Hampton restauranteur Alex Ghannoum had been watching Qoin with interest for some time, but it was only last week that he decided it was time to test the water.

“I thought we’d be silly not to try it. I’m curious to see how Qoin works out for us.”

This Sunday, he’ll be in his element when his restaurant Our Casa hosts a Valentine’s Day dinner. For $50 a head, guests get an entrée, main course and dessert, plus a glass of prosecco on arrival.

Naturally Alex will be accepting Qoin!

Reaching new customers, new suppliers

As well as reaching new customers for Our Casa, he sees a benefit in connecting with a network of new suppliers who also use Qoin.

“You can start affiliating with different types of businesses you never thought of using. That’s when business works best.”

While he has plenty of business experience, hospitality is in his blood. Alex grew up working in the kitchen of his grandfather’s Middle Eastern restaurant, before deciding the family business was not for him.

He spent the next 20 years working for big business, including a stint as state manager for Nick Scali and Godfreys.

“I wanted to understand how business worked.”

Alex Ghannoum

By early 2018 he was ready for a new challenge. In December 2018, he opened a restaurant in Hampton, an affluent bayside suburb of Melbourne. He named it Our Casa (Our Home) because he wanted his customers to think of it as their home away from home, a family-oriented restaurant where Mum and Dad could bring the kids.

“We spent our first year getting to know the locals,” Alex says. “And then there was COVID.”

Of course turnover dropped dramatically during the extended Melbourne lockdowns. The business survived only because of JobKeeper and various state government grants. They also did a lot of takeaways—frozen meals—that enabled them to keep staff employed.

Emerging from COVID lockdown

Since Melbourne emerged from hibernation, they’ve been busy with school and work functions as well as family gatherings.

Of course things are very different from the pre-COVID days when they could host up to 160 people on two levels. These days, Our Casa can accommodate 40 downstairs and 25 upstairs, but at least they’re busy again.

The cuisine showcases local produce—all the wines and beers are Victorian, the milk is from Gippsland, fish and fruit and vegetables are from local suppliers.

Alex has rediscovered his love of cooking—a hangover from the days in his grandfather’s restaurant, he thinks.

At the same time, he loves to be front of house.

“I’m very talkative. I love interacting with our customers, making sure they’re enjoying their evening.”

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