You are here
> Business > How we finally opened the restaurant in Croatia

How we finally opened the restaurant in Croatia

How we finally opened the restaurant in Croatia

Sorry I haven’t written for a long time. The first months of the restaurant’s life are something!

It remains just to equip the beds and we even stop to leave the restaurant. But I have had plenty of impressions.

Basically, we started this great story not to get bored globally. And we really do not get bored. I’ll tell a bit messy about the conclusions in preparation for the opening and the first days of work.

Restaurant’s birth – it’s magic

For three months there were three of us in the restaurant – just me, my husband and chef. We bought something, looking for something, met with suppliers, counted, planned and tried. We conducted informal focus groups.

And suddenly in two weeks, the restaurant came alive. Suddenly (well, actually, after a month of overactive searching in an empty summer Zagreb) there were 11 employees. Firstly revived the kitchen, then the dining area. Croatia has strict labor laws and citizens can’t work more than 40 hours a week. So we had to hire so many people to work in shifts.

Then, finally, came all the dishes, decorations, tools, all the small stuff, and other necessary things. And everything is folded into a single, solid picture. It turned out, the restaurant is living now not only in our heads.

And then the doors were opened and the first guests entered. And paid the first money. When you only spend a year and a half (education, moving on, life in Italy), you look at the first earned by realized dream banknotes like on a real miracle.

Choose people 49/51

Photo credit: Ivana Fried

Our team is cool. We chose such people, among who it will be nice to stay for us.

Danny Meyer, famous New York City restaurateur and the Chief Executive Officer of the Union Square Hospitality Group says:

 “You can teach technical skills, but you can’t train employees emotionally. But you can teach managers how to hire for a specific emotional skill set.”

When selecting new hires, Meyer looks for candidates whose strengths are divided 51%-49% between emotional hospitality and technical excellence. “I like to call them hospitalitarians. People who are naturally kind, empathetic and curious, along with having a strong work ethic. They get fed through the process of providing hospitality.”

As Meyer describes in his book, Setting the Table: “To me, a 51 percenter has five core emotional skills. I’ve learned that we need to hire employees with these skills if we’re to be champions at the team sport of hospitality. They are:

They are:

  1. Optimistic warmth (genuine kindness, thoughtfulness, and a sense that the glass is always at least half full);
  2. Intelligence (not just “smarts” but rather an insatiable curiosity to learn for the sake of learning);
  3. Work ethic (a natural tendency to do something as well as it can possibly be done);
  4. Empathy (an awareness of, care for, and connection to how others feel and how your actions make others feel);
  5. Self-awareness and integrity (an understanding of what makes you tick and a natural inclination to be accountable for doing the right thing with honesty and superb judgment).

– Danny Meyer, Chapter 7, “The 51 Percent Solution,” Setting the Table (2006)

We instinctively follow the same rules.

Result: It’s mentioned in each recall on TripAdvisor, the excellent service and a good atmosphere in the restaurant.

But it does not mean that they do not leave. For 2.5 months, we have said goodbye to three of.

No romance, just routine

And I say this in love about my favorite place. We have been warned by everyone. Any “wow, I have a restaurant” won’t be in a real life. Our first few days look like this. The glasses were not come or come others. The right wine we need is not allowed at the moment. When you turn on the ice maker a fuse blows. Three different electricians are at a loss. Dishwasher leaves white sand on the glasses for an unknown reason. On a sudden appeared the smell of sewage and on a sudden disappeared.

Menu was printed with errors, but I have not noticed them…

We cope with it, just laughing a lot.

There are no good or bad situations, there is your attitude to them

And your attitude, how to use them. For example, all foreigners are aliens for Croats. They are very open and pleasant in communication, we immediately made a lot of friends. But in general, the society is conservative and a little wary of any project of foreigners. We do not have the same trust, as when the Croatian chef opens the restaurant. And we can see this situation from the good side: it is because nothing is expected and wonder is much stronger about the tasty food and cozy atmosphere. We are able to perform one of the main rules of the restaurant: to exceed guests’ expectations.


How many times it’s necessary to repeat to yourself? Every time you try to do everything on your own, remember that this is a business, not self-employment.  Torn and do everything by yourself is impossible.

Delegation has two basic principles:

  1. All who you pay money to can do more than you expected. Teach them how to, give them responsibilities, show that you control. But, the most important – trust them.
  2. You have no idea how many people are able and willing to help you even without money. Just ask.

If you cannot change – accept

Do not let the little things distract you from strategic goals. Preparations for the opening – it is a real fuss. If I ever grow up and become wise, I will do everything strictly according to the plan and on time. So far, it’s not working. Every day there are about 10-20 unexpected details. It’s not allowed to stuck on them because it will stop everything.

The white saltshakers didn’t come – ok, please. There is no a certain type of brown sugar in whole Croatia – well, I’ll remake the “sugar” concept. No white flowers today, when I need them so much, well, no problem – will be “non-white”. It sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? In the case of the restaurant is particularly clearly seen small things, we are often annoyed and stop motion. But when you are concentrating on the big goal, any color of saltshaker cannot upset or distract you.

The most important conclusion about the beginning of a business in another country – who are your partners

We are lucky to have a friend and a mentor in Ukraine, who is decided to go on this adventure together with us.

Our partner said a very important key phrase in the beginning: “If you have the confidence and the monetary base, you will not be in a hurry to make money today and make short-sighted decisions. You will develop the restaurant, thinking strategically, but not hysterically. As when you are trying to earn today on rent and wages, reducing the quality of service or food.” The second part of success is a local partner, who has the same vision with you. I know it’s very difficult – to find a person who deserves respect and trust in the new country. But we really wanted to find and he was found. It is even difficult to describe the scope of the tasks that our Croatian partner took off from us with his team. Documents inspection, pipefitters, electricians, support of invitations to the first guests and marketing. Sometimes even a simple phone call. In the early days in Croatia we very clumsily expressed ourselves in Croatian language, and it was so hard to call strangers. In a direct conversation it’s possible to switch into English or to show by gestures. But our own twist of the tongue in telephone conversations was very embarrassing. And our partner with his team knew it and could call somewhere for us. We are so grateful to them for everything, especially for this simple support. Not relate to the project as to a routine, take pictures, make the video and write down Everything what is happening – it’s another cool story of your cool life. Even if there is no diary or blog, lead it in your head. Safe plots and bright moments. If to think so, then even very hard or routine tasks are perceived as a necessary part of the story. Stand back a bit and look at the story slightly from the side.

Not relate to the project as to a routine, take pictures, make the video and write down

Everything that is happening – it’s another cool story of your cool life. Even if you don’t have a diary or blog, lead it in your head. Safe plots and bright moments. If to think so, then even very hard or routine tasks are perceived as a necessary part of the story. Stand back a bit and look at the story slightly from the side.

The restaurant won’t filled by itself

Unless you are in the heart of the pedestrian zone and it is not a fact. Daily “Battle for guests” – is hard work.

I was a PR expert for 10 years and thought I closed that part of my personal development. But no, you won’t leave it.

Two-thirds of the working day I spend with our guests, journalists, restaurant profiles on social networks, in the layout and adaptation of menu, preparation of presentations and proposals.

I write something all the time, call someone and tell something / present / offer.

We have a difficult location and it requires titanic PR-efforts. For what I should say thanks again. I haven’t warmed up my brains so hard for a long time. For the last year and a half I cut vegetables more than I thought.

In the following texts I’ll tell more about our restaurant marketing.

Well, and finally, work with food does not mean that you will eat at least once a day

I’m writing that when I went for the purchase and suddenly woke up at McDonalds.