We posted a meme on instagram about a Döner chef telling his customer, he sees him more than his family. The satisfied customer got good service and his preferred döner without even asking, nice!
The meme also tells about the sacrifices made by döner chefs all over the world in their strive to make a living for themselves and their families. Running your own business is often tough, running a döner shop might be tougher than most.
In the eastern part of Berlin, outside the ring, in Biesdorf, Direj opened his Dönerhaus in the fall of 2018. Next door he runs "Schranke", a small bar with slot machines, leather furniture and flat screens showing Bundesliga. Come summer, customers from both places join forces on the outside patio to follow the matches of 1. FC Union live on the outside TV.
On this November Sunday the Dönerhaus is empty as we enter. A single employee manages the rotating spear and we find Direj busy in the next door Schranke. We're greeted with a smile and invited to sit down after he has taken our orders.
"Sundays are always quieter in here" Direj tells, "Thursday and Friday are the real busy days." As we eat, more customers enters and leaves, most of them ordering take away and going straight back to their cars after receiving their food. Direj prepares our food and makes a döner for himself as well. We compare - ours are mit alles and his a more simple version with just meat, onions and some red cabbage.
"30 - 40 kilo meat a day is what we sell here," he proceeds. "It's around 300 döners a day, give or take. It's not much but it's enough for the moment. In the beginning we had to learn some lessons the hard way. Ordering way too much meat and throwing it out and the end of the day. We don't save meat from one day to the next, you can, and some people do, but we don't. It's about keeping everything fresh, that makes customers coming back."
The Dönerhaus is open 12 hours a day, next door Schranke 24/7. He shares the workload with six employees and divides his time between Biesdorf and Friedrichshain where he operates a Spätkauf. The convenience store was his first business, Dönerhaus his second. "I'm working around 120 hours a week, sometimes more," he explains. "It takes a lot of time to run these businesses. I have a wife and three kids, some times they visit me in the shop. I don't see them much otherwise. It's just like that at the moment."
Less determined people might be put of by the ours and the workload. Not Direj. Since arriving in Berlin from the eastern most part of Turkey the entrepreneur has had an eye for making businesses. He explains about his dream project, it's big, requiring new investments and a huge space. "It doesn't exist in Berlin yet," he confides. "My place will be the first."