Business Odyssey

Real Business Stories of Growth, Struggles, Resilience & Success around Denver Metro, Colorado

Culinary Resilience: A Story of Adaptation and Innovation

Written by YeeLing Lee | Operational Efficiency Specialist & Founder of BNP



Key Takeaways

  • A Remarkable Journey from Struggle to Success
  • Billboard Marketing: Advertising Success
  • Pandemic Resilience: How Byblos Weathered the Storm
  • Staffing Strategies: Building a Dedicated Team
  • Byblos’ Vision & Commitment to Exceptional Dining Experiences



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Interview with Yousef Khraim

Byblos Greek & Lebanese Cafe

Denver, Greenwood Village, Highlands Ranch

Running a restaurant is not for the faint-hearted. It requires dedication, resilience, and the ability to adapt to unexpected challenges. In the challenging world of restaurant ownership, the remarkable journey of Cousins Yousef and Justin with Byblos Cafe serves as an inspiring testament to the trials and triumphs of the industry. With three thriving locations in Denver, Greenwood Village, and Highlands Ranch, Byblos is nestled in the heart of Greek and Lebanese cuisine, where it brings forth a tantalizing fusion of flavors and an artful balance between generous portions and mindful preparation. Among their signature delights is the Chicken Shawarma and Gyros Combo Plate, a masterpiece that encapsulates the essence of their culinary expertise.

The Beginnings

Acquiring Byblos and Reconstructing Everything

In 2017, Cousins Yousef and Justin embarked on an ambitious endeavor when they acquired Byblos Restaurant. As seasoned restaurant managers, they were well-acquainted with the fast-paced environment of the culinary industry. However, taking the reins as owners of an establishment was an entirely different beast.

Their journey commenced with the daunting task of reconstructing not just the restaurant’s operations and management but also its menu and physical space. Byblos underwent a transformation, emerging as a unique dining experience that would soon capture the hearts and palates of their customers.

Navigating the Unknown

Despite their extensive background in restaurant management, their previous experiences had primarily revolved around well-established dining establishments. The transition from seasoned managers to restaurant owners was akin to stepping into uncharted territory. They quickly realized that running a restaurant wasn’t just about knowing the ins and outs of the kitchen or managing the staff. It was a multifaceted challenge that demanded a deeper understanding of marketing strategies and financial management.

Entrepreneurial Resilience

During the early stages of their Byblos ownership journey, Cousins Yousef and Justin faced the financial challenges that often accompany restaurant entrepreneurship. To navigate this period of uncertainty, Yousef took on the role of an Uber driver during the restaurant’s slower times, while Justin tirelessly managed the day-to-day operations of the restaurant.

Yousef’s time as an Uber driver was not merely about making ends meet; it was a testament to the unwavering commitment and resilience required in the face of adversity. It highlighted the stark reality that success in the restaurant industry, like any entrepreneurial endeavor, demands perseverance, adaptability, and a willingness to go the extra mile—sometimes quite literally.

The Marketing Odyssey

Billboard Discovery

One fateful day, Yousef stumbled upon a game-changing revelation – the potential of billboard marketing. However, their initial foray into billboard advertising did not yield the desired results. The first attempt with half-sized boards in a few locations failed to make the expected impact. Undeterred, Yousef took matters into his own hands and designed a captivating billboard himself, featuring a sumptuous-looking hummus dish. The result? Within a mere two weeks, their sales began to snowball.

This billboard not only attracted more customers but also won the national billboard design award, becoming an iconic symbol of Byblos’ success. From that moment on, billboard advertising became a staple in their marketing arsenal, proving that sometimes unconventional ideas can lead to remarkable success.

Marketing Adventures

Before embracing billboard advertising, they explored various alternative channels, each with distinct challenges. Direct mail campaigns proved ineffective for their unique restaurant, and social media’s potential reach on Facebook did not deliver the expected ROI. Limited experience in online advertising with Google left them struggling for visibility and customer impact. Their marketing journey unveiled the intricate landscape of restaurant industry advertising, but their persistence and openness to diverse avenues eventually paid off as they honed their marketing strategy to perfection.

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Restaurant Owners Need SOPs

Weathering the Storm: A Resilient Response to COVID

The year 2020 brought unprecedented challenges to the restaurant industry, with the onset of the COVID pandemic. As the world grappled with uncertainty and businesses shuttered their doors, Yousef and Justin faced a daunting predicament with Byblos Restaurant.

Amid this, Yousef and Justin recognized a unique advantage – people still needed to eat. In a bold and courageous move, they chose to keep their restaurant operational when it seemed like the world around them was shutting down. This decision not only defied conventional wisdom but also challenged the industry’s norms. However, it came at a considerable cost; they had to part ways with their entire staff, leaving them with the daunting task of running the restaurant themselves once more. Yousef and Justin became a two-man powerhouse.

This hands-on approach was not just a testament to their dedication but also a lifeline for Byblos during these tumultuous times. Their hard work and unwavering commitment bore fruit as their loyal customers began to return, a heartening sign that their persistence was paying off. With each passing day, the restaurant’s resurgence became more evident, and they knew it was time to rebuild their team.

Slowly but surely, they started to rehire the employees they had reluctantly let go. It was a symbolic moment in their journey, signifying not only their restaurant’s revival but also their promise to their staff. By regaining their team, they not only lightened their own workload but also breathed life back into their business.

