Her Restaurant Is Like Family. Its Fate Hangs in the Balance.
For Fava Pot owner Dina Daniel, the pandemic has brought heartbreaking choices, and optimism.
Fava Pot’s sales dropped precipitously during quarantine (as of late June, they were at 40% to 50% of normal). Yet Daniel remains resolute about maintaining her full menu and not raising prices, even though the costs of goods and disposables have shot up.
“Here’s how the equation is still working. We put in extra work on our side, rotating all the jobs to be able to serve the same quality without increasing prices,” she explains. “You can’t raise prices. Not even 10 cents. This is a survival struggle.”
She insists on using compostable takeout products. “A dinner container costs me $1.10. Styrofoam would be less than 10 cents, but I chose to go green and [provide] a nice, appetizing presentation. I don’t want you sitting at home in the middle of a pandemic and eating out of foam and foil.”
In March, sourcing ingredients such as halal chicken and meat, grass-fed veal, and wheat bran and yeast for the bread became difficult. Daniel recalls schlepping all over the DMV in search of specific items, to places like Restaurant Depot (a wholesale food supplier) in Alexandria and Capitol Heights, Maryland; H Mart supermarkets in Annandale and Falls Church; and Aphrodite Greek Imports in Falls Church. Yeast was particularly scarce. She’d comb multiple grocery stores and buy up all the packets she could find.
“Then my contact at Restaurant Depot in Alexandria, with whom I’d been doing business for six years, called me and said, ‘Hey! The truck will be here at 6 a.m. tomorrow. You need to be here!’ And I went, because you have to understand, bread is a main item in our restaurant, not a side item. It’s so important to Egyptian food.”
Packaging posed other hurdles. Her supplier, Acme Paper & Supply Co., ran out of the recyclable paper to-go bags she normally uses, and no one else had them. For a month, she had to use the ubiquitous white plastic bags that she abhors. Disposable gloves were also hard to come by, as was hand sanitizer, deemed a necessity at any cost.
And then there was the rent. Daniel reached out to her landlord, EDENS, with a copy of her sales report from March. They initially offered her a two-month postponement, but no lease forgiveness.
In June, she reached out again. “I said, ‘I’m not here to go out of business; I’m here to stay in business. So postponing the rent is not a solution. Let’s talk about solutions.’ ”
This time they came to an equitable agreement, the terms of which are confidential. “They made a very reasonable offer that is fair for them and for us,” Daniel says. “I can say that this company is a business partner, not just a landlord. I am so blessed.” (EDENS is also the lessor of the pop-up space at Union Market, as well as her apartment building in Falls Church.)