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The Israeli Restaurant Industry in Difficulties Posted by on Oct 7, 2019 in Today's Israel

Israelis love food (אֹוכֶל). They love to eat, they enjoy cooking, they spend most of their family time around the dining table (שֻׁלְחָן), and they eat out a lot. But in the last couple of years, more and more dining businesses (עֲסָקִים) are closing down.

Image via Pixabay

The Israeli culinary scene is still vibrant. Tel Aviv Eat, the city food festival, took place in May for the fourth time. A new food festival called Fun Dining Week took place during July. Two new pop-up stores selling stuffed fried milk buns and Sufganiyot were opened for the summer in Tel Aviv. A new delivery service (שֵׁרוּת מִשְׁלוֹחׅים) which features only Kanafah has opened in Haifa. But for several years in a row the number of restaurants (מִסְעָדוֺת) in Israel has continued to decline.

Unfortunately, more restaurants closed than opened. Many of the restaurants that had closed their doors lately are famous (מְפֻרְסָם) older restaurants. The time-honored Orna and Ella, for example, existing since 1992, was not only a culinary institution, but one of Tel Aviv’s chic symbols. With tasty (טָעִים) food, homemade ingredients (רְכִיבׅים), simple décor, exclusively male waiters (מֶלְצַרׅים), and located in the artistic Shenkin street, Orna and Ella became popular among locals and tourists. Many celebs had visited the restaurant frequently, enjoying its iconic dishes (check out the Orna and Ella Hashtag on Instagram for  a look at their famous dishes), including Natalie Portman on her private visits to Israel. Their closure announcement, after 25 of serving delicious food, was widely covered.

The famed Orna and Ella is not the only restaurant to shut business down after years of successful service. The Italian Bellini restaurant provided authentic atmosphere, enhanced by rustic Italian decoration and a great open kitchen (מִטְבָּח), while serving classical dishes (מָנוֺת), for 24 years. Last year the restaurant closed down. Another famous restaurant to shut doors in 2018 was the Georgian restaurant Nanuchka. Opened 16 years ago, Nanuchka was wildly popular thanks to its vibrant bar that was often a stage for late-night partiers. After the owner became vegan in 2014, Nanuchka was the first chef restaurant in Israel to serve a complete vegan menu (תַּפְרִיט). The place continued to thrive until last year.

Image via Pixabay

Not only well-established restaurants caved in. It happened to new promising restaurants as well. One of Israel celebrity chef (שֶׁף), a judge in the reality TV show MasterChef Israel, had to close down his restaurant after just 10 months. Al Noor Café, another high-profile eatery, has received critics’ applause and a good number of diners (סוֹעֲדׅים), was also out of business after nine months.

The restaurant business was always hard, but in the last two-three years it got much worse. The higher minimum wage (שְׂכַר מִינִימוּם) and the higher prices (מְחִירׅים) of ingredients have raised costs. Lately restaurateurs are facing bigger challenges. A new tax (מַס) on foreign workers came into effect in 2018. Estimates are that the restaurant industry employs about 10,000 asylum seekers, mainly in cleaning and dishwashing. The tax is equal to 20% of their gross salary and was imposed retroactively. Another challenge, starting from January 2019, is a labor court ruling that tips (טִיפּׅים, תֶּשֶׁר) are to be regarded as part of servers’ pay, meaning that they will be taxed, used to set pension contributions and social benefits.

The following video has interviews with the restaurateurs (מִסְעֲדָנׅים) and demonstrates their difficulties:


Text vocabulary

Food = אֹוכֶל

Table = שֻׁלְחָן

Business = עֵסֶק

Delivery service = שֵׁרוּת מִשְׁלוֹחׅים

Restaurant = מִסְעָדָה

Famous = מְפֻרְסָם

Tasty = טָעִים

Ingredient = רְכִיב

Waiters = מֶלְצַר

Kitchen = מִטְבָּח

Dish =מָנָה

Menu = תַּפְרִיט

Chef = שֶׁף

Diner = סוֹעֵד

Minimum wage = שְׂכַר מִינִימוּם

Price = מְחִיר

Tax = מַס

Tip = טִיפּ, תֶּשֶׁר

Restaurateur = מִסְעֲדָן


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