The world of salads in Egypt is not an exciting realm; restaurants seldom offer a large variety or treat it as unimaginative diet food. Often the first question you get as you pile on the greens as your main course is “are you on a diet?” with quick glance to see if your hips need trimming. It is an Egyptian thing, and also an annoying thing.
The idea of eating greens for health is not on the Egyptian agenda, and when one turns vegetarian it is often accompanied with a pitiful look and the movement of the head from left to right. It is the same look you would get if you told your parents you had a child out of wedlock. Yes, it is that major. Meat in Egypt is sacred, vegetables not so much.
Salad enthusiasts fear not, there is a new place in town that reveres vegetables: Lettuceat. It is also a family affair, with the founders being Khalil Shereba, Hadir Shereba , Ahmed Shereba, and Walid Hamdy, a close family friend. We contacted Ahmed Shereba, who is also the manager of Lettuceat for more information.
“The idea started two years ago. My father has always had a passion for cooking all foods and cuisines, and we always have people over for dinner gatherings and he usually serves a five course meal, so you would get a starter, salad, small dish, main dish and a dessert,” Shereba said.
“His salads always left a mark; they were so good that a lot of the people would say they loved the salad, and that they wanted to have another serving. They would just stop there even though the rest of the food was phenomenal. Egyptian consumers are not used to eating tasty delicious salads as meals, which caught their taste buds big-time,” he explained.
Shereba himself is a marketing connoisseur who worked for several famous multinationals. “I went to my father, given my innovation marketing background and experience in launching new brands in Egypt, and I told him it was time to capture this opportunity and offer something unique and distinctive to the Egyptian consumers. We are going to re-position the salad perception in Egypt. We want to introduce salads as meals, ‘fresh, delish dish’ as we say in Lettuceat. And this is when we kicked off the menu engineering which was the building block of the project,” he said.
After securing the main ingredient of the project, the chef, Shereba went to complete the Lettuceat alliance: “At that time I discussed the idea with my very dear friend and jogging partner, Walid Hamdy. He was very thrilled about the project and he had the same vision and belief that we could turn things around. Given his experience as a great entrepreneur he was ecstatic to bring Lettuceat to life.”
“Finally, my sister Hadir Shereba was already working as an account manager on some of the food restaurants for a below the line agency, so she had some experience in the execution part of restaurants and she was an integral part in bringing this to life,” Shereba explained.
The four formed a new company with a specific mission: “With the right building blocks and a well synergised team, we set up a company called Creative Foods, which would be the hub for innovative restaurant concepts such as Lettuceat, our first restaurant concept to be launched this year,” Shereba said. “We do not just offer the Egyptian consumer a great fresh product, but rather we focused on the whole experience and details.”
At Lettuceat they focus on the quality of their dishes: “All our vegetable ingredients are freshly sourced on a daily basis from local suppliers and go through an enormous cleaning process. Our ingredients such as smoked duck or shrimps are sourced from the best qualified, ISO certified manufacturers. We also went a step further; ALL our ingredients are washed reverse-osmosis water. We have invested in machinery to be able to get this bacteria free water which is unlike regular tap water that is not perfectly clean as we all know,” Shereba said.
They are very passionate about taste: “Most importantly we wanted to be the most delicious salad you will ever have, we always had problem eating salads anywhere in Egypt as their dressings are dull and boring, and this is where our secret ‘Know How’ makes us unique. I can proudly say that we have signature dressings that are unique to us and our consumers have noticed that, which we are very delighted about as we have spent a lot of quality time engineering this,” Shereba explained.
At Lettuceeat they hate the idea of connecting salads with diets: “We do not really cater to a certain diet; this is actually something that we are trying to change about the perception of salads. Most people see salads as diet food, something boring and tasteless, which we are definitely NOT. That is why we have all sorts of exciting salads that can cater to any food philosophy: ducan , paleo, etc., but what we really want to reach is for Egyptian consumers to get into the mentality of eating right and not dieting.”
“Diets are pre-historic; eating deliciously right is our ultimate goal,” Shereba concluded.