2 Filipinos set up UAE resto, hire 17 jobless OFWs

Venturing into entrepreneurship after more than a decade of being overseas workers, two Filipinas have set up a seafood restaurant and hired 17 compatriots, who have been unemployed due to the pandemic, as dining slowly makes a comeback with eased restrictions.

“This is something we are proud of, as we have given jobs to 17 individuals, who have families to provide for (back home),” said Lourds Adalia Evertse of Laguna.

She arrived in the United Arab Emirates fresh from college in 2007, and has since climbed the corporate ladder from being an administrative staff to being a top executive at a business set-up consultancy firm in Dubai, where she stayed for 10 years.

Evertsa said there were around 200 applicants, majority of whom worked in the food, beverage, and hospitality sectors.

“There were chefs, waiters and waitresses, baristas, even cruise ship staff, among others,” said Evertse, 34, a hotel and restaurant management degree holder, who herself became jobless when the global economic slump hit Dubai in 2009.

“We asked everyone their story and were moved about their struggles during these trying times, which was why we decided to prioritize those who have lost their jobs,” Evertse said.

Owners Cristine Caringal Melad and Lourds Adalia Evertse explain the concept of their restaurant to their guests at the grand opening of the Spice Grill Restaurant in Al Majaz, Sharjah. Photo by Leslie Pableo

She said that as the restaurant prospers, they plan to hire more people, with preference for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Challenging

Setting up a business during the pandemic, with all the restrictions in the movement of people, was very challenging.

“It has been very difficult financially, and with a lot of changes and delay because of the situation. Our opening was pushed back, but our suppliers and the government have been very helpful and considerate,” said Maria Cristine Caringal Melad, who arrived in the UAE 12 years ago with a broadcast communication degree and has partnered with Evertse in this business endeavor.

Among those who threw support for their restaurant project was the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), said Melad.

Melad, who took the leap from the corporate world to the restaurant business, said it was all about following what the heart desires.

“I became a chef because I've always have a huge passion for food and the nature of it. Being a chef and, at the same time, an entrepreneur in the food industry, I can express ideas through food and think of innovative ways to present it,” said 35-year-old Melad.

She said the restaurant, named Spice Grill and located at the Al Majaz WaterFront in Sharjah, a neighboring city north of Dubai, will “take the concept to the next level” with offers at affordable prices and a 10% discount during the opening days.

The restaurant opened on October 23 with dignitaries such as Vice Consul Elizabeth Ramos and two officials from Shurooq, Omar Abdulaziz Taryam and Eman Mohammad Al Mokdad, gracing the event.

“Since some were still hesitant to go out, we will be introducing delivery of party trays for groups and families to be enjoyed at the comfort of their home. We have plans which are almost in its final stages to import some exotic and most requested seafood from Philippines,” Melad said.

“We took a careful decisive management approach on this. Every day is a learning process for us,” she added. – Rappler.com