|Crepaway founder reflects on 19 years
For me, this company is everything
Daily Star staff
Charles Thoumy remembers business in the early days. The
cramped shipping container in Kaslik; the war-time sandbags he stacked to save his
establishment; and moms kitchen, where the now famous crepe recipe was inspired.
It was originally my brothers idea, said Thoumy, part owner of Crepaway
Lebanons fastest-growing food chain, which recently expanded into multi-million
dollar franchises across the region.
When my brother returned from university in the US, he said: Lets do
something. Lets start a small crepe restaurant, Thoumy recalled.
Perfected by their mother, and encouraged by the fact that her crepe was the rage
among friends, the two college-aged brothers decided to commercialize their home
product. They invested some $5,000 in cooking equipment and a used shipping container in
1984, when bloody civil strife was in full swing.
During the war you had to do something, you couldnt just stay in the house.
You had to make money, you had to do something just
With friends huddled inside the teetering container-turned-kitchen, things suddenly looked
bright to the young entrepreneurs, despite the surrounding chaos.
It was really great, we were like a small community. We were all friends and we all
made crepes, he said.
According to Thoumy, the concept took off because crepes were a relative novelty at the
time. And with no real dining room, the name Crepe-away was born.
The young entrepreneurs managed to save enough to open a real restaurant a
year later in Maameltein. And despite the continuing war, they branched out and expanded
into new outlets in Achrafieh and Broummana.
Today Crepaway employs some 300 workers, owns 12 locations in Lebanon, and operates large
franchises in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Future locations in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and
Qatar are expected to open in about a year, Thoumy said, adding that European expansion is
also very likely.
Crepaway is, was and always will be our baby. For me, the company is
Aspiring young entrepreneurs should set achievable goals, not shy away from 16 hour
work days. They should also place strong emphasis on staff retention, he said.
We really try to keep up good relations with our employees. We dont just sit
back in our offices and act like big bosses. We go out on the floor and initiate the
spirit of teamwork.
Employees can purchase stock in the company, and many have stayed with Crepaway since the
1980s, he added.
If you want success in your business, then you really have to live in your business.
You have to feel with it and give it all youve got, because business is not easy,
and success is not a lottery ticket.
Also a professor of marketing at Universite Saint Joseph, Thoumy constantly preaches about
the endless opportunities available in Lebanon, urging his students to have confidence in
Anyone who starts a new business should first place trust in his country; second,
they should be serious avoid short-term goals just to make a quick buck, and really
love their country, and work here for the long term.
There are so many opportunities in Lebanon, he added. Everything in
Lebanon is an opportunity. The food industry, the technology sector: Everyone has a chance
if they work properly and correctly, and love their work.
Crepaway aims to open a franchise in every Arab country, and even in some European cities,
but the focus will always be on Lebanon, he said.
We are proud to be Lebanese and we dont ever want to move our offices abroad.
We had many opportunities to do so during the war, but we stayed because our country needs
all of us to survive.
Reflecting on 19 years of Crepaways history, Thoumys only regret involves what
the local restaurant sector might have been without the war.
It was really a stupid war, nobody wanted it and nobody knows why we had the war.
Lebanese like to go out, have fun and eat, drink and live.