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New Jerusalem Eatery’s Uniform Pricing Seeks to ‘Help People Make It’

July 3, 2014 10:08 am 14 comments

Customers outside the Cofizz store on Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem. Photo: Cofizz.

JNS.org Omelet sandwich: 5 shekels. Iced coffee: 5 shekels. Tuna sandwich: 5 shekels. Fresh-squeezed orange juice: 5 shekels. Cheese bureka: 5 shekels.

There’s plenty more on the Cofizz menu, but you get the idea.

Dani Mizrahi and Amir Amshalm, two Israeli men in their early 30s, asked themselves: Why not launch a take-out food joint in busy neighborhoods around Jerusalem where everything—and that means everything—goes for five shekels, or about $1.50. They’d seen the concept take off in Tel Aviv, where those running a chain called Cofix keep busy feeding the local populace with all kinds of equally inexpensive fare.

“It worked there, so we thought, why not here?” says Mizrahi. “But here in Jerusalem being kosher is a very important thing.” Appropriately, then, Cofizz adheres to the high Israeli kosher standards of Mahadrin and, in several locations, Badatz.

Visitors to Jerusalem can keep their eyes peeled for the telltale bright red Cofizz signs sprouting up around town this year. In January, the partners rolled out their first Cofizz at 14 Ben Yehuda Street and now have added two more on Jaffa Street, just steps from the light rail.

The emergence of Cofizz’s cheap eats is music to the ears of Jerusalemites, who this year are looking at average rents for three-bedroom apartments—the typical choice for families—of 4,633 shekels ($1,351) outside the city center and 7,332 shekels ($2,135) inside. Average salaries for Jerusalem residents, meanwhile, hover just above the 6,000-shekel ($1,750) per month level.

“We are in this business not only to make money,” Mizrahi says. “We also want to help people make it.”

By July, Mizrahi and Amshalm are planning on opening locations in the Machane Yehuda market (otherwise known as the “shuk”), and other sites are planned for Haifa, Rehovot, and Kfar Saba. “We are projecting a total of nine [stores] by mid-summer,” says Mizrahi. “But 50 is really our [long-term] number.”

Mizrahi, who says he doesn’t “like to see people paying 100 shekels for coffee and a sandwich,” says that “everyone comes to us, lawyers and office workers, everybody.”

Based on a recent visit to the Ben Yehuda Street location, Cofizz customers applaud the idea of 5-shekel dining, but enjoy more than just the price.

“It’s cheap,” says Jane Bizan, who lives and works nearby. “But it’s not just the prices. The fresh orange juice is really good and so is the Bulgarian cheese sandwich.” Standing in line behind Bizan was another Jerusalemite, Eran Karnicli, who after thinking it over for a second or two says, “For your money, you do get good value and the service is very good too.”

Also on the menu—which notes the 5-shekel price in red after each item, despite the lack other prices—is a variety sandwiches, such as the internationally beloved focaccia in a choice of four different flavors. There are no less than 10 different types of coffee, including espresso, frappuccino, and Americano. But of all the coffees, it’s the cappuccino that’s the runaway favorite at the Ben Yehuda site of Cofizz, according to a server there named Lilach. And the most popular lunch fare? The veggie focaccia, she reports, handily beating out the tuna sandwich.

At these prices, how can Mizrahi and Amshalm even hope to turn a profit?

“Oh, we do make money,” Mizrahi says with a laugh. “We serve 3,000 people a day and on Ben Yehuda, 4,000, so we buy everything in bulk.”

The store is also extremely accessible, opening with the birds at 6 a.m., serving until 11 p.m. most nights, and back in business on Saturday night after Shabbat ends—when there are already scores of customers in line.

“I can get a sandwich and an iced coffee for 10 shekels,” Navah Bargeva, one of the self-proclaimed Cofizz regulars, says with a smile. “That’s so much better than anywhere else.”

14 Comments

  • Maybe I’m missing something. I know by today’s standards 10 Sh or $2.50 seems like small change. But if one earns under $2,000 a month and rent is way up there, then why not make a lunch and take a thermos? Or taking turns with co-workers?
    This Cofizz chain reminds me of Chock Full of Nuts where I bought a cream cheese and raisin sandwich.

  • KOSHER BLESSED FOOD BELONGS TO GOD AND INCLUDES GOD.

  • Kol hakavod lakhem, Dani ve’Amir. Israeli people need a break in the cost of living. I don’t know how they make it, and I know that they suffer in silence. I can’t wait to try your menu on my next trip to Israel, around souccoth.
    Be’atzlachah

  • Talk about Jewish know how. My hats are off to you. Here in the states 5 shekels will get you nothing but grease loaded grease. They used to have the Macdonald’s $1.00 meal but that was years ago and I don’t go so I can’t say. Besides you can’t get kosher at a MacDonald’s. To get reasonably healthy food that you offer for 5 shekels and maybe 10 if you’re really hungry is unheard of in the US. Although this is not a wedding toast, and my spelling might be off all I can think to say is l’chaim!

  • Mazel Tov from America. Oooh I would love a Bulgarian cheese sandwich right now. Keep up the conscious business practices that is what makes us Jews, we think,we share and we love to eat.

  • Marion Shuman

    I whish Ya’ll lots of luck in Your business adventure. Ya’ll are doing a real Mitzvah.

  • Kudos to them for keeping affordable prices. They will earn good money from a large clientele. May they continue to flourish and thrive.

  • Good luck & bonne appétit for all, keep up thé good deeds,

  • I wish they adhered not only to standards of Kashrut, but of ethical eating. Please offer some vegan options! We couldn’t even get the coffee because it’s pre-mixed with cow’s milk, which is obtained from cows who are cruelly confined and their calves taken from them so humans can take the milk!

    • if you don’t even eat dairy products, what’s the point? you can get a plate of grass anywhere for 5 shekels. but wait, someone has to kill that grass…

    • vegan,smegan! Stop trying to pollute the world with your veggie burger eating nonsense. Ethical eating? What a load of nonsense. Cows produce mehtane which adds to the other myth of “global warming”.

      Go and eat a burger……..

    • It’s fine if you prefer to be vegan. But in this instance I think you should just stay home and make your own food.

    • “Ethical eating” ? So eating according to Torah law is not “ethical” ? Rather than expecting these noble people to cater to your expensive whims, you should concern yourself more with poor working people who need healthy and inexpensive fast food

  • I am a CAMEROONIAN ,one man band,acoustic guitar player and sing in different languages across the world including Jewish. I am based in LAGOS ,NIGERIA,presently performing in five star restaurants like yours.
    I want sponsorship to relocate to JERUSALEM ,to perform in your restaurants and experience the city of Nazareth where our precious lord was born and lived. I have no money to travel.
    Please can someone out there help me to do just that. Here in NIGERIA people are not paying me well for my entertainment, even though I am the only drug free musician in the world been given a diplomatic international award from a performance at the D.E.A./U.S.A..department of
    Justice from 1995 till today. My cellphone: +2348033185208.

    My sincere regards!
    CHARLES TCHAMOKOUIN aka CHARLY WON MAN SHOW INTERNATIONAL.

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