Q&A with Noelle Scott from Sassool Restaurant, Raleigh

Sassool, Raleigh
Noelle (left) with her father & sister

Today we chat with Noelle Scott, one of the owners of Sassool Cafe along with her sister and father. Noelle is the District Manager.

This Q&A is a part of our series called interviews with locals where we interview local Raleigh business owners and entrepreneurs to share their story with our community!

Where did you grow up and go to school? How long have you lived in Raleigh?

I was born and raised in Raleigh. I went to Cardinal Gibbons for High School and NC State University for College.

How did you get into the industry you are in now?

I’ve been working with my father full-time since I was 15, but helping out for a couple of hours to earn an allowance since I was very young.

Give us your 30 second elevator pitch for your business?

Sassool is a family owned business that makes fresh Mediterranean Lebanese food in a fast casual setting. While we operate like a fast casual restaurant, our food is all made from scratch using quality ingredients and produce from the farmers market. 

We have two locations, one in North Raleigh off of Strickland Road and one in Cary off of Kildaire Farm Road.

Sassool
Dip with spices. Photo credit: Stacey Sprenz

Most popular item that you sell at your business? 

Hummus.

Your favorite item that you sell at your business?

My favorite item is the quinoa tabouli. It’s so refreshing and light but packs a big flavor punch!

What would a traveler learn about Raleigh by coming to your business?

A traveler would learn that the Triangle area has a very diverse and eclectic food scene that rivals a big city like Chicago or New York.  And that the American dream is alive and well at Sassool.

If you had a friend visiting Raleigh, where would you take them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? 

I would take them to Rise for breakfast, Alpaca (Peruvian Charcoal Chicken) for lunch, and Curry House for dinner. 

Or Big Ed’s Restaurant for breakfast, Pho Far East for lunch and Thai House for dinner.

Best thing about living in Raleigh?

I love that there is always something to do.  We have a huge amount of parks and hiking trails that you can visit as well as a booming restaurant and entertainment scene.

Least favorite thing about living in Raleigh? 

There is a large homeless population and not enough help.

How did you pivot in your business during the 2020 pandemic?

We were so lucky to already be in a position to ride out the pandemic because half of our business was already takeout. 

So we have focused our energy on enhancing our online ordering systems as well as making sure that every customer has a great experience while they are here.

We have added curbside delivery to our offerings and making sure they feel safe to place their order with us.

Sweet Potato Salad Sassool 3
Sweet potato salad. Photo credit: Stacey Sprenz

In hindsight, what do you wish you had in place before the pandemic hit to better prepare for it?

I wish we had already had hand sanitizer stations setup, that was extremely hard to obtain after the pandemic started. 

We also had to do a lot of work to streamline our online ordering system.  It was in no way ready to handle the amount of orders that started coming in.

Can’t miss attraction in Raleigh for an out-of-town visitor? 

Check out Dorothea Dix Park walking trails for a downtown accessible walk. Or Umstead State Park for unpaved hiking trails. 

And check out one of the many amazing restaurants located all over the city. We have chefs that have been nominated or won James Beard awards.  

Your favorite business in Raleigh that you like to frequent? 

I am a big online shopper, so most of the places I frequent are restaurants. My current favorites are Curry House in Wake Forest and Alpaca. 

What are you reading right now? 

Life of the Party by Tea Hacic-Vlahovic.  

What is one book every budding entrepreneur should read?

No clue. I’ve always listened to my gut and the customers rather than looked for business advice from books.

What excites you the most about doing business in Raleigh over the next 5-10 years?

Raleigh is growing by leaps and bounds. The housing market is insane with many people moving here for jobs.

We have had multiple large companies choose Raleigh or the Triangle area to grow their business and with that comes more people. 

Raleigh is also consistently voted as one of the top places to live and raise a family which also draws people to the area.

Noelle Sassool 2018 2
Noelle Scott. Photo credit: Stacey Sprenz

What concerns you the most about doing business in Raleigh over the next 5-10  years?

My concern is that it will be harder for mom and pop businesses to open and survive as more chains move in.  

Which local Raleigh entrepreneur inspires you to do better?

Nation Hanh.

If you had $1 million dollars to donate to a charity, who would you give it to and why? 

I would give it to an organization benefiting the homeless especially the homeless youth. 

In Raleigh we have several different tent cities set up where large numbers of homeless people will congregate together. They are right outside of downtown in wooded areas and many people don’t know about them.

The demand is too great right now for the amount of people and organizations able to help.

What advice would you would give to someone wanting to start a business in Raleigh?

Starting a business is extremely hard. It’s long hours for little pay off at the beginning. Only do it if that is your passion. 

You will need that passion to keep you going in the beginning. Also try and build up a customer base if you can before opening. Have a good marketing person on your team as well.

What is your favorite task that you perform in your business each day?

I really like meeting with my managers. I have a great team of people that work with me, and I enjoy working with them. They are great people on top of being great workers. 

I also love working with my dad and sister. We don’t see each other every day but usually always check in with each other at least once. 

I love my regular customers as well. Basically I like the human interaction that I get with friends and family everyday.

Tuna Salad Sassool 1
Tuna salad. Photo credit: Stacey Sprenz

Which activity do you hate most doing in your business each day?

I hate when we have a lapse in customer service and I have to speak with unhappy guests. We strive as a company to have every customer that comes to Sassool leave happy, so I feel like I’ve failed in training my employees or in our processes when we have mistakes happen.

Drink of choice? Where in Raleigh do you get it?

I enjoy a glass of wine from Barcelona Wine Bar in downtown.

How do you relax?

Exercising. I love classes at the YMCA and also just getting outside and going for a walk with my dog.

What is your “WHY” for doing what you do?

To help my family to build a successful business. 

Do you plan on retiring? 

Not in the traditional sense. I would like to get to a point where I can just check in with the people running the business.

Favorite getaway spot in North Carolina?

Asheville is a fun getaway. Take the long way there by driving the Blue Ridge Parkway then stay in a cabin outside of the city. 

You can enjoy the thriving downtown life then retreat to your getaway just a few minutes down the road.

Favorite American city? 

New Orleans.

Favorite international city/country?

My favorite country that I’ve traveled to is Lebanon. 

My sister and dad and I traveled there for a foodie inspired vacation. We connected with our roots and learned more and more about the food and culture that we share with our guests everyday.  

When you hear the words “THIS IS RALEIGH” what comes to mind?

What comes to mind is a diverse group of people that makes this city beautiful.  


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