Bamboo Lounge Training Restaurant started in May 2011 after kiwis Andrej and Karen visited Luang Namtha many times on their travels and fell in love with its amazing nature and culture.
They teamed up with local business man Thong Ounnachoun, and were inspired to stay and help him to create the company Forest Retreat Laos trekking and trails, as well as marketing materials, website and supporting the local community.
During the early days we were known as “Forest Retreat’s Bamboo Lounge” or sometimes “The Forest Retreat Trekking Cafe”. During the early days Andrej and Karen both managed Bamboo Lounge and Forest Retreat out of our little restaurant, growing both businesses simultaneously. As they grew both businesses to number #1 on Tripadvisor, Lonely Planet and Travelfish, Forest Retreat moved out into a new office across the road.
Bamboo Lounge’s humble beginnings included 1 staff member, and a limited menu of coffee and cocktails. This quickly expanded to include food, and then the building of our famous pizza oven, and we saw an opportunity to train local ethnic minority people who otherwise had no way of learning hospitality skills, food and drink preparation, and English language without leaving the province.
What you see today is the homely, comfortable place Bamboo Lounge has become, full of young and enthusiastic hospitality trainees.
As Bamboo Lounge gained popularity, Andrej and Karen’s skills became sought after in growing and improving businesses, so with the help of some volunteers they further empowered our Lao staff to run the business almost entirely themselves.
They now have some staff members who have been with them since the beginning, and these valuable team members have graduated to taking orders, holding conversations with customers in English, and training the newer staff.
Our very first staff member Koly is now the restaurant owner and manager, and manages the staff salaries, business accounting, and staff profit share distribution as well as chatting with our customers and ensuring they’re happy. She’s come a long way from her days of living in the jungle and knowing only two English words ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ when she arrived at Bamboo Lounge!
Bamboo Lounge Training Restaurant now uses 20% of our profit to donate books and other essential items to Luang Namtha’s Books in Schools program. Luang Namtha’s schools have 1 textbook per 3 students, so our goal over time is to donate books to all schools in the area. So far we’ve been able to donate over 800 books to the local students.
It’s so easy to make a tangible difference in people’s lives here in Luang Namtha.
To help make a difference in this little corner of Northern Laos, come and hang out in our training restaurant. Eat, drink and be merry, speak to our Lao staff in English, support the Books in Schools program, while enjoying our famous authentic western food!