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Monday 18.06.2018 | Name days: Madis, Alberts

Restaurant Vairāk saules succeeded in tackling crisis

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Remuneration will start growing and people will get their spirit of life back, the restaurant Vairāk saules co-owner Endijs Berzins (Bērziņš) told about their lesson of the crisis to the business news portal BNN.

Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Vairāk saules co-owner Endijs Berzins

How did you manage to maintain the food quality and prepare new chefs?

Out of the five co-owners of the chain Vairāk saules, two – Aivo and I – are chefs. We are currently «bringing up» the next generation. When the economic crisis stroke, we as managers got back to the kitchen together with other staff. We are working really hard from 9 AM to 10 PM. We are not spoilt bosses any more, counting money all the time, hiring employees and developing their schedules, launching new restaurants and organizing banquets. In the «fat years» it mistakenly seemed everything was turning out well. In the very beginning, in 2003 or 2004, we intended to become a huge chain as Čili Pica with at least 20 pizzerias. When we had opened 5 restaurants, we suddenly realized it is difficult to maintain the quality with the great assortment we want to provide. We cannot compete with Narvessen hot-dogs and Double Coffee standardization. Staff turnover was considerable in the «fat years», as the competitors headhunted both chefs and staff, promising them some lats more. Workers washing dishes asked for a double rate just to replace those whose «partying was prolonged» or simply the lazy ones. In the very beginning of the crisis, out of 250 people, we were left only with some 60-70% of those not aspiring to constantly change work places. At the moment our team is very strong, we can rely on them. We are like a close family. We have no secrets with our leading managers. We are all the time informing them about the financial results, profit and losses. Currently we see 5-7% turnover growth and we say to our employees we could return to 2006 level, hiring more and more people and increasing salaries, but it would be better to boost the productivity instead. Labour productivity of a single person is just phenomenal.

Will you take back the fired employees?

We won’t. If we keep the productivity level without increasing the staff above the current 120-125, we will gradually approach the European salaries. If our turnover reached 1.8 up to 2 million lats per year, at the moment it is above 1 million. But it is growing. Recently we have hired some two to three persons. We do not keep people idle any more, instead operating a rolling schedule as in the rest of Europe.

…Unique concepts are impossible to imitate

Seven years ago you launched this unique concept regarding the interior, mood and the menu. Did anyone try to copy the yellowish-orange sun?

You can copy everything, but there is no point in it. Only restaurants with chefs or waiters as owners, who have studied or developed hotel services careers can be long-term, for example, Jānis Jenzis. We are stable players in the area of average prices, thus we do not intend to jump into the field of expensive ones as Vincents with Mārtiņš Rītiņš and Bergs with Kaspars Jansons. We do not do anything we are not sure about. This business depends on the personalities of the chefs, devoting themselves to work up to six times a week, 12-13 hours per day.

Do you introduce to your menu what your collegue «discovers» in his kitchen?

Yes, that’s our know-how. A restaurant or a pub can be successful if the owner is devoted to it completely. I had only six days off in November. I worked from 12 to 14 hours in the rest of the days. If someone is ready to devote that much spare time to work, I guarantee he or she will be successful in launching a restaurant. Participation in the TV broadcast Glābējkomanda Cepums (a cooking show) contributed to our popularity for sure. I left the show as soon as I felt we started to lack ideas. I would make another show if I had a new message to deliver to the society, as Elmārs Tannis with his Garšu laboratorija, so that I was proud for what I do. We are soon to launch videos on our homepage, instructing those who want to experiment with cooking.

Are all your restaurants profitable?

The pizzeria in Ogre is not.

Although it was the first one you launched in 2003, investing 28 thousand lats in it?

During the crisis we cut the prices by half in Ogre. We attracted huge numbers of clients, while the turnover remained more or less flat. Even a bit negative. The menu is still 20 to 30% cheaper in Ogre than in the rest of the restaurants in Riga. We even sold large size pizzas for 2.50 lats there, although they cost 4.70 lats in Riga. This is a delicious pizza. However, we do not «regret» Ogre, it is our history and we do not want to abandon it. Just recently we did refurbishment there. Ogre’s restaurant takes a lot of energy, but it is impossible to profit there. It is much wiser to invest in Riga with a greater clients flow.

…A completely recovered business

Are you stopping the expansion with four restaurants – pizzerias, a wok-cafe and Pastarellia?

These objects will exist for sure, but we are considering expansion. We have never mixed up the turnover with the profit, as some of our direct competitors. We did not reduce quality, just to earn as much as possible. When the crisis stroke, our aim was to keep what we already had. It is getting slightly better at the moment, as the prices of food we sell are not dropping any more. This is a huge «Wow!» from my part. We did not enter the newly opened Galeria Rīga, due to the excessively high rent. It would not be wise to invest 110 thousand lats in across the street. However, the positive effect is the fact tourists from the store come to us.

