Lebanese restaurants turn to foreign markets for survival amid unprecedented financial crisis-Xinhua

Lebanese restaurants turn to foreign markets for survival amid unprecedented financial crisis

Source: Xinhua

Editor: huaxia

2022-06-23 21:26:15

BEIRUT, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Over the past three years, many Lebanese restaurants have turned to foreign markets for earnings in hard currency under the strain of the country's unprecedented financial crisis that led to the total collapse of the national currency.

Khaled Nazha, vice president of the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Nightclubs and Pastries in Lebanon, told Xinhua that the challenges facing the food industry in Lebanon "amid the steep financial and economic crisis" has driven restaurants to open branches abroad, mostly in Arab countries and Africa, to earn more to sustain their operations in Lebanon.

The first heavy blow to the Lebanese restaurant sector was the national protests against new proposed taxes beginning on Oct. 17, 2019, followed by the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020 that forced restaurants all over the country to shut their doors amid heavy health restrictions.

The Beirut port explosion on Aug. 4, 2020 dealt a third blow, as thousands of restaurants, pubs and other businesses in the capital city were damaged or destroyed as the blast swept past, leaving a large number of them never to open again owing to their financial woes.

About 65 percent of the 8,500 restaurants, pastry shops, cafes, pubs and nightclubs and the 4,500 seasonal businesses in Lebanon shut their doors in the past three years, according to Nazha.

Makram Rbeiz, owner of Pate a Choux, a catering and pastry business in Lebanon, further explained that the collapse of the banking sector in Lebanon has made all banks set stringent limits on cash withdrawals in both U.S. dollar and Lebanese pound, which represents the last straw for businesses which have to turn to outside markets for cash to stay afloat.

"We had to look for new means to generate money as we've lost our capacity to invest with the huge losses in Lebanese banks," Rbeiz, whose business has recently expanded to Ghana, told Xinhua.

In addition, the over 90-percent loss of value in the Lebanese pound since 2019 has led to the sharp decline in both the purchasing power and the demand for catering services, he added.

"We reached an extent where we were barely capable of covering our employees' salaries and other expenses, so we were badly in need of a new source of income," the businessman concluded.

Aref Saade, owner of famous Chinese and Japanese cuisine restaurants in Lebanon, also said his branches in Qatar and Ghana have helped cover the high cost of operations in Lebanon involving power supply, transport and water, and health insurance for his employees.

Both Saad, also treasurer at the Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafes, Nightclubs and Pastries in Lebanon, and Rbeiz told Xinhua that their overseas branches are training or plan to train and employ Lebanese, especially young people, to provide them with job opportunities to secure a better life.