July 22, 2022 By Michael Dorgan
The King of Falafel may not be ready to relinquish his crown just yet.
Just one day after Fares “Freddy” Zeideia announced on social media that he planned to sell his popular halal food business, King of Falafel and Shawarma, the charismatic chef sat down with the Queens Post to say he is having second thoughts.
Zeideia, 57, posted Wednesday that the 20-year-old business – consisting of four food trucks and a restaurant at 30-15 Broadway– was on the market and that he was looking to retire.
A lifetime of hard work has taken its toll on him, he said, and he wants to rest up and travel the world.
“I just want to relax… it’s not easy,” said Zeideia, who says he works every day from 6 a.m. to around 10 p.m.
However, after making the announcement, he said he received a flood of feedback from customers urging him to reconsider. He said it has made him think twice about his initial decision to sell the business, which is known for its deep-fried falafel fritters and shawarma meats.
“I hear from customers. They don’t want me to leave,” Zeideia said. “I got [lots] of text messages from people.”
His doubts only grew when he heard his granddaughter’s reaction to the news.
“She said to me, ‘What will I tell all my friends now, that my grandad won’t be The King of Falafel anymore’”? a crestfallen Zeideia said. “My heart beated,” he said.
It has left the future of the company up in the air.
Zeideia, who is originally from Palestine, says he is still looking to sell but won’t be too upset if it doesn’t happen just yet, insisting he still loves his job.
“Hell, yeah!” he quipped when asked if he still enjoys the work.
Even last night Zeideia could be seen cracking jokes with staff and customers from behind the counter of the bustling Broadway eatery.
Zeideia has been in negotiations with two potential buyers looking to take over the business—a business that he established in 2002 with a food truck on Broadway in Astoria.
Often dressed in rubber clogs and funky chef’s attire – with a colorful personality to match – he soon garnered the nickname The King of Falafel. His crown jewel came in 2010 when the company scooped the Vendy Award for the best street food in New York.
He is also known for playing loud Middle Eastern music from his trucks and belly dancing to his customers.
The term of any sale would come with an important condition — the new owner must continue handing out free falafel samples to waiting customers. Zeideia has been doing this since he started the business.
One of the potential buyers refused to accept this condition and decided to withdraw from negotiations. The potential buyer also didn’t appreciate that he announced via social media his intention to sell.
“I want my customers to know what’s going on,” Zeideia said. “I don’t want them to turn around one day and see that the business is sold.”
The company’s 35 staff members must also stay employed as part of the deal, he said.
The new owner would take over the Broadway restaurant, which features the front of a food trucks attached to its façade. The new operator would also take ownership of the company’s four food trucks, which are located on Ditmars Boulevard and 31st Street in Astoria, Center Boulevard in Long Island City, 42nd Avenue in Bayside, and on 53rd Street/Park Avenue in Manhattan, Zeideia said.
Zeideia would also hand over the secret ingredients to his spices, which are used in his falafel and Shawarma recipes.
He said he doesn’t want to keep the business in the family because it would prevent him from fully stepping away. Zeideia, who lives in East Elmhurst, has a son, two daughters and five grandchildren.
“I want to go camping for three or four months, do a safari in Africa, explore the United States. I want to go to Europe, go back home.”
He then said he isn’t entirely sure what he wants to do.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.