Arkady Novikov: Everything is about team

He opened his first restaurant in 1992. Today, the Novikov Group has 75 restaurants not only in Russia, but also abroad. The well-known caterer Arkady Novikov told start-up businessmen in Moscow how to open a popular restaurant.

- Arkady, what does one need to open a good restaurant and to make it a success?

- Honestly, I do not know that myself. At the beginning of my career, I opened classical restaurants. And then I created "Juster” that was a revolutionary restaurant at the time. It quickly became Moscow's most fashionable place. I think that it owed its popularity to the people who worked there and the modern fashionable interior. By the way, the design would be progressive even now: concrete, metal, glass.

In general, I would advise you against opening a fashionable restaurant. It is risky, because a fashionable place tend to become unfashionable over time. The audience that comes there is very unreliable; they love you today, but they will not love you tomorrow. For example, my second restaurant, "Gallery", which quickly gained popularity, lasted long enough for a fashionable place, but then it gradually became unpopular. The food was pretty good, the design was OK too, however, at some point, people just stopped coming there.

Two years later, I decided to open a restaurant called "Semiramis" on the former site of the "Gallery". We found a designer and turned this place into a Greek tavern. At first, the restaurant was doing well, but then it went into decline. Suddenly, an investor offered us cooperation. Instead of "Semiramis", we decided to open "Klyovo". I did not really believe in this project, as we had already closed two restaurants at this site before. Before the opening, we made minimal changes to the design putting a stove at the entrance, changing the color of some chairs and putting cushions on the sofas. When we opened the door, the "Klyovo" restaurant suddenly became popular. It is still a mystery to me, why.

Here is another example. When I opened a restaurant in London, the Guardian published an article written by a critic who was saying that everything in the restaurant (food, interior, public) was bad. I panicked and thought that I could never look into my partners' eyes again. Naturally, I saw that the restaurant was over. But quite the opposite happened. Apparently, we were given such a low rate that people began to wonder what it really was like. The day after the article was published, we had twice as many visitors as in the period from the opening and until then publication. Now, this facility services about 1,100 guests a day, leave alone the bar, and employs 360 people. The restaurant is located at a top spot, we have chosen the right cuisine, which is Asian and Italian, plus we have a good team.

One of my most popular restaurants, "Syrovarnya", was created by accident. I suggested that my partner open a small factory or a workshop where fresh cheeses from local milk would be made and served to customers. I believe that this idea was right: firstly, it meant import substitution, secondly, cheese is good when it is served straight away, and thirdly, pricing is different, because we make cheese ourselves. And, of course, we had talented chefs and managers, a good spot and a parking lot.

In general, before you open a restaurant, you should think about such things as location, audience, the average bill, and the kind of service. After that you just rely on luck. You may think that I know some secrets opening a successful restaurant, but I do not. In some cases the place was good, the interior was fine, the chefs were excellent, and the service was of high quality, but it just did not go well. And God knows why.

In my opinion, the most popular places today are not clubs or karaoke bars, but small restaurants with affordable prices. There are many pedestrian streets, where you can open small restaurants or summer terraces. Today, young caterers have a full carte blanche.

- Who do you think is the most important in restaurant business? Who should be included in the team, except for the owner and the chef, to make a successful project?

- Who knows, who is the most important. This is a team. If any small part of the team does not work, the restaurant will be a failure. Of course, much depends on the concept and the design that the owner has chosen, and the chef who is cooking the meals. However, managers who arrange the work in the right way, waiters who serve the visitors, and hostesses who meet them are equally important. You see, the restaurant starts with a hostess, like the theater starts with a hanger.

I receive several messages every day,where people say, what a cool restaurant I have, what a cool team. And there is the same number of messages about terrible service and bad food. Of course, guests can also be different, but more often I have to fight with employees who do not know how to work or do not want to. No matter what position a person holds in a restaurant, he or she eyes should be enthusiastic about it and love their job. Therefore, the most important people in the restaurant are those who care about clients, love them and put their heart into their work.

- Have you ever thought about introducing digital technologies into the restaurant business in order to minimize the human factor?

- Several times I thought about ways to apply digital technology in a modern restaurant. But I'm a conservative in this regard. For example, I was offered to make a menu on tablets, but I do not understand how you can read an electronic menu! I like printed menus, I like it when a waiter approaches me, brings the food, gives me a bill, says "thank you". It is possible that in a few years we will have to change something using digital technologies. But I hope that when I am an old man, the waiter will still bring me a printed menu and a cup of coffee. By the way, I do not like fast food facilities for the fact that there is no personal approach.

- Arkady, how do you build relationships with investors in regard of restaurant operation? What issues can arise, and what are the ways to solve them?

- There is no universal formula, each specific business requires its own scenario. You must first discuss with an investor, what he is going to do - just invest funds or manage a restaurant. Often, investors who have no idea about the restaurant business, think that they can manage the restaurant since they invest. My agreement with an investor is usually like this: the investor provides the funds, but we manage the restaurant. The investor has the right to receive any information about the restaurant operation, the number of bills, the turnover, that is all the economic and financial information we have. But the investor can not come to me and tell me how to do anything. I think it is right to cooperate with investors this way.

In conclusion, I would like to say that it has become easy to run a business in Moscow. Look how the city has changed over the past few years, how modern it has become. I am really proud of my Moscow. I open most of my restaurants in Moscow, not abroad. I believe that it is more exciting, more important and easier to open them here than anywhere abroad. The Moscow catering business has made a huge step forward. Today, Moscow has more cafes and restaurants than in other capitals of the world. And if the city continues to support businesses, Moscow will become even better.


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