The story of Habibi & Hawara – a social entrepreneur’s food heaven
Habibi, the Arabic word for my darling, and Hawara, the Viennese word for close friend. Put it together and you get Habibi & Hawara, the first restaurant in Vienna operated by refugees. Brace yourself for a journey full of Habibi’s Oriental hospitality, food, and spices mixed with a dash of Hawara’s Viennese humor, quality, and ingredients.
Upon our arrival at Habibi & Hawara, conveniently located in Vienna’s city center, Sam and myself are taken on a short tour through the restaurant by Katha Häckl-Schinkinger, one of the masterminds behind Habibi & Hawara. As she tells us, the story started in 2015 as a small project during the so-called “refugee crisis”. Instead of complaining and doing nothing, she and Martin Rohla, the second co-founder, wanted to get active and provide real solutions. And a solution they did provide: in 2016, the restaurant Habibi & Hawara served its first meal in its current location. Since then a lot has happened. First and foremost: local growth. The restaurant recently expanded and can now host up to an impressive 200 people. Furthermore, it tripled its revenue since 2016. Why is that important? Well, in Habibi & Hawara’s case more guests do not only mean more revenue but, more importantly, it also means more impact, since it operates as a social business.
As the name reveals, a social business is situated between NGOs and for-profit companies. Like an NGO its primary objective is to solve a social problem. At the same time, it aims to create a revenue stream to be self-sustainable, like a for-profit company. Sounds pretty good, right? So, how does Habibi & Hawara do it? The social part: refugees are employed by Habibi & Hawara as restaurant staff with the goal of creating employment and inclusion. The business part: people like you and I are happy to pay for the delicious food and the welcoming service.
“We currently are a team of 24 people, 16 of which with a refugee background.”, Katha tells us. “We do not only offer a job to our employees but also qualification and support. Our employees are not just staff, they are social entrepreneurs themselves”. This connects perfectly to the plans that lie ahead of Habibi & Hawara: establishing a social franchise system for food takeaways. The franchisees (the people operating the new ventures) will mainly be their current employees. And the big plan is getting real right now: A second restaurant is going to open in September in Vienna’s second district, the Nordbahnviertel. In addition, Habibi & Hawara just launched a crowdfunding campaign on Greenrocket until 5th of June in order to finance their future franchise outlets.
But enough of the story, I think you get that I am excited by now. On to the food. For lunch you can either choose from a buffet (for the fair price of 15.90€) or dishes from the menu. Sam and I were invited by Habibi & Hawara to try the first option. As you might be aware by now, Sam and I are food-lovers. And whoa, all the boxes were ticked when it came to the food. Vast choices, flavourful dishes, interesting combinations – all of which made by local, seasonal and, wherever possible, organic ingredients. I will never be able to give you a full list of all the food we had since it was so overwhelming but to give you some highlights: hummus, tameya (an Egyptian version of falafel), an amazing okra stew and a chickpea aubergine salad. And some more good news to all vegetarian and vegans (you go people!) out there: more than half of the dishes are suited for plant-based eaters. And some even more good news: when opting for the buffet, you can get as many refills as you want.
What else is there to mention? The focus on impact at Habibi & Hawara is not only related to employment but the entire restaurant: the Austrian and Oriental-inspired furniture in the restaurant is mostly upcycled. In addition, food waste is avoided, waste recycled and energy saved proactively.
After a small food coma, we said goodbye to Katha and asked her our final question: what do you want in the future? She replied: “to rule the world.” Can you imagine? A world full of social, welcoming and inclusive people that also cook amazing food. If you, like us at Vanguard Voyager, find that very worth supporting, please do so by visiting Habibi & Hawara and supporting their crowdfunding campaign.
Shukran & Danke.
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