It all started when Rana Zaarour Abou Nassar's husband got back the results from a blood test. It's all the things you don't want to hear: cholesterol, triglycerides, SGPT - all came back with abnormal results. To make matters worse, he couldn't simply take medicine to combat these results because of the negative effects the meds would have on Nassar's liver. Enter: superfoods. These are foods that claim to help you maintain your weight, fight disease, and live longer. Through some experimentation, Rana was able to develop a slew of delicious meals while also getting her and husband on a healthier diet. Now she's taken the concept to the streets for all Lebanese to enjoy at the downtown Beirut restaurant, Captain Cook.
Rana sat down with Beirut.com to talk more about how Captain Cook came to the rescue.
Shalashtein: How did you get the idea for the restaurant?
Rana: "It all started with my husband who had some issues with his blood tests... [The need to improve his health] led him to discover superfoods. I hold a degree in bio-chemistry and I share his passion for food. When we realized that he could enjoy these delicious meals while also changing his health for the better, we decided to share this knowledge with other people.
Shalashtein: What was the hardest part about opening up the restaurant?
Rana: It's hard to choose [smiling]. Even picking the name Captain Cook took us a good two months. But I would say that finding first-time customers was the hardest part. People were skeptical because of bad experiences they had in the past with new restaurants. But once someone tries anything on our menu, they almost always becomes a regular customer and help spread the word. Word of mouth is the strongest way to build a name, but it takes time.
Shalashtein: Do you have a role model - another successful business you look up to?
Rana: Red Bull is a great marketing achievement; a phenomenal global brand. It was created by a pharmaceutical company in Thailand in the 1980’s until an Austrian entrepreneur thought of turning it from a product sold in pharmacies into a beverage sold outside pharmacies as an energy drink. Instead of ensuring healthy living, it sort of transformed into a product that "gives energy to people." Captain Cook has a lot in common with their brand. Our vision is to help people benefit healthy foods and natural ingredients in a way that's truly pleasurable. We also promote the idea of heroism by encouraging ordinary people to do good deeds and become heroes, or superheroes, as we support them with superfoods.
Shalashtein: What kind of success have you achieved so far?
Rana: We are a unique restaurant and have pioneered the concept of superfoods in the country. We were also named on the No Garlic No Onion's blog list of 2013’s tastiest burgers in Lebanon.
But most importantly, we are proud to have received daily positive feedback from our customers either at the restaurant or through social media. We are witnessing many customers who order 4 or 5 times a week. That’s beyond our expectations.
Shalashtein: What are your future plans?
Rana: There are at least 4 potential local areas that we can cover locally. Foreign expansion is very likely in the Middle East, Europe, Canada and Australia, where health consciousness is booming, and is beyond the regular “diet” slogan. We will not franchise before making significant organic growth first and assuring that high quality control procedures are in place. Our reputation should allow us to proceed in this direction. We are also open for a partnership that can accelerate this process.
Captain cook is open Monday to Saturday 8:00 a.m. - 5.30 p.m.
Riad el Solh, Chaker and Oueini Building
(Image via Abdulsalam Shalashtein)
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