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South Africa, Consumer
In 2012, Chris Khalifa founded Zooba, the first restaurant chain to give classic Egyptian street foods a gourmet twist, a concept delivered through a social dining atmosphere designed to appeal to Egyptians’ shared sense of community. Chris has always been passionate about food and could not come to terms with Egypt’s struggle to make its traditional food relevant and trendy.
After graduating from Boston University in 2005, Chris went on to climb the ranks at EFG-Hermes, a boutique investment bank. However, in 2009 he decided to try his luck at the food industry. He quickly realized that his concept was not catchy enough to gain momentum, and he returned to the banking world until he fully developed the blueprint for Zooba. Against the odds, and with little infrastructure left in Egypt after much political upheaval, Chris managed to partner with a Certified Executive Chef and create a modern, health conscious, version of Egyptian street food. The restaurants are housed in a mix of vintage and contemporary Middle Eastern design, with top-notch service, to produce a homey dining experience.
One of the most important aspects of the restaurant is making customers feel at home, which Chris believes starts with the happiness of his employees. He gives all employees full-time contracts and shares gratuities equally. He hopes his employees will feel personally vested in the company. Zooba has reinvigorated national pride in local culture in the midst of political unrest.
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