Andrey Khudo, «!FEST» emotions holding: Ukrainian cuisine can conquer world

Andrey Khudo, «!FEST» emotions holding: Ukrainian cuisine can conquer world

10.03.2017 10:00
Іван Зайцев

The second part of the interview with the co-owner of the most popular Lvov “!FEST” restaurant chain about Ukrainian restaurant business present and future and development company Lviv outside.

Andrei Khudo said that exactly inspires him and the team to create new original conceptual restaurants, about the finding and training staff problems and the working peculiarities in the Lviv market in the first part to the interview. The interview second part is more devoted to the «!FEST» emotions holding future: in what cities we can expect the company restaurants and shops appearance, why Ukrainian cuisine yet has not gained recognition among gourmets, and why the restaurants future is for mono-food cuisine.

Concept vs taste

If you compare the investment in the conceptual restaurant opening and the “ordinary” restaurant – what do you need more money for?

− I do not think that there is so much difference. The investments majority will go to design in any case, premises repair, communications arrangement. We have very large expenses for repairs and communications, because we are opening in the city center, in historic buildings, which are often in an emergency condition. On the other hand, when we are investing in repairing premises, we simultaneously create an interior, or we spend money on the elements necessary to an atmosphere create (for example − the same lamps collection in restaurant “Gasova liampa” (“Kerosene lamp”), which have its own value. Therefore, I think that the difference is comparable.


Мазох кафе

All yours restaurants differ according to legend, interior, cuisine. By your opinion, what is more important for the establishment success: the original concept or delicious food?

We are put the concepts always first. We did not have the opportunity to immediately make an ideal cuisine at the rate new establishments opening, which we had. Recently, on the contrary, we pay more attention to the cuisine, as now we open fewer restaurants (last year only Arsenal. Ribs and spirits, and “Pianaia vishnia” (“Drunken cherry”), so there time is not only to work on concepts, but also to improve the food and services quality. We hired famous cooks who are able to create interesting dishes, and we went step by step to the individual establishment cuisines. There is already the completely redoned menu in the restaurants “Zhydivskaia knaipa” (“Jew kneipp”) and the “House of Legends”, now on the line is the “Left coast”, and then are other restaurants will be.

What do you pay special attention to?

− Now it is mono-productivity. It works. A classic example is restaurant “Pstrug”. There all the menu is built around trout, which the customer can order in almost any form. There is different cooking methods, different design. And the mono-food restaurant becomes popular and successful. In particular, due to that this is one of the few Lvov fish restaurants.

Where do you get food for establishments?

− If we are talking about restaurant “Pstrug”, then Lviv is not located near the sea, and it’s quite difficult to find fresh fish. For a while we bought from distributors, but then we found a small fish farm in the region, and we agreed on permanent cooperation. Yes, in certain cases, our trout are more expensive than imported, but for us it is always important to have high quality and guaranteed freshness and taste.

A similar situation is with other ingredients: we are trying to find local suppliers that will be able to ensure a stable supply of fresh products. Of course, this is not always possible, but an ingredients significant proportion we receive from the near Ukrainian regions. For example, we buy buffalo meat and buffalo cheese from one farmer. These are unique local products that it significantly diversifies the menu of our restaurants.

Ресторан Пструг

Ресторан Пструг

Gastronomic Mecca

Recently, Saveliy Libkin talked in one of the interviews about the gastrotourism possible development in Ukraine, and said that this direction has dubious prospects at the current stage. Do you agree with him?

− We are old friends with Savely Libkin, although, unfortunately, we do not see each other personally. Concerning the possibilities of gastrotourism developing … If a country positions itself as a tourist, then it simply not can not be! What do we show the country guests when they arrive for the first time? Architecture, sacred tourism places – churches, Roman Catholic churches, and historical sites. And, of course, always they are invited to restaurants, where there are prepare local cuisine dishes. For example, the gastronomic theme occupied the notable place in the interesting places list for visiting during the Eurovision Song Contest and Euro-2012. And many tourists evaluated Ukraine on two main criteria: hospitality, i.e. − a hotel, and food, i.e. − order in the restaurant, staff courtesy and qualification, food quality and taste.

In Ukraine, each region has its own culinary traditions. Which of the regional cuisines can attract tourists?

− Any. Each has its own advantages, it does not matter, it’s Galician, Transcarpathian, Odessa, Poltava, Kiev cooking. The main thing is that it leaves positive emotions for the visitors, for which it is necessary to adapt the menu in a certain way, making it more modern and attractive.

A classic example is Italian cuisine. Nothing complicated: pizza and pasta, but they created a whole cult, a world legend from own dishes. And now you can find restaurants in every world corner where there is offered Italian cuisine. Why can not the Ukrainian dishes conquer the world? We need to implement and seek out a format that will be competitive at the world level.

Has the tourist’s structure changed in the last three years? Who do now most often visits Lvov (except Ukrainians?).

− Before the Virtue Revolution, there were many Russians in the city, but then, of course, their number decreased noticeably. Which is not surprising: propaganda and difficulties with transport communication have worked …

Do they were replaced by Europe citizens?

− Not at once. A certain time foreign were not almost to security issue. The distance from Lviv to Donetsk in 1200 kilometers is the argument for us that there is no danger in Western Ukraine. And, the Polish Foreign Ministry recommendation to not visit Ukraine is much more important for the Poles because it is fighting. Europeans are accustomed to listening to such advice, and they refrained for several months from traveling to our country. Only then, seeing firsthand that everything is calm in Lvov, and life goes on, they again began to visit our city.

So, are there almost no Russians now?

− Not enough. The Turks became much more numerous; Belarusians, Poles and  Western Europe citizens often come.