Has the company fully recovered?

Yes, we have. We do not have any outstanding debts. I would compare a catering business with a small state with 120 residents. Then you ask yourself the question, «Will you lead the state to the bankruptcy or to the victory?» All the employees know the actual situation – how much they have to sell per day not to make losses, and how important each lat is. Before the crises we had earned back the initial investments and paid all the mortgage loans. When the turnover dropped by 40% in four months time, we – owners – did not hesitate to invest our personal saving, in order the company would not lack assets. 15 to 20% people had less dinner in 2008 and 60 to 80% less people dined in 2009. We took the hit of the crisis, while others did not survive. We had a financial buffer zone and mutual trust. You can promise whatever you can to your employees but you have to keep your word, so that they are sure they will get the sum X at the end of the month.

What would you say to a foreign investor offering to acquire your chain?

You know, you can buy everything for money. Chains cost a lot of money. It is likely both Čili Pica and Gan Bei were sold, but the purchasers would want them below the market price. Currently we are not considering such options.

Have professional chefs stopped leaving the state for more wealthy ones in Europe?

I doubt high-rank chefs will emigrate. We had a guy named Māris, a good cook and a manager, he grew as a personality in two years time. He was offered a good position in London and he left. I say, «Leave if the offer is good, not making fries in Burger King, wash dishes or pick mushrooms.» Because when you return after five to seven years, you are only an excellent fries maker and that’s it. Māris became the right-hand of the chef and became a chief in a hotel in London in two years time. Super! Bravo! He might return with this huge experience and open his own restaurant.

Do you make pasta and ravioli just to sell them in the «green» markets?

No, there is something else in it. We learnt this in Italy from professional in a half year’s time deep studies. Pastarella supplies the rest of the restaurants, thus a mini-restaurant was born in the upper floor, where there was some free space. There are enough people of good purchasing capacity in Agenskalns. They will be sold and the central market of Riga at the vegetables pavilion for about 6 lats per kilogram – about five people can have a decent meal from that.

…Fast-food is entering as a road roller

When you opened a wok-cafe, instead of a bar, did you know it is going to be fashionable in Latvia?

With Wok-cafe we are trying to combine fast service with the green, slow-food way of thinking. My wife was learning in Paris, this is where I noticed the concept. Few minutes after ordering, you get delicious and healthy food. I realized this could be fast and cheap. One hour and a half long dining has turned into 40 minutes long one, without losing the quality. I am aware fast-food restaurants as Mc Donald’s and Hesburger have entered as road rollers. This is the future of Latvia. I visited Finland a year ago. We had a conversation with a new generation ovens technologies supplier, advertising making 60 hamburgers at the same time. I opposed it was not topical for us, as Latvians tend to eat traditionally, for example, in Lido or Vairāk Saules etc. The man listened to me and said they had the same situation 20 years ago. Unfortunately, fast-food is celebrating victory in Scandinavia. I believe unique concepts will be lasting. It is impossible food without a soul takes over everything. It might be we will continue developing exactly in the direction of wok-cafe. regarding overall tendencies in the next 5-7 years in EU, we are inevitably heading towards the fact people have dinner at offices, while ordering tables in restaurants for evening meals. Because business sector salaries will increase and people will regain the spirit of life.

How do you manage ensuring free of charge home delivery with the growing fuel prices up to 83 lats per liter?

We have to be one step ahead the competitors. They are operating this as well, how can we ask money for that? Besides, the number of orders grew a little. We are also giving free of charge plastic tableware. They cost 60 santims some time ago. Thermal tableware keep the food warm, which is especially important during the winter and the traffic jams.

Have people resumed organizing banquets in Riga?

They have. Last year only about two to three companies celebrated Christmas at Vairak saules. This year we serviced 15-20 banquets in December. The figure was 70 in 2006. Currently the bills are strictly checked, as people save more.

Leave a reply

  1. pop says:

    So it turns out someone was successful at combating crisis? Good job for that! Only real professional can do that!

  2. says:

    This seems as a good example of overcoming crisis and dealing with challenges.

  3. Colin Bowen says:

    I would be interested in anyone who can enlighten me as to any Latvian Companies that are buying goods from the UK , and if so please forward me details if you can to thanks . Colin Bowen

  4. constantin says:

    I think one of the best examples of slow green food is krisna centre on baron street. They mix religion concepts with qualitative vegetarian food besides use municipality and european funds.

  5. CharlesettaRobbie says:

    One way to resolve a distinct segment market is to discuss with and spot the first merchandise.

  6. VinceTemeka says:

    One option to resolve a niche marketplace is to discuss with and see the first products.

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