Nova Scotia immigrants open Canada’s first airport honesty shop

Shelby Thevenot
Published: July 23, 2019

Two Canadian immigrants have set up an unattended kiosk in the international airport serving Halifax, Nova Scotia, where transactions are done in good faith. 

Restauranteurs Najib Faris and Francesco Stara are pioneering the honesty shop concept at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

An honesty shop is a retail experience where there is no employee working the till and customers are entrusted to purchase their items using a self-service check out. They differ from vending machines in the authority the customer has over the transaction.

“We trust that you will pay,” Faris told CIC News, “Vending machines are very controlled… here it goes back to you and your goodness as a person.”

Faris and Stara met before immigrating to Canada via the Nova Scotia Nominee Program at a restaurant in Dubai that Faris frequented and where Stara worked as head chef. Faris says Stara became his favourite chef, and he eventually convinced him to move to Nova Scotia and start a business.

Together they opened Mabata Glocal Eatery in February 2019. Faris explained that "Glocal" reflects the restaurant's locally sourced and globally inspired menu.

The honesty shop, also named Mabata, was launched on July 10, 2019, and offers drinks and snacks made in Nova Scotia. 

"As soon as people arrive in Nova Scotia they are getting a chance to taste the flavours of Nova Scotia and then they’re going through the honour system," Faris said. "It’s quite (a shocking experience) for an international visitor and seeing that kind of transaction happening in a very urban space."

Faris said they had 136 transactions averaging $5 each in its first nine days. 

It has also brought curious people to the restaurant’s main location in Halifax, where Faris said people have sent them “thank you” notes.

The Mabata honesty shop is the product of a program called “The Runway” operated by the Entrepreneurship Centre at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, which works with the airport to promote entrepreneurship.

The Mabata honesty shop will be at the airport until the end of August, but negotiations are underway for it to become a permanent feature.

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