Fasting Season Increases Vegan Buffets

On the sunny and bright day of March 16, 2018, Sami Café & Restaurant located at Ayertena, was fully packed with eateries largely who were there to have lunch from the vegan buffet which was prepared by the restaurant for the current lent season.

The-55-day fasting season of the Ethiopian Orthodox and Catholic churches, dubbed as Hudade or the Abiy Tsom, was one of the popular lent season fasted by many Ethiopians.

About half of the population fall under these religious group according to a data from the Central Statistical Agency (CSA).

To serve such a large population since the beginning of the lent season, about six weeks ago, many restaurants in the capital have displayed banners and outdoor advertisements notifying that they serve vegan buffets.

Sami Café which has been in the business for the past 18 years is one of such businesses, that prepared a decorated buffet with vegetables, vegetable combo, vegetarian food platter a.k.a yetsom beyaynetu, salad and local stews such as Shiro, Mesir (lentils) and cabbage.

Sami Café charges 110 Br per person, allowing an individual to take as much as the person would like from the buffet.

“On top of the lent season, many customers come here referring to the freshness of vegan meals,” said Shimelis Alemayehu, a customer service manager at the restaurant, where he has been working for a decade rising from a supervisor position.

One of the customers at Sami Cafe was the 26 years old, Meskerem Fasika, an Ethiopian-American Diaspora who came from the United States three months ago with her husband.

To serve such a large population since the beginning of the lent season, about six weeks ago, many restaurants in the capital have displayed banners and outdoor advertisements notifying that they serve vegan buffets.

Meskerem went to the restaurant following the word to mouth advertising from her husband telling her the restaurant is one of the establishments that serve vegan buffets.

“Some 10 years back there were only a few restaurants who serve fasting foods,” Meskerem told Fortune. “Only big hotels were serving these foods.”

Even though the number of restaurants which serves vegan cuisines are increasing rise in Addis, old and prominent businesses such as Taitu Hotel is well known as it left a mark in peoples’ mind about their vegan buffets.

The Hotel which was built in 1907 as the first hotel in Ethiopia by Taitu Betul, wife of Emperor Menelik II, Taitu Hotel has been serving vegan dishes regularly throughout the year, for the past six years.

But its businesses booms during the fasting seasons with about 200 individuals, vegetarians or those who flock to the restaurant on a daily bases.

It charges about 100 Br a meal, but as an option, customers can purchase 100 gram of food from the buffet at a cost of 13 Br. This gives eaters the opportunity to be more selective on the food which they take from the buffet.

The price for the buffet Taitu charges currently is about 30pc higher than what it used to be two years ago, 70 Br per person.

According to the industry players, the number of people who visit such establishments has increased leading to the expansion of such kinds of restaurants.

People usually do not give much attention to the bioavailability of their dietary habits.

Shimelis testifies that the number of customers flowing to the restaurant is increasing every year.

“Many customers come to us from different parts of the city,” said Shimelis. “We receive customers from the four cardinal directions of the city.”

Due to this and peoples’ preference for such meals, especially during the lent season, has attracted businesses to flourish in Addis Abeba, Yetebaberut Cafe & Restaurant being one of them.

The restaurant opened its door for service almost half a year ago in the vicinity of Piassa. The owners were prompted to open the restaurant with the ever-growing demand shift towards vegan meals, according to the owners.

“Customers are raising the culture of consuming fasting food keenly,” says Amsale Saifu 49, who runs the restaurant. “Beyond the walk-in customers, many office people take-away our meals regularly to dine at their offices.”

“Most of the customers take the food to their homes or offices,” Amsale remembers. “Not only people who fast come to us but also vegetarians and people who do not consume meat and dairy products for various health reason.”

People consume food for three main principles, to nourish the body, safeguard the health and whenever necessary help the body in fighting diseases.

Due to cultural differences and eating patterns, there are nutrient deficiencies in dietary patterns in Ethiopia. People usually do not give much attention to the bioavailability of their dietary habits.

Therefore, the local consumption of fruits and vegetables and meals made from them is low, according to the Ethiopia National Food Consumption Survey conducted by the Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI).

Consumption of fruits and vegetable is flat across the different regions, accounting for less than one percent and 10pc of total weight consumed respectively, according to the survey.

To break this trend, newcomers are joining the business with optimism and Hafta Restaurant is one of the businesses which was opened five months ago aiming to serve local dishes including vegan meals.

Johny Alameraw, who used to live in Semera, the capital of Afar Regional State opened the restaurant whan he moved to Addis Abeba. He used to engage in the trading business until he diverts to the restaurant venture investing close to one million Birr.

He opened the restaurant in a closer domain of kiosks and shops with vibrant business activity. Johny also targets public servants and employees of private companies in the area, with an assumption of the vegan meals, are preferable and affordable to the mid-lower income earners.

“In our brief stay, the business is not bad,’’ says Kidist Selamu, supervisor of Hafta.

But that does not mean that these businesses are flourishing without a challenge. They are challenged with supply constraints of fresh vegetables, and fruits as well as a shortage of a trained workforce.

“We are trying to cope with the shortage of calibre human resource by giving in-house training,” says Shimeles of Sami Cafe.

On the other hand, others businesses are eyeing options such as engaging with cultivating vegetables and fruits with the primary aim of getting a constant and sustainable supply of the products.




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