Ranya’s won’t expand, despite customer demandWritten by Michael Driehorst | | email@example.com
With plenty of lunchtime choices, sometimes it’s a personal touch that makes all the difference.
Najie Olive’s personal touch and daily hands-on presence at Ranya’s Mediterranean has enabled his Downtown Toledo restaurant to keep customers coming back and survive when many are struggling.
“We thrive on our regular customers, but we still get plenty of new customers. Once you try Ranya’s, you get hooked on the food and the ambiance. We make it nice and cozy,” Olive said.
Located at 608 Adams St., Ranya’s Mediterranean is named for Olive’s daughter. He originally opened the restaurant in 1993 as the Olive Branch. However, within a week after opening, a fire destroyed the restaurant. During the two years of planning and rebuilding his restaurant — now located across the street from the old one — Olive returned to his college job and started a landscaping business. Another example of the relaxing and cozy atmosphere is the hours of operation.
“We’re open Monday through Friday, 10ish until about 2ish,” Olive said.
While Ranya’s may feature a family-like atmosphere, Olive is there every day to ensure the Mediterranean-American dishes are of the highest quality.
“We focus on excellent food at reasonable prices,” he added.
For just a dollar or two more, Olive said customers often can get more meal for their money than at nearby restaurant chains.
“Where do you want to put your money, with a local restaurant or one that isn’t?” he said.
Olive said the most popular menu items at Ranya’s are Egyptian lentil soup, arayes (which he called “Arab quesadillas”) and hummus.
There also are a number of “sleeper items” at Ranya’s that Olive said people would enjoy if they tried them. They include foul mudammas — using fava beans pan-fried with garlic, onions and tomatoes in olive oil — and mjadora, a lentil and rice casserole.
“Our food is fresh with no preservatives,” Olive said. “We use a lot of traditional, old family recipes that no one else can serve. I wouldn’t serve anything if I didn’t eat it myself.”
Olive said that his head chef, Said Maul, a native of Tanzania, adds a lot of special flavors and spices to Ranya’s dishes with his experience that includes working as a chef in Greece and in Africa.
Many of Ranya’s Mediterranean’s customers come from the surrounding area, like Lucas County Children’s Services, the court system and lawyers, Fifth Third Bank and SSOE. During warmer weather, Olive said many more customers will walk a few extra blocks from companies like Owens-Corning.
Olive attributes a lot of his success and how he operates his business to his parents, Jim and Hazel Olive. For 30 years, they operated Posner’s Deli, located near Ranya’s on Adams Street, until they retired in 2004.
“I owe everything to them,” Olive said. “I learned from their honesty in business and interest in customers.”
Ranya’s Mediterranean offers dine-in and carry-out meals, along with delivery, catering (up to 200 people) and party/banquet services (up to 100 people).
While many people have suggested to Olive that he expand his hours of operation or explore a second location, he’s resisted.
“I’m not going to change what already works, I’m in my comfort zone and don’t want to lose my pride and joy that I’ve built,” he said.