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Meet Sierra Leone’s Essential Workers: The Restaurant Owner

by Alhassan Lamin
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When I opened my restaurant last year, it was to offer a casual dining experience. We had open mic nights and encouraged people to come in to eat. Then the pandemic hit. First, it was the lock-down, and we shut down for a week. Then, the social distancing measures were put in place. We had to let go of 12 staff members and business shut down.

Then one day, I made a pizza and convinced a patron to try it. He loved it. He asked how often we made pizza and I said “always,” even though it was the first time we had made pizza. At the time, it was just my brother and I, we didn’t have any more staff. That one customer told another person and that’s how we went from casual dining to a fast food pizzeria. We now sell pizza to people across the city who are looking for something to share at home. Business is better now than when we were running a full restaurant. ⁠

I believe that there are opportunities for any problem. The pandemic has allowed me to be innovative, not just with our restaurant’s response to the crisis, but even with the way that we make our pizza. I created a special tomato sauce for our pizza which has a Sierra Leonean flavor to it. I use lime leaves and ginger. I hired one more person who helps me in the kitchen, but most times, it’s just me making the pizzas. I really enjoy cooking, and I always imagined I would retire and own a restaurant but this is it now. You can’t leave your business for anyone else to manage. ⁠

Credit: Essential Stories/OSIWA

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