On the first floor of a new building where she is about to debut a new branch restaurant of the signature Célavie Burger and Chicken, Yamrot Asrat is relaxed. She does not seem nervous with many responsibilities and as many congratulate her for bringing the brand in other parts of the capital, but she seemed excited with the new adventure that has come her way.
All was to lead to the opening of her third location of her brand restaurant in what is one of the most sought-after areas of the capital, in the heart of Bole, not far from her other famous location near Bole International airport that is opening today, near Sheger building.
She never dreamed of owning a fast-food restaurant in Ethiopia. It was by coincidence that she experienced the fast food industry in Nairobi, Kenya and found some inspiration to try it at home.
That was almost 15 years ago. That was during an era when Ethiopia had few choices in quality fast food restaurants and the few that were served sub-standard products.
“Once I saw what was happening in Kenya, I wanted to bring such a choice of eatery to Addis, but do it a unique way and with a set of standards that will make my efforts standout. Not just burgers but roasted chickens with taste and quality,” she told The Reporter.
“I wanted people to know, fast food should not necessarily be associated with junk and unhealthy food, that by using exceptional products that are organic, we would complement all the restaurants and offer consumers ample choices to make decisions and complement our efforts,” she added.
With a busy youthful strip street in Bole, in the midst of taxi stands and traffic of people, the original Célavie Burger and Chicken, the company she founded almost 12 years ago, now employees 153 people, with the majority women and is growing. It also has a training facility inside Oromia building in Bole, a busy bakery and also another restaurant inside Bole International Airport for the airline’s employees.
“I have appreciated the journey so far and it has been a learning experience for me to grow and become a better corporate leader in what is still a male dominated sector,” she said, as young employees run to her table for guidance in a new eatery that is due to open today, near Edna Mall. “There has not been a road-map for our success, we gained insight, wisdom and learned from it and I am glad people depend on us for quality products that set us apart.”
She wants the way she conducts her business to be different than her competitors and wants to add her own touch as her own lasting legacy – in charity and as creator of needed local employment.
For the opening of the new eatery, she has invited about a hundred orphans from Sile Enat Charity Organization and the families of her own employees and have them take ownership of her own success, which she credits as being a team effort. “Charity is important for me, but giving people a chance to employment is the greatest satisfaction, not just from the business perspective, but from that of citizenry.”
In the original location, near Hayat hospital, business seemed brisk this week when The Reporter visited.
“I do not eat out much, when I do, I always come to Célavie, not just for the taste but they seem to have a family-oriented culture, the staff is professional and they seem to genuinely want you to have a great time, instead of have you eat and move out. It has a relaxed atmosphere, with affordable prices and you can even purchase bread on your way out,” Sentayehu Tadesse, a customer, said.
For another family seated not far from Sentayehu, Célavie is where he met his wife and came on eventual dates and now brings his children to eat.
“Some restaurants grow and lose favors with customers. But this restaurant, as it grows, it continues to make an impression on its loyal customers by evolving and always improving to accommodate our taste and lifestyle,” 41-year-old Tewodros Kassa told The Reporter.
When the first restaurant opened, it was placed inside a four-seat property and she was forced to take takeaway orders. It moved to different locations, until it ventured into the current property, which was once a traditional Ethiopian restaurant. The restaurant now accommodates hundreds of customers’ inside its 500-sqm property and Yamrot still envisions a great potential to grow this particular business and open in other parts of the capital.
“When we first opened, we had lots of passion but it has been a growing process. We have learned much, gained wisdom and we remain a locally owned company that cares about our employees’ well-being as much as our customers,” she said. “We are happy we did not emulate the success of others, or borrowed others brand or signature but created our own parth.”
Her loyal customers seem to agree.
“I come to this restaurant for its signature taste, knowing there is nothing like it anywhere. It tastes great, the staff are exceptional and I have found little reason to try other restaurants”, an expat from Germany said. “When you eat here, you know you are eating the great efforts of many, a restaurant that used organic products and is clean and you do not feel guilty once you bring either your family or friends for a treat.”
That is music to the ears of Yamrot.
“Sure, we were inspired by many things, but we created a made – in Ethiopia quality brand, local products that have texture, tastes great and is unique. Above all else, we have given hundreds of employees’ opportunities and given many others to grow with us. Some have stayed; some have gone to greener pastures. But I am glad Célavie is where many started from and where they gained professional training and guidance. That remains our greatest legacy and we satisfaction and we are here to stay,” she concluded.