‘That sense of togetherness is what is needed.’ Northeastern entrepreneur from Ghana builds his restaurant business on African hospitality by Alena Kuzub March 3, 2023 Share Mastodon Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Ramzi Yamusah, an ambitious entrepreneur from Ghana, is on a mission to become “the king of African hospitality.” Ramzi Yamusah, a Northeastern graduate who is building his restaurant and experience business around African hospitality, at a construction site in Ghana. Courtesy Photo His company, Lifestyle Experiences Holdings, owns three restaurants in Accra, the capital of Ghana, but Yamusah does not wish to limit himself to the restaurant business or to one continent. The 2014 Northeastern University graduate wants to better connect the rest of the world to Africa and its more than 1.4 billion people by creating outstanding, memorable experiences both for visitors to the continent and outside of it. “That sense of togetherness is what is needed [in the world] to really drive collective progress,” he says. “And there’s no better way to share ideas, talk about collaborations, bring positive energy in conversations than over good food and drinks.” African people find strong grounding in where they’ve built their culture, Yamusah says, in the meaning of their heritage and community. “Rene Descartes, a French philosopher, said ‘I think therefore I am.’ Africans are more about ‘I am because we are,’ or ‘I am related therefore I am,’” Yamusah says. “That philosophy is something that we want to push and spread all around the world where people really see that hospitality is about community.” Yamusah says he gets his drive and ambition from his father. “He has really shown me that it’s not where you start from, but it’s really where you want to see yourself and how you make that happen,” he says. He also has a close relationship with his mother, who helps him maintain strong values in business, he says. From left to right, American singer Usher (left) and British actress Michele Cole talk at an event at Vine restaurant in Accra, Ghana, owned by a Northeastern alum Ramzi Yamusah. 2. Vine restaurant in Accra, Ghana, owned by a Northeastern alum Ramzi Yamusah serves Afro-Mediterranean cuisine. 3. Celebrities like American rapper Ludacris (left) attended a New Year’s Eve party hosted by the Essence magazine in 2019 at Kōzo restaurant, owned by a Northeastern alum Ramzi Yamusah. / Courtesy Photos “When it comes to who you are, how you do business, how you relate to people, maintaining a high level of integrity is very important. And how important your reputation is,” Yamusah says. “It’s things that I really don’t joke with.” Yamusah, 32, was born in Ghana and attended high school there, but his family also lived for some time in Düsseldorf, Germany, where his father worked for Ghana Airways. He says his upbringing in Germany helped shape him as a person. “That German culture of discipline is real,” he says, smiling. “African culture of doing business requires a bit more flexibility when it comes to timelines and other things.” When Yamusah was looking to attend a university in the United States, Northeastern emerged as the clear choice because of its location and signature co-op program. He enrolled in 2010. Ramzi Yamusah opened his third restaurant called Chicken and Wine in Accra, Ghana, targeting the fast-casual segment of the industry, in November 2022. Courtesy Photo “I discovered this love for the city and that really narrowed down my choices,” he says. “Northeastern co-op program was very much the reason why I really wanted to go there and selected it, because it gave me not only the book knowledge, but also practical experience.” Majoring in biology and minoring in business, Yamusah did his co-op at The Wyss Institute at Harvard University, which develops innovative technologies based on how nature builds things and accelerates their translation into commercial products. In addition to a top-notch education, he says, Northeastern also helped him connect with people from around the world who he met as a student and continues to do business with. “You don’t just graduate with a degree, but you graduate with tools that allow you to actually succeed,” he says. After graduation, Yamusah decided to go into business instead of going to medical school, which was his original plan. He launched a tech startup in Boston offering on-demand valet parking, learned how to fly helicopters and received his commercial pilot license. At that point, he had to make another decision—go to med school, work as a commercial helicopter pilot or “upskill” himself to be a better businessman. Yamusah decided to get a master’s degree in business finance from Brunel University in London, and after that, moved back to Ghana in 2016. There, he worked as a general manager at an oil and gas services company and the family hotel and real estate business, Yamusah Group. “I had been involved in concept development, sourcing, franchising and construction,” he says. “I can basically take a site anywhere in the world and take it from dust to a fully functioning business.” In 2017, Yamusah decided to start his first restaurant, Vine, that serves Afro-Mediterranean food. “I honestly didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t really know the business,” he says, even though he was hoping his experience with hotels would translate into the restaurant business. “But you know, when you’re running a restaurant on its own, it comes with its own challenges,” he says. “Nonetheless, I braved all that out.” Vine was his learning curve, he says. After gaining more confidence, he developed an Afro-Asian fusion food concept with executive chef Sakorn Somboon for his next restaurant, Kōzo. “It was a big restaurant, almost 200 covers, fine dining, really about 10 levels above where I was a year before,” Yamusah says. “I threw myself into the deep end of the swimming pool.” Kōzo opened in December 2019 and hosted the Essence magazine New Year’s Eve party attended by such celebrities as American rapper Ludacris, German-American actor Boris Kodjoe, singer Beyonce’s mother Tina Knowles, and American DJ Fresh. In November 2022, Yamusah opened a third restaurant called Chicken and Wine, targeting the fast-casual segment of the industry. “We want to make sure that we don’t leave anybody out,” he says, referring to customers with various purchasing power. Being a part of the community also translates for Yamusah into developing homegrown talent for his businesses, working with local suppliers and thinking about sustainability. Kōzo’s menu is built on the farm-to-table approach, using produce and herbs from local farmers and coffee from a local roaster, Bean Masters, which exclusively sources beans from Ghanaian female growers. Vine restaurant serves beverages in glasses made at a local glass blowing studio from recycled glass bottles. In the second quarter of this year, he plans to open his first international location in Kigali, Rwanda, which has come a long way in almost 30 years since the civil war and Tutsi genocide, Yamusah says. He is also interested in developing events, unique products and other experiences to promote Africa. He recently returned from Mexico City where Lifestyle Experiences partnered with a refined tequila brand Casa Dragones and curated an Afro-Mexican experience at a gallery opening. His goal is to bring his business to the U.S. within the next five years. “We want to truly create that bridge where you have the same restaurants, the same experiences also in North America, which will serve as a shopfront for people to see what Africa is about in this new contemporary way,” he says. Yamusah is certain that aspiration is important in achieving anything and anyone anywhere in the world can be successful. “I have always believed that the most important thing that anybody could have is dreams and aspirations, because it is something that nobody sends you a bill for,” he says. “You don’t pay to dream, so if you’re dreaming, it’s best to dream as big as you can.” Alena Kuzub is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @AlenaKuzub.