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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Tiny MBA at Hussein

Moved on! Check TheCairoCalls

Some people, me included, think that formal business education is an absolute necessity for success in the business world. However, we're reminded every once in a while that good business sense isn't only a product of education, but more importantly, a product of passion for what you do.
Yesterday I was having dinner at a tiny restaurant in Cairo's very old quarter of El-Hussein. The whole dinner experience didn't exceed 20 minutes, but in that 20 minutes I was able to realize why this restaurant (which isn't exactly a restaurant, but rather an occupation of a tiny alleyway) continues to be very successful.
I'm in a line of business where people think in bullets, so here are my observations:
  • The restaurant only sells stuffed pigeons. Of course they have salad, soup, bread, and some meat; but the whole show is mainly about stuffed pigeons. Talk about leveraging competitive advantage.
  • The business was hit hard by the Bird Flu scare. To counter this, the walls of the restaurant were all adorned with photocopies of articles from independent newspapers stressing that pigeons weren't infected with the virus. This form of PR is more effective than a chicken producer's 30 seconds spots on radio and TV saying that our chicken is all right, if you asked me.
  • As I said before, the whole dinner lasted around 20 minutes. Because of a very limited menu, and standardized components (one salad, one bread, one soup) , the waiters are able to serve fresh dishes quickly.
  • You don't get to pay for the salad, the bread, or the soup. You fully expect beforehand what will you pay at the end. "You had 2 pigeons?", me: "yes", "that will be 32 L.E. (6$)". That's it. So although you're obviously paying for the other things, you get the feeling that you had every other thing as freebies. No sales taxes, or service taxes either.
  • The restaurant has a head waiter. This guy is analogous to a football team captain. He stand at the center of the restaurant, and direct the other waiters to the tables that require their attention, but he never serves anything himself. That's why I was surprised when I saw him serving this huge pan filled of rice and meat to a table at the far corner of the restaurant. It turned out that the restaurant was about to close (it was 2 AM) and that this table was the workers' table, where everybody who works there will go to have their dinner before going home. Only this table is waited on by the head waiter. Seems like a very effective team building technique to me.
Of course most of these things aren't done because of a proper knowledge of the business principles underlying them, but rather, as I said earlier, as a result of an instinctive realization of the importance of the success of the business to everybody involved in it.
Sometimes doing is more important than knowing!

Moved on!


Thats very nice & fresh to read. Hope it is done everyday & not just a fluke.

By Anonymous Jokerman, at March 19, 2006 2:17 PM  

well I try to shy away from writing about what I do (well, not stuffed pigeons, but business consulting), I never thought it would be that interesting...apparently it is!

By Blogger Tomanbay, at March 19, 2006 3:44 PM  

What's the name of the restaurant?

By Blogger Kahramana, at March 20, 2006 4:28 AM  


By Blogger Tomanbay, at March 20, 2006 10:49 AM  

Your story has been linked to by cairolive.com:

"Blogger Tomanbay's astute analysis of Al-Hussein pigeon restaurant Farahat's success..."

By Anonymous Tarek, at March 20, 2006 11:12 AM  

but... do you agree that "Farahat" in alhusein is something diferrent from the newly opened branches?

By Anonymous Dermact, at March 21, 2006 12:52 AM  


If you are ever in Egypt IT IS A MUST to go to Farahat and have one of their delicious delicious delicious stuffed pigeons...

I can't tell you how many stuffed pigeons I consumed on my two-week trip to Egypt in '04

...hmm..starting to feel like a flu is coming on, achey joints, sore throat. Uh oh.

By Blogger Egypeter, at March 21, 2006 1:57 AM  

hmm, i didnt get that fully but i meant by hoping its not a fluke about the incident you mentioned in the restaurant where the waiter head serves his team & not regarding your blogs.

By Anonymous Jokerman, at March 21, 2006 6:21 PM  

Hey! Very Nice! Check out this website I found where you can make extra cash.
It's not available everywhere, so go to the site and put
in your zipcode to see if you can find something. I found something and make
and extra $900 a month!


By Anonymous Anonymous, at March 22, 2006 8:10 PM  


As a consultant, do you really feel that a "formal business education is an absolute necessity for success in the business world?"

That is such a load of MBA BS! How many of todays successful entrepreneurs have a "formal business education?" A minuscle proportion. Keep writing about the Farahat's of the world but don't please don't try to push onto us the MBA route to happiness and success.

By Blogger DubaiSceptic, at March 25, 2006 2:28 AM  

Very interesting article.

Being self employed I do agree some people can benefit from a formal business education. I'm an engineer & do ok but I suck as a manager! I just was not born to manage. I focus on the fun stuff like equipment & tooling and neglect the management part. This gives people like you jobs!

BTW, I think the people who post the "anonymous, make extra cash" spam like the one above definitely require more education.

By Blogger Chris in MB, at March 25, 2006 6:13 AM  

hi dubaisceptic,
I didnt try to push anybody onto any route!
I am neutral as far as this issue is concerned. I mean as chris pointed out, some ppl need this sort of education, some ppl dont! As is the case with all sorts of education I guess..if you're doing ok, y bother?
but I think some fields of work require the systematic approach to the thing...meaning that the farahat guys cannot for example consult other restaurants on how to manage theur restaurants..they're enterpenuers, not professionals...
whhich is better is anybody's preference

By Blogger Tomanbay, at March 26, 2006 3:17 PM  


Where did you disappear to?? I've been following your blog for a couple of months now and it's a breath of fresh air.

Keep writing, pleeeeeeeeeeeease!

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