Moe Atallah – Newport Restaurant Owner
Mr. Moe Atallah is a successful business person and a well-known philanthropist, having raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for local charities. He is also co-founder, along with the late Canadian journalist Earl McRae, of the Elvis Sighting Society, a philanthropic organization that donates generously to many fine, local institutions. Mention the name Moe Atallah almost anywhere in this city and everyone will know that you are talking about this iconic and generous restaurant owner.
Moe Atallah came to Canada as a 32-year-old refugee from Lebanon in 1976. His only brother was a journalist and columnist in Montreal at the time, and Atallah, a Christian who owned 3 restaurants in the Muslim section of Lebanon, left during the civil war. He found a job at a restaurant on his first day.
“The owner said ‘will you do dishes’. I said, I’ll do anything. I was lucky, he didn’t want a dishwasher, he wanted a manager,” says Atallah. “I spoke English, Italian, French and Lebanese. I ran restaurants; I did dishes; I still do dishes now.”
Atallah started at $1 an hour and worked a 40-hour week in his first job here in Canada because he “didn’t want to be a burden on his brother.”
He truly believes the customer is always right
Atallah opened the Newport Restaurant in 1988. Reflecting back on a long career in the restaurant business he advises new entrepreneurs “to be successful in business – and the restaurant business is 7 days a week – you have to love your job, work hard at it.”
“You have to love people, to care about every single person whether they just buy a cup of coffee or spend $100. You have to treat them the same… I always believed that the customer is always always right,” he adds.
Atallah can’t sleep at night if he can’t find a solution to a nagging problem.
“You need to be present,” says Atallah. “Your staff give 90%, but I give 100%. Sometimes they forget the bread. As soon as I know there is no bread, I go and get the bread,” he says.
A typical day for Atallah starts at 6:00 a.m. and often finishes at midnight.
Guess what he would do if he won the lottery?
“I would buy another restaurant,” says Atallah.
He trained as an interior designer
Atallah trained in his native country as an interior designer, but his father had just bought a restaurant and didn’t want to run it himself.
He’s all about giving.
Every Christmas morning, for many years now, Atallah has invited the less fortunate for a free breakfast and lunch at the Newport. Hundreds of gifts are also donated from the public to the Newport for this special occasion.
“I remember the first time at the Newport for Christmas. You can’t describe the joy it gives when you can make people happy. There are people who came who never eat in a restaurant,” says Atallah.