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A new South African eatery, with branches already established in Australia and Dubai, officially opened its doors in Israel this week.
The Meat and Wine Company, a successful food provider that offers top-notch wine and high-grade meat, not only plans to shake up the quality of kosher food services in Israel but also aims to use its flagship branch here as a springboard to expand its reach even further.
"Eventually we will open kosher restaurants in New York and London; there is certainly the market for such a thing there," Laurence Thorpe, managing director of parent company Food Fun, told The Jerusalem Post this week. "We will hone our kosher skills here and transfer it to the rest of the world. We already have investors waiting."
Thorpe said that opening the company's first branch in Herzliya Pituah - there are already designs for restaurants in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and possibly Eilat - was definitely a challenge.
"There have been good parts and bad parts," he said, citing difficulties with contractors in the construction of the restaurant as being one of the main obstacles so far.
Finding and training the right type of staff, however, was easier than he expected, he said. So far more than 50 managers, chefs and wait staff have been employed to run operations there, with many of them being flown to Australia to be "reeducated."
"We highlighted to them our expectations: that we want people to enjoy the work they do and take it seriously. That way, it will reflect back to the customers," explained Thorpe. "We noticed that what was lacking here was friendliness from restaurant staff. We had to reeducate them so that we could promise a better service to our customers."
"Being Australian might be why I do not understand the mentally of such a low level of service here," he said, who has been working on this project here for the past seven months. "If one provides a better service, then they will get a better tip. It is all about incentive and we have created a bonus system. We also provide our staff with the opportunity to travel and work in our other branches."
Thorpe said another surprising aspect of setting up a food business here was the discovery that kosher meat can compete with the standard of non-kosher produce.
"There are not enough good kosher restaurants here," said Thorpe. "Some people have this concept that kosher meat is not up to the standard of other meat, but it is just not true. We hope to surprise our guests by revealing to them that kosher meat can also be cooked well."
Despite having operations in Dubai, with another restaurant expected to open in Bahrain by the end of the year, Thorpe said that the company had received nothing but support from its Arab partners for its work in Israel.
"Investors for our Dubai branch have said nothing negative about us coming to Israel," he said. "They would probably even love to invest financially in Israel too. There are some great opportunities here."
Thorpe added that the company wanted to extend its work here beyond restaurants to wineries and food suppliers, as well as possibly opening fast-food joints in local shopping centers in the near future.
"For us it is all about growing with our suppliers," he finished. "Israel is our oyster and we want to expand as much as possible our business here over the next two to three years."
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