Fares “Freddy” Zeideia immigrated to Queens from Palestine as a teenager. He didn’t know English so he took the only job he could get, working in his cousin’s pizza shop. He worked all day, six days per week, for which they paid him $100 a week. When he asked for a raise he was fired.
Out on his own, the teenage Zeideia started his on/off career as a cab driver. And from these humble beginnings rose The King of Falafel and Shawarma.
John and I met up with Freddy at his new restaurant in Astoria. It’s half a block away from the corner where he first started making falafel in 2002. Since then he’s added a lunch outpost in the city and earned several accolades so journalists no longer have to write “self-proclaimed” before “King of Falafel and Shawarma”.
After starting and closing his own American-style restaurant in the 90s, Freddy jumped back into his cab, a gig he kept in his back pocket for whenever Plan A wasn’t working out. Driving around the city he noticed that food carts were increasing in popularity and wondered if he could create one that served falafel and shawarma the way it’s prepared in Palestine. He spent a few months working on his recipes, picked his corner, and started cooking.
In the early days he was barely breaking even — many people in his neighborhood didn’t seek out or even trust street food vendors at the time. The real turning point for Freddy was the Blackout of 2003 because most restaurants lost power and had to close. Freddy, operating his cart off a generator, stayed open and had a line that wrapped around the block. From that point on he was a neighborhood fixture.
Freddy distills his success to two elements: quality product and excellent customer service. Combined, they’re what differentiate him from competitors and what he’s determined to maintain as The King of Falafel and Shawarma franchises and expands.
Thanks to Freddy Zeideia, Jon Ferrer, and our sponsor MailChimp.
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