Salambo discovering Ethiopia
Back in Addis after a five-week stay in Europe, I was very disappointed to find out that one of my favourite restaurants, called La Mandoline, had closed down. I liked going there to eat classic French dishes cooked by a French chef born in Ethiopia. I discovered it by pure coincidence wanting to have lunch there last weekend. No sign on the door, no notice, just a completely emptied space. No one would have guessed that there had been a restaurant there only a month previously. I was surprised but not entirely so as this is a common occurence in Addis.
Restaurants don’t close down because of lack of business (if anything La Mandoline was very popular and always full) but because the landlords who are renting the place out are getting more greedy. Once they see that a business is doing well, they start asking an unreasonable rent which is becoming unsustainable for the tenant. It’s probably the fifth restaurant I see closing down in less than two years (there must be even more). The property boom is such that landlords think they can ask anything. The same goes for residential properties where rent levels have gone up by more than 50 percent in the past two years. Probably demand is exceeding supply but also there is no sense of building up a long-term relationship.
As a result, it becomes very difficult for restaurant owners in particular to invest into building up a good business in an attractive location when they don’t have the security of a long-term lease. Once they’ve turned a basic rental space into a pleasant restaurant where customers want to go back to, the landlords are presenting their excessive requests, leaving them with no option but to quit and find a new location. They end up loosing six months of crucial business in the process as well as the motivation to start from scratch again. The current motto in Addis is to go for quick gain, no matter the consequences. In the meantime, I will have to find out what happened exactly to La Mandoline.