Sudfeh: Palestine’s First Vegan Restaurant, Challenges, and Lessons Learned

May 2018

PAL Sudfeh

PAL Sudfeh

The idea of to open the first all-vegan restaurant in Palestine stemmed from the creative thinking of a

group of university students working with the Palestinian Animal League’s “Youth for Change” program

in 2015. With the help of a sizeable $70,000 USD loan from Al Quds University, PAL launched Sudfeh on

the Al Quds Abu Dis campus. From the start, there were positive results and many students seemed

excited to try out a diet different from what they typically experienced. The space was a beautiful, open,

and featured a beauty from the natural light and trees surrounding the restaurant. Sudfeh hosted

special events like trivia night and days for student tour groups in hopes that a strong customer base

would form.

PAL Sudfeh

PAL Sudfeh

It was not long, however, before challenges arose. First came complaints from the students that the

prices were too high, considering that meat was not a part of the menu. PAL attempted to reduce the

cost, but felt financially burdened, particularly when a larger number of customers were expected than

would arrive and food would go to waste. Additional financial sacrifices were made by reducing the

number of full-time employees from four to two. The general operation of the restaurant, however,

proved to be far too much work for only two employees. The summer months provided a different

obstacle, as the majority of students left campus and there was no way to extend to a more public

customer market.

PAL Sudfeh

PAL Sudfeh

There were also cultural expectations challenging Sudfeh, as many students were unfamiliar to the idea

of veganism, expecting that cheese and dairy products would still be included in their favorite

Palestinian recipes. The Sudfeh team found that while many students were willing to try the food for the

first time, there was not a large base of returning customers. At the same time, there was heavy

competition across campus as a large number of other restaurants offered fast food at cheaper prices.

After assessing these obstacles following the first year, significant changes were made including the

decision to become only a vegetarian—not vegan—restaurant. This suggestion from the Quds University

administration came with extra leverage owing to their sizeable financial investment in the restaurant.

The Palestinian Animal League team was sad to make this decision, but hoped that it would allow for a

sustainable continuation of Sudfeh.

PAL Sudfeh

PAL Sudfeh

From the outset, the investment and commitment from the university was to last only two years before

an assessment of the restaurant and decision whether or not to continue it would be made.

Unfortunately, in 2017 it was clear to all parties that Sudfeh was not thriving in its current setting. The

difficult decision was made to close this first attempt of running a vegan restaurant and use it as a

critical learning experience.

Going forward, the Palestinian Animal League is eager to re-open Sudfeh in what we consider to be a

much more vegan-friendly setting of Ramallah. Because PAL has already invested in purchasing all of the

cooking and serving equipment, branding, and design materials, it will much easier to reopen. We are

currently looking for a suitable and beautiful location in the old city of Ramallah, gearing this toward a

much wider market including many tourists and foreigners who live in the city. As a part of the new

vision of Sudfeh, we aim to host art and music events, creating a space for a unique cultural experiences

in addition to delicious food. Our goal is to relaunch a strictly vegan restaurant within the next year that

more encompasses the positive vision and mission of the Palestinian Animal League.