Ресторан "Лівий берег"

Ресторан “Лівий берег”

Loyalty above all

Tell us about the loyalty program, which is implemented in “!FEST”. What principles are used and what is the benefit to customers?

− We did the first loyalty program several years ago − “Keys from “Kryivka”. I.e., the customers received a personal number key, which gave them the right to a certain discount when they visited the restaurant. But then we decided to transform the idea, because the first one did not justify itself and was inconvenient and for us, and for clients.

So the loyalty program “Local − free and not indifferent community ” appeared. And it immediately gained popularity among consumers, and it gave us a lot of information for analytics: who goes where, how often and what he buys. !fest

What does it give the consumer?

− The customer receives bonus points – bofons – on his personal account with each purchase. Then he can calculate by it at purchase, receiving the goods free of charge or compensating a cost certain part. This is much more interesting and easier for consumers than a discounts cumbersome system. For us, the advantage lies in the fact that the client must visit the once again the establishments for using the points, i.e. we thus invite him to a second visit.

How many users already have cards “Locale”? !fest

− There are only in Lviv more than half a million. Active users are about three hundred thousand.

Is the program effective only for Lviv citizens?

− There is a separate program for the city guests, including a joint program with the KLO chain refueling. There are more than one million users in the joint program.

Реберня під арсеналом

Реберня під арсеналом

Lviv for export !fest

Recently, the establishments under the brands that belong to “!FEST”, began to appear in other Ukrainian cities: the Beer theater “PRAVDA”(“True”) in Kiev, “Lviv pliatsky”( “Lviv potato pancakes”) and “Chocolate Lviv maysternia” (“Chocolate Lviv manufactory”)… Do you become cramped in Lviv?

− We love Lviv very much, we were born here, studied, earned the first money and invested it in our own business. And I cannot say that now we will focus efforts on other cities, there are many more projects here. We are changing the city and not just by our establishments. For example, we plan to change two hectares of the former factory territory near mount “Vysokiy zamok” (“High castle”), where “!FEST republic” is located: an office and a club have already been built, plans are for a brewery, other manufactories and cultural facilities.

There is a lot of work in Lviv, but we are an ambitious company, and we decided to reach the national level at the development certain stage.

Which project was the first to be replicated?

− Lviv chocolate is. It is the same unique and known local product, as well as Lviv coffee. Our aim was to ensure that each consumer had a clear association: “Lviv chocolate”=“Chocolate Lviv maysternia” (“Chocolate Lviv manufacture”). And we managed to achieve this. Therefore, when we thought about the chain development, we set yourselves the aim that the “Chocolate Lviv maysternia”  (“Chocolate Lviv manufacture”) trade points  should be in all regional centers and major cities of Ukraine. Now this aim has already been achieved: our production chocolate can be purchased in any Ukrainian corner, and visiting the establishments, you can be feel yourself partly in Lviv.

Do you develop this chain by franchising?

− Basically, it is. But we do not give anything to franchising, until we ourselves not protested and not made sure that the project is a working and it can make a profit. Every concept that goes beyond Lviv, we first test ourselves, risking our own money. Selling an untapped project is not our method. Only a success story can expose to the franchise.

And what other brands can we expect? !fest

− Required it will be “Lviv pliatsky” (“Lviv potato pancakes”), in the long term it will be Beer theater “PRAVDA” (“True”) and restaurant “Pianaia Vishnia” (“Drunken cherry”). We are thinking to open restaurant “Pianaia vishnia” (“Drunken cherry’) in Kiev, thoroughly test everything, and then − to other cities − maybe we’ll give it to franchising. As an option, we are considering the possibility of “Rebernia” (“Raeburn”) opening in the capital, also to test, analyze and, perhaps, it further replicate.

Why do you choose Kiev as a testing ground, and not, for example, the Dnieper or Odessa?

− Firstly, Kiev is the largest city in Ukraine with a high solvent demand and a pretty capricious audience, which has the opportunity to compare different formats of any cuisine restaurants. Therefore, the capital is ideal for testing. Secondly, Kiev has changed a lot after these two revolutions − Orange and Virtue. It became much closer to us mentally, so it became easier to work and the Kiev citizens train to our peculiarities.

Dnieper, by the way, has also changed − it has become much more patriotic, and it is very pleasant.

Do you plan to go abroad?

− We are already there (is smiling). For five years we have been doing business in Poland, opened “Chocolate maysternia” (“Chocolate manufacture”) in Azerbaijan − in Baku. I.e., we do not confine ourselves exclusively by Ukraine or Lviv, but we are looking to the world. The only question is with which concepts we will go there.

And with what concepts? !fest

− Those that it will be competitive, and it will be able to win the Western and Eastern consumers favor. In fact, we have many diverse businesses. In addition to restaurants with Galician coloring, we have clothing production – “Galicia Aviation”, our own breweries − there are the same beer theater “PRAVDA” (“True”), which is also a powerful concept with good prospects. We are already exporting beer to Poland, Britain, the USA, to competitions in Belgium and other countries. We have already opened the first branch in Kiev, it works in a test mode, we are looking at the results. I can say that it will not be the only one.

What exactly we’ll be export abroad − such projects as “PRAVDA” (“True”) or “Chocolate Lviv maysternia” (“Chocolate Lviv manufacture”) − we’ll see. !fest

Last question. Which are your vision of the Ukrainian restaurant market development for the next three – five – ten years?

− I think if the economy goes on the mend, then sooner or later large chain operators will start to enter Ukraine. Secondly, tendencies will spread on popularization of local cuisines − Lviv, Odessa, Slobozhansk and others like. Thirdly, it seems to me that single-product formats have a great prospect. The restaurateur needs to do what he can do best, and not develop a menu on twenty pages, where half the dishes or will not be, or it will be tasteless.

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