Comfort Inn refugee initiative helps local Iraqi community

Comfort Inn refugee initiative
Nine refugees from Northern Iraq are working and training with Comfort Inn Armidale. Image supplied.

Comfort Inn City Centre Armidale has relaunched its empty restaurant space to provide career paths and training for Iraqi refugees.

The hotel has just opened the Ezidi Place restaurant in a social enterprise partnership with Plate it Forward.

Comfort Inn City Centre Armidale general manager Phillip Mitchell said no-one on the team had a food and beverage background.

“We found a young cook in the Ezidi refugee community and approached him to see if he wanted to create a restaurant around their traditional cuisine.”

Mitchell said while there were a few setbacks during lockdowns there are now nine refugees in the program. The participants work at the restaurant while they undertake their TAFE training.

Armidale was setup as a refugee settlement city in 2018 and is now home to more than 600 Ezidi, who have immigrated from Northern Iraq.

Comfort Inn refugee initiative has community support

Mitchell consulted with Sydney based social enterprise Plate It Forward for advice on how to create a training program. The connection led to a partnership.

Now one dollar from each meal sold goes to the charity to support the training of restaurant staff.

“We’ve had great buy in from the Armidale community, and now have the added benefit of having an amazing restaurant attached to the hotel to cater to our guests and the wider community,” Mitchell said.

“Food is such a simple way to break down barriers and get to know and acknowledge each other. The coincidental contact of working in the restaurant and interacting with our guests makes a big difference to how people feel in the community.”

The Choice Hotels group owns the Comfort Inn brand.

Choice Hotels Asia Pacific CEO Trent Fraser praised the social enterprise innovation in hospitality.

“We are incredibly proud of the work Phil has done within his community, which is testament
to the values he holds in his business and sets a great example of what can be achieved,” Fraser said.