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What It's Like to Run a Restaurant in Cuba

It isn't easy

As Cuba's border opens up to foreign business, trade, and tourism, the country's economy is creaking into the the 21st century with new currency and merchandise, all of which is affecting Havana's unique restaurant industry. According to a new video from Seeker, Cuba is experiencing a restaurant renaissance. Thanks to free market reforms in 2011, the number of private restaurants has grown from 100 to "more than 1,600." Prior to this, most restaurants were state-owned and operated.

Restaurateur and self-taught chef (though self-described "cook") Niuris Isabel Higueras Martínez owns and operates Atelier Restaurant in Havana. She explains that 10 years ago, business people were looked down upon. Now they're considered a part of society.

The trouble is that while Cuba modernizes and joins the world economy, she has to purchase everything at market rate; there are no wholesale purveyors or bulk-buying options. Plus, there are currently two types of currency and no credit for buyers and sellers. Though hers is a legitimate business, it is not recognized by the government and so she cannot import any ingredients or equipment from abroad. Still, Martínez sees into the future and knows she's on the right path. Cuba will eventually recognize the full value and potential of entrepreneurs to an economy that is just starting to profit from tourism and a free market.

All Coverage of Cuba [E]