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Posted: April 1, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Buy local...Borage Grill

Photo by Gabe Khouli/

Zia Tusmani believes there are three key elements to any successful restaurant: quality, pricing and service. Tusmani is the owner and main cook of Borage Grill in Olde Town Conyers and he said he practices those elements every day.

Quality meals begin with quality ingredients and Tusmani buys and cooks only the best, freshest food he can find. All of the vegetables are brought to the store fresh every morning. All of the sauces and marinades are made from scratch every day. All of the meat is organic, and the lamb in particular is delivered all the way from Australia. It's the "most expensive, highest quality" lamb available, Tusmani said.

"We don't keep anything in the (refrigerator)," he said. "We keep nothing overnight. Everything is fresh and prepared (the same day.)"

Any food that is left over is either given to local food banks or taken home by employees.

Some of Borage Grill's specialties include grilled lamb, shish taouk, the freshly baked bread, the Mediterranean pizzas and the Borage Sip, an aromatic tea.

Tusmani keeps his prices as low as possible to draw in and keep as many customers as he can. So far his strategy is working, as about 90 percent of his business is made up of returning customers. Entrées, which comes with rice and bread, cost between $5.65 and $7.95. Platters, which are entrées with two side dishes included, cost an extra $2 per meal. Tusmani said people often ask him how he can afford to charge such low prices. He said his small overhead cost and his volume of business help him keep prices down.

The third element is service and that applies to both the customers and the employees. Tusmani has attentive servers and the cooks make sure the food is prepared in a timely manner. Most of the employees are trained in each job, making the staff more versatile and able to adapt to needs.

However, the staff is treated equally well by Tusmani. His seven employees are placed in an employee benefit program and at the end of the year 20 percent of the yearly profits will be split between the employees. On top of that each employee gets free meals.

Tusmani also tries to serve the community by donating money to local churches and schools. He's hoping to make his restaurant into more than just a place to eat. Tusmani is planning on adding several events in April, including a kids eat free night, where they can make their own pizza, a spouse eats free night, live music nights and a Sunday all-you-can-eat brunch buffet. And to top it off, Borage Grill delivers within a 5-mile radius.

Tusmani is hoping that his quality, pricing and service will continue to attract customers and quality staff. Even though Borage Grill has only been open for four months, Tusmani is already planning to franchise the restaurant. A handful of investors have approached him with the idea of opening more stores in Georgia and he has plans for a branch restaurant/regional office in Maryland.

But for now Tusmani is taking it one customer at a time.

"I believe Mediterranean food will work here," he said. "I'm bringing something new to the area and making a place people will want to come to. It may take one customer at a time, but we'll get there."


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