Samer Al-Khatib is the owner of Alijandro’s Kitchen in Mississauga. Alijandro’s Kitchen was originally piloted as a food truck business and in February of 2018 opened its first retail location on the corner of Living Arts Drive and City Centre Drive. Samer’s story begins as an entrepreneur with a mission, to create opportunities for himself and his family in Mississauga. After moving his family from the Middle East to Canada, his strategic planning and leadership qualities has helped him become an established business owner in Mississauga.
When trying to position himself in a new country, Samer leveraged his knowledge of the restaurant business and his passion for food to kick start his own business. Samer researched and studied the restaurant market in Ontario and found that there was a growing demand for healthy eating options, especially when it came to serving the millennials. Samer was able to use this research and his culinary background to develop his Mexican-Mediterranean menu, which includes options such as gluten-free, vegan, and even a green smoothie bar.
Before leasing his retail location in downtown Mississauga, Samer used his food truck and started selling curbside. The food truck business helped him develop and fine-tune his menu, get direct feedback from customers, and develop a business plan for his retail location. Through his research and determination, he was able to acquire the necessary permits to open his retail location.
During the start-up phase of a business, Samer offers some advice on being present in your business.
“Stay on top of your business and be persistent; an absentee owner is a recipe for disaster.” Samer’s mantra has been to do everything himself because he believes that you have to be in the business to make sure its running the way you envisioned it should. Samer makes it a priority to cater to the needs of his customers by listening to them and listening to his staff. For example, he consistently monitors reviews online and trains his team on excellent customer service.
Samer also advises his fellow entrepreneurs on taking risks.
“One of the biggest parts of owning your own business is that you have to be willing to take those risks and as a business owner this is a combination of excitement and fear. You are excited because you get to create your own things but the scary part is that your margin of error is very small. There is a lot of responsibility, its exciting but fear of letting down the customer, my team, and losing the business is intense. This is why your risks should be calculated risks.”
Samer’s goal in the future is to extend the roots of Alijandro’s Kitchen throughout Mississauga. His decision to open Alijandro’s Kitchen was part of his own calculated risks; having anywhere in the GTA to open his business, Samer chose Mississauga because of its dense population, growing community, and growing infrastructure. Samer is confident that with the opportunities Mississauga has to offer, Alijandro’s Kitchen will continue its success.