So far, the eatery has generated media buzz from NPR, Southern Living, and other national press outlets, resulting in some customers traveling miles to taste the food (one couple even drove from Wisconsin). Langer says the food hall has also gathered a following of local customers, with a few loyal diners even visiting multiple times per week.
“We have such a great mix of people,” Langer says. “We have little old ladies who come in the afternoon, the lunch crowd from all the surrounding businesses, people from the neighborhood and from far away. We have one customer who is a taxi driver from the Middle East. He comes almost every day because he says we remind him of home.”
The guest experience is straightforward yet unique. Diners pass from stall to stall, order a la carte from the trio of menus, and then pay at one central point-of-sale. Items are priced affordably; Syrian babaganoush with pita costs $4.70, Sudanese chicken shawarma rings up at just under $10, and an order of three chicken arepas from the Venezuelan stall runs at about $4.70.
There’s no table service, and customers seat themselves in the 40-seat dining room and patio after rounding up their food items on a tray. The café offers lunch and dinner Tuesday through Sunday, an array of signature, globally-inspired cocktails made in-house at a full bar, and a catering menu. The dishes offered rarely change, aside from a varying soup du jour on the Syrian menu and revamps made every few months by the culinary team based on how items are performing.
Global Café’s business model is equally as straightforward. At the core of the concept is an emphasis on sharing. Regardless of how much each of the three food stalls sells, all chefs receive an equal share of revenues, and tip pools are divided among cooks, bartenders, and dishwashers. The chefs share one kitchen space and then divvy the food up to serve from their various sections.
“I wanted to foster community, both with our guests and our chefs. The chefs all cook together as a team; everybody cooks their own food, but they help each other when they need help, and no one is competing over who sells more,” Langer says.
As the food hall grows, Langer isn’t worried about opening a second location, finding new chefs, or changing up the menu too drastically in the near future. Instead, she says, she wants to keep the same momentum the concept has found so far, focusing on giving more Memphis residents the opportunity to try foods from faraway places and giving the chefs the time and kitchen space needed to hone their culinary skills.
“Our goals for now are to continue to serve delicious food, educate people, and work with our chefs,” Langer says. “Some people tend to think negatively about immigrants and refugees, thinking we’re unmotivated or here to take jobs, and my favorite part of running this is seeing the people of Memphis building relationships with our chefs. So I just hope that we can continue to educate people as we have been—tell them about our personal stories and struggles through our food.”