– What do you think about the restaurant business in our country at the moment?
There are no restaurants in Ukraine. Just only the restaurant businesses. Let us see how a new restaurant is usually opened here. First of all, it gets advertised in glossy magazines and on billboards. “We are cool, we have a good location, expensive interior, unusual service, and we have fused new cuisines” ... That is, they are selling a certain managerial decision which, by and large, has nothing to do with food. And having spent big money on advertising and food bloggers, a restaurateur is then forced to save on the quality of products.
I understand that the restaurant business is only taking root. But I would like us to start on the right track at once.
– And how should it be?
The restaurant must offer: a) delicious food, b) comfort. That is it.
– What does it mean in practice?
Before I opened my own restaurant, I often visited Italy because of my previous business. I have been to many restaurants. I remember that at first I was surprised that nearly none of them had a menu. They simply asked you whether you prefer meat or fish. And then they would just bring you food and it would be delicious in 99% of cases. Just imagine what a high trust their guests must have in them so that they did not need a menu. Nearly every day they cook something different, depending on what farmers and fishermen had to offer today. Everything is very fresh, literally from the garden right to your table. And everything is cooked on the spot. There is an open kitchen in 95% of restaurants. Guests can see who is cooking their food and how: if there is fair play, why hide any processes? The owner is always in the hall, talking to guests.
There are plenty of places in Italy, France or Spain which have been there for 100, 150 or more years. Usually, these are family businesses. So, people who visit them today are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of their first guests. Commitment to traditions, high standards and succession of generations are what makes European restaurants so cozy and homely delicious. And, by the way, most of them require reservation, sometimes months in advance. Otherwise there will simply be no empty seat for you. And there is no advertising.
– It is clear that in the case of places dating back 100 and more years, their solid reputation and word of mouth work for them. But what should a new restaurant do to win popularity without advertising and PR?
If a business is initially based on correct principles, people will frequent it and recommend it to their friends. Let me give you a personal example. Over the 7.5-year history of my restaurant, we have never had any advertising, never distributed any flyers or business cards. Our menu is not set in stone but our chef knows how to cook over a thousand dishes. Provided we have necessary ingredients, we can cook anything our guests wish. But, and this is important, we will not cook what we do not find tasty. I treat both guests and staff equally respectfully. When you treat your staff as if they were your family, they will work as if it is a family business, not just for the sake of appearances.
An educational mission is important to me because we use authentic recipes. From time to time we have guests who do not know that pasta should be cooked al dente. I believe it is my task to tell these people how pasta is cooked, why it should be like this and introduce them to the true Italian cuisine.
A combination of all these factors is a guarantee of success. I believe that if a person comes to a restaurant one or two times, this can be by chance. But if he comes the third time, it means he liked it. I have visitors who have been coming to us 4-5 times a week for several years. This is what my happiness is about.
– What are the prospects for the restaurant business in our country?
They are plenty of vacant niches! People need places where they can eat good food and introduce themselves to an original national cuisine. And it opens up a myriad of opportunities.
Compared with Western Europe, the restaurant business in Ukraine is at the initial stage of formation and development. And this opens up great opportunities!
Interviewed by Olga Orlova
Photos: pYury Zaluzhniy, depositphotos.com