Restaurant Reopening Diaries: David Ina of Zaytoon Lebanese Kitchen

Does quarantine have you craving the comforts of homemade shawarma or fresh baklava? If so, you’re in luck. David Ina, owner of Zaytoon Lebanese Kitchen, is safely providing his customers with authentic Lebanese food, whether dining on the newly reopened patio or eating at home.

Like most Cleveland restaurant owners, Ina struggled with the sudden restrictions on restaurants. For Ina, the most challenging issues resulting from the COVID-19 crisis were the financial aspects such as paying rent, utilities, and other bills. Zaytoon also experienced customers canceling and postponing their pre-booked catering events.

David Ina

“We are a small independent restaurant that has been open for less than three years. We finally were getting established, so now I feel like we are almost starting over in a sense,” Ina says.

Foot traffic slowed in Zaytoon’s downtown location, as working professionals transitioned into their home offices. Luckily, Ina was no stranger to carry-out. In fact, his restaurant’s primary business is take-out, which allowed for a smoother transition into the new normal of the restaurant industry.

Ina has taken the opportunity to expand his to-go operations by adding family-style meals and online ordering. Zaytoon’s four-person, family-style meals include gluten-free and vegetarian options, ranging from $32.99 to $47.99.  At $45.99, the shish kabob dinner includes four chicken kabobs, four beef kabobs, a choice of jasmine rice or French fries, garlic sauce, coleslaw, hummus, and pita bread. Not surprisingly, Ina says these family feasts have been extremely successful.

Following the governor’s orders, Zaytoon reopened its patio last Friday, but its indoor seating will remain closed until Ina believes it is safe to dine indoors. According to Ina, all employees’ temperatures are taken before their shifts. The restaurant is cleaned daily, hand sanitizer is available to customers and Zaytoon employees, and protective plexiglass covers the front of the cash registers.

Although Zaytoon has experienced unfortunate setbacks, Ina is confident in his business’ longevity. “Restaurant folk are extremely resilient. We will bounce back from this with new and exciting concepts and ideas to continue to serve people food,” says Ina. “I know there will be some good to come out of this eventually.”

Ellie Roberto

Read the other entries in our Restaurant Reopening Diaries series:

Zack Bruell of Parallax, L’Albatros, and Alley Cat Oyster Bar

Brandon Chrostowski of EDWINS

Tammy Phillip of Wine Down & Sweets