Page last updated at 17:47 GMT, Wednesday, 4 June 2008 18:47 UK

Size is all for Syrian restaurant


The scale and decor are reminiscent of a Hollywood epic film set

Syria may already boast some of the world's best food, but now it can also claim the world's largest restaurant.

The 6,014-seat Damascus Gate has taken the accolade from a Bangkok eatery serving a mere 5,000 diners.

The crucial test for Guinness World Record officials is all the tables are properly catered for, and they likened the Syrian kitchen to a "mini-factory".

One item not on the menu is a pint of the famous black Irish brew, however. The restaurant does not serve alcohol.

Located in a Damascus suburb, the family-owned restaurant called Bawabet Dimashq in Arabic, was opened more than three years ago.

At the time, the owner's son and now general manager Muhannad Samman was studying in London. He thought of contacting the Guinness people about the $40m project and the process of verification began from there.

Production line

During the busy summer months up to 1,800 staff are employed in the 54,000 sq-m dining area and 2,500 sq-m kitchen.

The open air area complete with waterfalls, fountains and replicas of archaeological ruins for the summer, and there are separate themed sections for Chinese and Indian cuisine.

"The secret of feeding so many people is to divide up the restaurant into smaller sections and every person in the restaurant has their own task to fulfil," Mr Samman told the BBC.

The kitchen is a like a production line, he says, where one chef can prepare 25-30 helpings of popular dishes, such as hummus, in one minute - that's one bowl every two seconds.

And there is absolutely no compromise on the standard of food or service Mr Samman insists.

"In this part of the world, all people care about is their stomachs, so the food has to be the best."

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