Çınarlar Pide and Pizza in Kaş, is run by the brothers Karaağaç; Fırat, Hamit and Cüneyit. Their cousin Hüseyin Akyol is their chief waiter and another cousin, Hüseyin Özçelik, is their pide chef. Their pan food chef is Kahraman Deniz. Theirs is a true family business in every way.
We met with 26 year old Fırat a few days ago and came away with a deeper appreciation of the meaning of family.
Fırat was born into a family of nine brothers and two sisters; he is number eight out of the nine. They come from Tepe village (köyü) near Bismilnearly 100 km from Diyarbakir in the eastern part of Turkey.
Their parents were farmers of tobacco and cotton and the brothers all worked on the farm until they were old enough to leave. Fırat left in 1995 when he was 11 and travelled to Kaş where he started working with his brother Meki in the old Smiley’s restaurant. Fırat worked there until 1998. He decided he wanted to leave Kaş for a while and moved to Marmaris where two of his brothers, Recep and Neytullah, had a restaurant called Piccadilly. Fırat stayed with them for two years learning the restaurant business and gaining experience working as a bus boy and a waiter, cleaning and doing other jobs.
In 2000, Meki decided to start his own restaurant so he rented the old Çınarlar oven and corner cafe and asked his brothers, Fırat, Hamit and Cüneyet to join him. After four successful years, Meki decided to take over the management of Meydan Pizzawith his uncle Cengiz (called Jimmy by the family) and cousin Cafer. The remaining brothers continued managing Çınarlar. At that same time, the new building on the corner across from the old Çınarlar was built and the garden area behind it was offered to Çınarlar so they could expand their seating capacity. They can now comfortably seat 80 people at a time and they average three turnovers of a crowd in a normal evening. They stay busy from June right through September and close after October 29; they open up again in April. During the winter months most of them go back to their home village to spend time with their family. Their mother and two sisters are retired from farming and now only rent out the land they own.
The brothers all share their summer income with the entire family. For example, if a brother is getting married, they help him buy or rent a house. If another needs a car they all chip in to help buy the car. Fırat has an older brother Hakan who went to Middle East Technical University (ODTU ) and earned his PhD in Physics. At the time, the family decided that at least one of them should become a formally educated person, so they sent him off to high school and then university! During the 2011-2012 academic year, Hakan is participating in a one year post-doctoral study program at the University of California-Davis in the United States. He is on a TUBITAK scholarship and when he finishes in the USA, he will return as a researcher for TUBITAK.
When asked about the success of these brothers in not just one but several successful restaurants, Fırat had to think about it a while and then decided that there were several reasons. One reason is that they have a good location; people walk by during the day, look at their menu and often return for dinner that evening or lunch the next day. Because of this they also have a nice breakfast crowd. Another reason is that, in this location, people can see the food being prepared in the oven, which is slightly below street level. This perspective affords an easy peek into how they prepare their pide, pizza, salads and other dishes. Seeing how carefully the food is prepared makes people feel good about eating there. They also cook all the food themselves so the care they put into it shows when it is served and hungry customers dig in. They also have a very good stone oven (taş fırın) that makes for a very tasty bread for their pide and pizza, as well as for their long, crispy, hollow and light-as-air bread they serve as a starter.
Fırat says one of the best reasons they have success is that all the brothers and cousins love their work and it shows when interacting with customers. The brothers are always friendly and enjoy meeting new people, they laugh a lot, they make jokes with people, often in different languages, and obviously have a good time serving their courses and making people feel good about eating there.
We asked him about his ability to make people laugh and to joke with them. Fırat says he thinks he does have a good sense of humour but he could not make people laugh at him and themselves if the food and service was not good. In that case, customers and staff would not have much to laugh about! He believes that when people are enjoying their food and the environment, it is easy to make them laugh.
Fırat and most of his brothers and cousins have a good command of English. Hüseyin Akyol also speaks very good German. The ability to move from language to language makes customers at ease and easily enjoy themselves. Fırat said they all learned English by speaking with and listening to customers. He did some English study for two months a few winters ago with the Kaş Tourism Manager to learn better grammar, otherwise he has never had lessons.
He believes that he should “always do my best” no matter how busy they get and never make excuses if something does go wrong. It seldom does happen but when it does, he simply apologises, gives the customer a free meal and hopes they will understand and return later. They have many friends who are return customers and look forward to seeing them year after year.
frat_cinarlar07 (at) hotmail.com
tepe2107 (at) hotmail.com