As restrictions gradually eased, Byblos found itself not just surviving but thriving in the post-pandemic world. The loyal customer base they had built through their advertising efforts remained intact, and new customers were drawn in by their reputation for resilience and quality.

Mastering the Art of Operations

Operations at Byblos are finely tuned, driven by a combination of experience, streamlined training, and a concise menu. Yousef and Justin’s knack for hiring individuals with prior experience ensures a workforce that’s not only easy to train but also quick to adapt. The simplicity of their menu further facilitates smooth operations, making it easy for the staff to maintain consistency in preparation and service.

With managers overseeing each location, Yousef and Justin can confidently divert their attention to expansion opportunities. They’ve crafted a robust system and set of processes for their managers to follow, ensuring that the Byblos brand retains its high standards across multiple locations. About 70% of their procedures and processes are meticulously documented, leaving the remaining 30% in the realm of employee common sense and judgment.

This efficiency in operations has granted Yousef and Justin the freedom to explore new ventures. In a testament to their trust in their team, they were able to spend up to six months away from their three existing locations when presented with the opportunity to open a restaurant in Texas alongside friends. Their absence did not disrupt operations, as their well-structured system and dedicated team of managers and employees ensured a seamless continuation of Byblos’ success story.

Management Wisdom

The foundation of Byblos’ enduring success lies not only in its delicious cuisine but also in its management philosophy.

Training the All-Round Employee

One of the cornerstones of Byblos’ success is its commitment to training well-rounded employees. They firmly believe that every team member should possess the skills and knowledge to handle both front-end and back-end operations. This approach ensures that the staff is not only versatile but also capable of seamlessly adapting to various roles within the restaurant when a member is absent.

Imagine a bustling evening at Byblos, where the dining area is abuzz with hungry patrons, and the kitchen is working at full throttle to meet the demand. In such high-pressure situations, their all-around employees shine. They can effortlessly transition from taking orders and providing top-notch customer service to assisting in the kitchen when needed. This versatility not only enhances the customer experience but also ensures operational efficiency, even during peak hours.

Hiring for the Right Attitude

Influenced by Yousef’s people skills, their hiring process focuses on individuals with the right skills and a good attitude. They sort employees into three categories:

  1. Positive attitude and strong worker (The Keepers)
  2. Negative attitude but good worker (Temporary Solution)
  3. Positive attitude but underperformer (Temporary Retention)

Their experience has taught them that within just 2-3 days of hiring, they can identify which category an employee falls into. This approach ensures that Byblos maintains a motivated and productive team, where positivity and strong work ethics are valued.

Swift Problem Resolution

Managing employees also involves addressing issues promptly and effectively. This is where their initial strictness comes into play. They firmly believe in addressing any issues that arise immediately to prevent them from escalating.

While this approach may sometimes result in an employee walking out and not returning, they see it as a positive sign. It’s better to swiftly remove a disruptive element before it can negatively impact the overall team dynamics. Their management style balances strictness with support, ensuring that the work environment remains positive and productive. Once a solid foundation is established, they transition to providing the support and encouragement that employees need to thrive, fostering a work environment that values growth and professional development.

The Art of Managing Hours

In the restaurant industry, where profit margins can be razor-thin, effective hour management is paramount. They understand the importance of this skill in avoiding redundancies and minimizing waste. By efficiently scheduling staff hours, they ensure that the restaurant operates at peak efficiency without unnecessary overhead.

The Power of Part-Timers

To maintain operational flexibility and quickly replace underperforming workers, Yousef and Justin rely on hiring more part-time employees. This strategic choice ensures that they always have a pool of skilled talent to draw from, minimizing disruptions to their restaurant’s operations.

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Strategic Planning

Yousef’s whiteboard at home serves as a mental clearinghouse, allowing him to declutter his mind and create space for creative thinking and efficient decision-making. To maximize productivity and keep the creative juices flowing, Yousef ensures that every thought, idea, or plan gets jotted down, ensuring they don’t get lost in the shuffle and making room for the continuous flow of new ideas and insights.


Looking back on their journey, Yousef maintains a steadfast belief in the wisdom of acquiring an existing restaurant, a decision driven by several pivotal advantages. Foremost, it proved to be a time-saving measure, sparing them the intricate and time-consuming intricacies of launching a restaurant from the ground up. The acquisition granted them immediate access to a well-established customer base, sidestepping the arduous task of building a clientele from scratch, which can often be a daunting and protracted endeavor. Furthermore, this approach notably simplified the typically cumbersome permit acquisition process, as many essential permits were already in place, streamlining their path toward operational excellence.

Embracing Dine-In Excellence

In the changing restaurant landscape, Yousef’s viewpoint provides insight into Byblos’ future direction. Their thriving Denver location exemplifies this vision, where patrons not only savor delectable dishes but also immerse themselves in a welcoming atmosphere. Byblos recognizes the importance of these elements in elevating the dining experience. Their future plans involve creating more expansive dine-in areas that can accommodate gatherings of various sizes, fostering a sense of togetherness where friends and families can enjoy exceptional cuisine, soak in a vibrant ambiance, and partake in memorable entertainment.


Yousef and Justin’s journey from struggling restaurant owners to thriving entrepreneurs is a testament to their dedication, adaptability, and courage. Their commitment to innovative marketing, effective management, and embracing change revitalized Byblos in the face of adversity, setting an inspiring example for aspiring culinary entrepreneurs.

This is a Full Article. Read Abridged Version.


Yousef Khraim

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