Entrepreneurial Alumnus Lives Life to the Falafel-est
“I took a shot in the dark,” said 28-year-old owner of The Halal Shack, Jamal Rasoully.
The recently opened Halal Shack is a New York City street food inspired restaurant, conveniently located in the newly renovated Campus Center at the University at Albany. The Halal Shack serves a combination of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, while also being certified halal.
Rasoully is a 2011 alum from the University at Albany, with a degree in accounting. After graduation, he went on to earn his MBA from Union College. From there, he created his own condiment company called Spin Sauce, which has been sold at the University at Albany. In fact, some of his original sauce ideas grew while attending the university.
“I actually used to make white sauce on campus and give it to friends,” said Rasoully
Steve Pearse, executive director of auxiliary services at the university, originally approved Rasoully’s request to sell his sauces on campus, but also offered Rasoully much more than that. With the Campus Center’s renovation in the works, Pearse offered Rasoully a spot for his restaurant. Rasoully gladly accepted the offer.
“I’d been working on this idea for almost two years,” said Rasoully. “They gave me an opportunity and I was lucky enough to open it.”
The Halal Shack offers five different options: Rice bowls, lettuce bowls, naan rolls, naanadillas (a creative twist on the classic quesadilla), and zoodles. From there, students customize their choice with options of chicken, beef, falafel, hummus, or a mix. Students can then choose other toppings and most importantly, their favorite sauce. Sauces include white, hot white, tahini, hot, BBQ, and green.
Rasoully described The Halal Shack as, “a Mediterranean Moe’s or Chipotle,” in that it is customizable and fast, but still high quality. Since it is a fast-style food business, Rasoully thought it’d be a great fit for busy college students, but says that his food is for everyone.
“I’m looking to unite people and culture through food,” said Rasoully. “My demographic is anyone who’s hungry.”
Rasoully grew up eating halal food and his love for food primarily began because of his family. His family has been in the restaurant business for over 30 years.
Rasoully said that the quality of his food, the taste, and his special sauces are what help to separate him from his competitors. In reflecting about his journey to where he is now, Rasoully recalls his hardships, as well as his many opportunities.
“You have to get really good at being comfortable with being uncomfortable,” said Rasoully. “You need resilience. Don’t worry about what you’re going to do in life, worry about your attitude.”
Outside of The Halal Shack, Rasoully currently works in a management and strategy consulting firm, owns a real-estate development and investment company, and owns multiple restaurants, all by the age of 28.
Rasoully said he never thought he’d open up restaurants. He recalled that many people did not initially believe his business would be successful, but said that he knew it would be because of his determination.
“If you believe in your vision, nothing else matters,” said Rasoully.