The restaurant chain “La Mama” abandons Asian workers and aims to hire around 100 Romanians for the new units it opens in 2024

The chain of restaurants “La Mama” had a 15% increase in turnover last year, compared to 2022. Cătălin Mahu, the owner of the chain, has expansion plans with two, three more locations in 2024, in which he wants to invest two millions of euros. By the end of the year, it will need around 100 new employees, and the network’s policy is to focus on domestic labor, including people with disabilities.

“Today, people understand their job much better. You are doing with fewer people what you used to do in the past, because the employees have educated themselves. In our restaurants, we decided a few months ago to take people only from the Romanian market. If we don’t give chances to the workforce in Romania, they will leave and we will complain that they are leaving. We have to give opportunities and be attractive to those who are thinking of going abroad. For the new locations we are about to open, we will need approximately 100 employees. For this, we collaborate with Vocational Schools and we also hire people with disabilities, because we have to give back to the community the good we receive”, emphasized Cătălin Mahu.

The increase in turnover by 15%, in 2023, was supported by maintaining a fair pricing policy, but also by choosing quality ingredients. Despite the endless chain of price hikes, the owner of “La Mama” felt that he had to find a balance for the customers. This is in the context where the measures taken by the state for the HoReCa field are far too few.

“Our prices have increased less than those of the raw material. Let’s not forget that the price of oil went from three lei to nine lei. We in the restaurant industry have had to act as a buffer between these increases and customers. In our chain we change prices twice a year. If I set them in March, I didn’t touch them until September, no matter what happened. During this period, we increased them between 20 and 40%. At the same time, today in the “La Mama” menu there are among the fewest E’s in Bucharest and I take what I say. We have fish snacks without E’s, 80% chicken raised on the ground,” said Cătălin Mahu, owner of the “La Mama” restaurant chain.

In the view of the entrepreneur, the best measures the state took for the HoReCa sector were the reduction of VAT to 5% on food and the reduction of the tax on dividends to 5%.

“In 2002, these measures helped me to open the restaurant at Ateneu. They seemed to me to be the best incentive”, added Cătălin Mahu.

The HoReCa industry in Romania is growing, its potential not yet being reached, if we look at other European countries.

“All over Romania there are over 30 thousand units that sell food, and here we also include bars or pretzel shops. In London, for example, there are over a million units. The restaurant market in Romania is still in its infancy. We should cook less and eat more in the city, but we are not yet ready to have this convenience. Until we manage to come out with the constancy with which the westerners do it, we have little left. We have fewer tourists than other European capitals and we know how much tourism brings in food revenue”, said Cătălin Mahu.

The first “La Mama” restaurant was opened 25 years ago, in the Ștefan cel Mare neighborhood, in the presence of friends. The first dishes on the menu were the small ones and the fried potatoes. Even though it only had 50 seats, it was full from the second day of opening. Today, the chain has six restaurants in Bucharest.

“La Mama” partners are Carlsberg, Selgros, Macromex, Agricola, Radic star, Rasfat, Cotnari Casa de vinuri, Gurmet, FPIOR, Marathon, Mirdatod, Conti grup and Licorna winehouse.