side dish, and drink. The menu has healthy foods, and vegan options, such as falafel, snacks (burgers and sfihas), and bowls. Consumers can assemble the latter with different food options, including grape leaf rolls, raw kibbeh, dry curd, hummus, and tabbouleh.

Nicolas family history

With an undergraduate degree in marketing, Gabriel, 31, said his parents, maternal grandparents, and paternal uncles arrived in Brazil in the 1980s. The state of Rondônia was chosen as the family’s first destination. Years later, they landed in São Paulo, specifically in the Brás neighborhood, where they opened a restaurant.

Established around 2010 and 2011, the establishment was open for two years. But an illness of his maternal grandmother forced his mother, Wadia Klaime Nicolas, to abandon the restaurant kitchen. However, the desire to continue selling Arab food remained with the brothers Gabriel and Fuad. In 2015, they created ZEIT Lebanese food catering. The company was open almost four years and delivered Arab dishes in São Paulo.

Despite being profitable, ZEIT was replaced by Falufull after Gabriel met Kevin. With the same business idea, the two founded the Lebanese food brand. Sometime later, Fuad joined the duo.

“In 2018, I was trying to create a pharmacy technology startup, and one of my partners ate our ZEIT sandwich; he liked it, and I told him the idea to sell street food style snacks, then he told me he had a friend with the same idea. We scheduled a lunch, and after 30 minutes of conversation with Kevin, we became partners. We even have similar family histories; his parents came here about 30, 40 years ago,” recalls Gabriel. “The idea for Falufull was Kevin’s final assignment at Fundação Getulio Vargas college. Six months after our first meeting, we opened the company.”

Source : ANBA