The owner of a Cowley Road cafe is looking forward to serving customers inside once lockdown restrictions are eased.

Mahmoud Al-Hadad opened Za’atar Bake in 2018 and the Arabic bakery has won positive reviews since, and a five-star food hygiene rating.

With head chef Ahmad Mohamad, Mr Al-Hadad is getting ready to welcome diners, with room for 60 seated inside.

Since April 12, he has been able to serve a small number of customers at tables outside and from Monday pubs, cafes and restaurants will once again be able to serve customers inside.

Read again: Cancellations after cracks are found in trains

The cafe owner said: “It has been difficult with the pandemic over the past year and the government support with furlough has really helped.

Mahmoud Al-Hadad and Ahmad Mohamad Picture: Ed Nix

Mahmoud Al-Hadad and Ahmad Mohamad Picture: Ed Nix

“We did plan to expand and open a second cafe in Bristol but we had to put those plans on hold because of a lack of cash flow.

“We talk to our customers and they now want to come out and socialise so that’s a reason to be positive.

“We know we have got the support of our customers – we are part of the community but the difficulty we have is staff retention.”

Mahmoud Al-Hadad and Ahmad Mohamad serve up a dish at Zaatar Bake Picture: Ed Nix

Mahmoud Al-Hadad and Ahmad Mohamad serve up a dish at Za'atar Bake Picture: Ed Nix

Mr Al-Hadad said some staff have not returned following coronavirus lockdowns and added it could be difficult to find suitable replacements.

Read more: First look inside American diner Wendy's

He added: “I try to do everything I can to find new employees suitable accommodation in Oxford but the problem is rents are not cheap so some people living elsewhere decide not to come.”

The cafe owner launched a number of initiatives during the pandemic to help those in need.

This included giving away more than 60 kilos of baklava in exchange for donations to volunteer service Oxford Hub.

He also handed out entire meals for free to anyone who was in need.

On Christmas Day the Arabic cafe hosted a socially-distanced festive celebration and served a free buffet for the homeless and those that just needed company. Staff provided dinner for almost 300 people.

The cafe owner said one new employee is relocating from Brighton to start work next week.

Mahmoud Al-Hadad, left with head chef Ahmad Mohamad

Mahmoud Al-Hadad, left with head chef Ahmad Mohamad

He added: “I’m doing what I can to find her somewhere to live.”

Students sometimes work at the restaurant but Mr Al-Hadad knows there will only be there on a temporary basis.

He added that the price of food has also been going up but he is reluctant to put up the price of dishes on the menu.

Read more: Oxford's top 10 bars and pubs on Tripadvisor

One of the most popular dishes he calls Upside Down, or Maqluba, a dish featuring meat, rice, and fried vegetables placed in a pot which is flipped upside down when served.

Mr Al-Hadad said: “That’s very popular, you can cook it with lamb, chicken, or for vegans and it costs £12-£13.50.

“Our fresh baklava is also a favourite.”

In January the cafe owner said he planned to serve more vegetarian food.

Mr Al-Hadad said earlier that the Cowley Road cafe aimed to have one day of the week dedicated to serving vegetarian food as its contribution to helping the environment.

The cafe has a five-star rating on reviews site Tripadvisor.