BEIRUT: At La Cigale in Zalka, you’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for a room for the night and a romantic dinner for two or, for that matter, a wedding cake, a kilo of Gruyere cheese or a box of imported cornflakes.
As if La Cigale’s concept wasn’t already a curious mixture of luxury delicatessen plus hotel, the new management is in the process of expanding to offer even more venues, products and services. Last week, the deli-hotel showed off a new sushi counter, updated ice cream offerings and a live cooking station.
Those particular changes aim at younger clientele, those interested in sushi served on a conveyor belt and prepackaged dinners rather than 400 grams of Roquefort and a bottle of 2006 Pavillon Rouge.
“These things are already present, but we made them more elaborate to create a younger concept for a younger clientele. And also we want to enhance our product and our product line so that we can be more updated,” owner Gaby Bou Samra told The Daily Star by phone.
Bou Samra and a business partner have recently taken the helm at La Cigale after his father and then brothers jointly owned the outlet since 1964. There are now three delis, in Ras Beirut, Ashrafieh and Zalka, north of Beirut, with the deli-hotel in Zalka housing three restaurants, a piano bar and a reception hall.
The owners say the ongoing changes to La Cigale are necessary updates to modernize the franchise’s products and services. They are planning to take over the nearby parking lot to build a larger banquet venue for 600-700 people and modern hotel suites, Bou Samra said. The new space will also include a larger retail area for the deli and its new subsections.
“We are studying a plan to construct a new building on the parking lot so that we can create a bigger retail area, meaning enhancing the live cooking, expanding the food center to give each sector its presence,” he said. “Maybe an ice cream counter, an area for the pastry and chocolate gift items ... [for] the sushi maybe a bar with a moving belt.”
And the list goes on.
Another deli-hotel outlet is in the works for Downtown Beirut, and Bou Samra wants to expand the concept outside of Lebanon, he said. With each expansion, Bou Samra continues to keep his eye on a modern, younger clientele with more catered food options.
“It’s a unique concept,” Bou Samra said. “We had stressed on the wine, cheese, cold cuts and the spirits ... plus exotic fruits and vegetables. The catering now is for the young generation who don’t cook anymore. We do the job for you.”