Lebanese Taverna Group
Washington, D.C., Metro Area
This Mediterranean restaurant, largely credited with introducing “hommus” to the Metro DC region, has grown to 13 locations since it was founded by the Abi-Najm family in 1979, just a few years after escaping the Civil War in Lebanon
Always quick to provide meals for fundraisers and other events, the family considers community service a “founding principle,” although Grace Abi-Najm Shea, the youngest of five siblings (also Dory, Dany, David, and Gladys) who manage the business together, says their parents wouldn’t have called it that. “As immigrants, so many people helped us become a part of the community; it was only natural to give back.”
Over the past 18+ months, giving back has meant providing meals to healthcare workers through organizations such as Food for Others and Feed the Fight. “It felt good to be part of a system where people with resources helped restaurants help healthcare workers,” says Shea.
It also meant raising $150,000 for the Lebanese Red Cross and World Central Kitchen, following an explosion in Beirut in 2020, and preparing 5,000 meals for Afghan refugees who arrived at Dulles International Airport after a harrowing 12-20 hour journey. “I was only two when my family fled Lebanon, but seeing the families brought stories from my childhood alive,” says Shea.
During this time, the family made many “pandemic pivots.” With its catering business halted for a year, they introduced “Neighborhood Delivery” for groups of 10 or more. They rethought the school fundraiser. Instead of dining in, families pre-ordered meals which were delivered to their cars when they picked up their students, and the schools earned 15 percent of the proceeds.
Never expecting anything in return, the family was moved by the support shown by customers during the early days of the pandemic. One customer purchased $10,000 in gift cards, and many tipped generously. “We felt this lift from the community, and it was beautiful,” says Shea.