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Fri 1 Sep 2006 04:00 AM

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Work ahead for Lebanese

Post-war Lebanon has started to rebuild its formerly flourishing culinary scene.

Last month’s conflict in Lebanon has resulted in devastating consequences for many catering businesses in the country’s formerly flourishing restaurant sector.

Since the attacks started, many restaurants reliant upon fish and imported goods were unable to access the ports, being forced to deal with severe supply shortages due to land, sea and air blockades.

“We made sure that we stocked up on a lot of produce when the war started, whilst local markets continued to provide fresh fruit and vegetables,” said Fawzi Ghantous, director of operations for Bice, So and DT, to Caterer Middle East.

Many of the streets in Beirut’s southern suburbs have lain empty in recent weeks. However, the ceasefire has given the area some hope, with restaurants beginning to open their doors again.

“We have started to see people returning to the bar in the last few days. It is a dismal situation, which is improving literally day by day. Last month was very, very poor, but we are remaining positive,” commented Eddy Ayche, manager of Canvas Bar in the commercial district of Ashrafieh in Beirut.

Ayche also said that due to its sharp drop in takings, the bar was forced to reduce its workforce by half within the last month. In recent days, the business has endured a lack of electricity, but Ayche believes bringing crowds back to the busy venue will just take time.

Nestled high in the mountains, the town of Bikfaya, in contrast, is home to about 20,000 Christians and has been untouched by the bombings. The Locanda Corsini, a family-run hotel, has had full occupancy throughout the attacks; however, serious staff shortages are proving difficult for the remaining members of the team.

“We have just gotten on with things as before, as we still have a hotel to run, but we have lost over half of our staff. The majority of our staff members are from the Philippines, so they returned home when the conflict started,” commented Sara Corsini, manager, Locanda Corsini to Caterer.

The hotel also has a rustic-style Italian restaurant, with its clientele being a mix of Lebanese, European and Arab guests.

“Although we were well stocked up to overcome the supply shortages, particularly with ham and other meats, we did have trouble finding fresh products such as mozzarella,” Corsini added.

As Lebanon starts the reconstruction process, most outlets are gradually returning to their previous positions, but the economic effect of the blockades cannot be overlooked.

“InterContinental Hotels Group is monitoring and assessing the situation in Lebanon on a daily basis, but it’s still too early to comment on the impact the recent events have had on business. At the InterContinental Phoenicia, however, Caffe Mondo, Wok Wok, and Les Cascades have been reopened,” a spokesperson from InterContinental Phonenicia told Caterer Middle East.

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