Arab food chain in Berlin thrives

Arab food chain in Berlin thrives
‘During the holy month, charity must always come first, revenue second,’ managing director tells Arab News (Supplied)
Short Url
Updated 04 April 2022

Arab food chain in Berlin thrives

Arab food chain in Berlin thrives
  • RISA Chicken is expanding across Germany’s capital — during Ramadan there is a lot more to prepare
  • ‘During the holy month, charity must always come first, revenue second,’ managing director tells Arab News

BERLIN: Customers from all over the world are queueing in front of cashiers, menus of chicken and fries are omnipresent over their heads, and the sounds of fryers fill the room — a scene that appears typical for a restaurant in Berlin.

Yet this two-story eatery opposite the railway station of Zoologischer Garten is different: The smell of exotic spices hangs in the air, and Arabic dishes such as hummus fill the menu photos and trays.

Osman remembers how RISA Chicken began. “There were a lot of food places in Germany that served chicken, yet this was the first to sell both fried and grilled chicken in Arab style,” he told Arab News.

Osman said he spoke personally with founder Khalil Jawad, “congratulated him on the new business and wished him the best of luck.” 

Jawad, a German of Lebanese descent, was no rookie in the food business. He once ran a successful steakhouse in Berlin that he later sold to find new opportunities.

A pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah unexpectedly inspired the pious Muslim to open a new place at home that would provide customers with fried and grilled chicken.

He founded a restaurant of his own in 2004. Jawad branded it Rizqa, meaning blessing in Arabic, but changed the spelling for German customers.

The coincidental meeting between he and Osman was to be fateful for both. “We were in loose contact for a couple of years,” said the latter. “In 2012, we began to meet more frequently and became friends.”

At the time, RISA Chicken had already opened two new branches in Berlin and was no longer a local district restaurant.

Jawad found Osman’s ideas inspiring, and in 2013 made him an offer. The banker became Jawad’s managing director.

RISA Chicken is now well-known across Berlin, with seven branches. But it was in 2013 that Osman began to change the business concept. Food production was centralized, and some concepts regarding food were changed.

“There’s never a day in which I don’t think about what we could improve,” Osman said. “There can never be a status quo!”

In 2016, he had an idea that would ultimately change the face of the chain: Opening a two-story branch opposite the railway station of Zoologischer Garten.

Osman was convinced that the profits would be worth the risks, though the building’s landlords doubted whether he knew what he was doing.

When asked, his answer was blunt: “I told them either it’s the chickens that get grilled or me.” His optimism prevailed.

In 2017, the new and largest branch opened and was an immediate success. What started as a small family business that mainly served immigrants from the Middle East, or German customers hankering for Arabic food, changed its face. “Now our customers are from Berlin or coming to visit Berlin,” said Osman.

During the holy month, things are different for RISA Chicken. Banners wishing visitors a happy Ramadan in Arabic and German are put up across the restaurants.

Large groups and families order bigger amounts of food in advance to break their fast, either holding their iftar at the restaurants or getting home delivery.

“Charity is one of the major aspects of Ramadan,” Osman said. RISA Chicken donates large meals to mosques, cultural associations and homeless shelters across Berlin. “During the holy month, charity must always come first, revenue second.”

Osman’s dream is to expand not only across Germany but abroad also, with partners who share his vision. “RISA Chicken has the potential to become a large brand across the world.”