Fewer than 1% of restaurants on the DoorDash platform qualify for the 2022 Most-Loved All-Star list – so it’s not surprising that when owner Emad Jandali learned that his restaurant had won the award, he was overwhelmed with emotion.
“For me, it was like winning a Nobel Prize,” he says. And it reinforced his belief that running a restaurant was what he and his family were meant to do.
Damas Mediterranean Grill opened its doors in 2018. The local favorite in Exton, Pennsylvania, run by Jandali along with his wife and kids, serves Syrian food and other Mediterranean dishes like chicken and lamb shawarma, gyros, and kebobs. For dessert, the restaurant offers traditional rice pudding and baklava.
Winding road to success
Jandali first came to the United States from Syria to attend college. “I’m an electrical engineer by training; my wife is a mechanical engineer, and my kids are in information technology,” he laughs heartily.
So opening a restaurant wasn’t exactly on his to-do list. However, it was through an investment venture in Dubai — where the family was living — that he discovered the allure of the restaurant business. “There was this one Lebanese chef that made me love to cook. I don’t know how, but he made me love to cook.”
After moving back to the States to send his own kids to college, Jandali opened a Middle Eastern restaurant called Aroma, which he ran for seven years until he and his wife decided to sell. “I'm 60 years old and my wife is 56. We work six days a week and you get tired from cooking every day.”
But only a few months into his retirement, the Jandalis missed the industry so much, they decided to open another restaurant.
Treating customers as guests reaps rich rewards
The Jandalis opened Damas Mediterranean Grill in downtown Exton, Pennsylvania on the outskirts of Philadelphia. “We are known for our freshness,” he says. The meats marinate overnight, and each dish is grilled to order.
It’s not just rave customer reviews that earn a restaurant its Most Loved on DoorDash status. There are rigorous customer service criteria to meet, such as:
4.5+ lifetime customer raring
It’s this type of attention to detail that has earned Damas Mediterranean Grill its accolades. Jandali says, “Our customers are mostly locals, and if you make the smallest mistake, everyone’s going to know about it because they all talk! So you have to be alert all the time.”
We love our customers, We love to serve food to our customers, whether it’s dine-in or takeout or pickup. They are like guests in our house, and we have to take care of them. - Emad Jandali, Owner, Damas Mediterranean Grill
Jandali believes that one reason for his success is preparing the meals he serves in his own home. “We know this food,” he says. “Whatever we eat at home, we serve to our customers. We treat them as our guests.”
He speaks with great fondness for his customers, knowing that the feeling is mutual. “We serve such a diverse set of customers, not just American, but Indian, Chinese, South American, African-American. I was surprised they would all like my cooking, but they do!”
Becoming Most Loved grew sales 25 to 30%
Through running various restaurants over the years, Jandali has learned to rely on partnerships. Focusing on the food and the customer experience — while outsourcing other tasks like delivery — has allowed him to do what he loves most.
DoorDash makes my job easier because they know what they're doing. When you deal with somebody who knows what to do, they make your job easy. We have the same goal. We want the food to be hot and on time for the customer. If we work together with the same rhythm, we're going to do that. - Emad Jandali, Owner, Damas Mediterranean Grill
Jandali estimates his sales are up about 25 to 30% since being awarded Most Loved. “I keep an eye on the numbers, and every time I look, it’s ‘Oh, this month we did better than last month.’ And last month was better than before. So it just keeps growing.”
DoorDash has introduced a new segment of customers as well. Between September 2021 and September 2022, 45% of their orders were from customers new to ordering from their store on DoorDash. Since being named a Most Loved All-Star in June 2022, order volume on DoorDash has also increased — with 34% growth in order volume for the four-month period of June through September vs. February through May.
With DoorDash as a partner, he looks forward to continued growth. “When all the hard work pays off, that’s nice,” he says with a chuckle.