Andriy Khudo, Emotions Holding “!FEST”: The concept of a restaurants prompt us the history of the Lviv and Galicia

Andriy Khudo, Emotions Holding “!FEST”: The concept of a restaurants prompt us the history of the Lviv and Galicia

08.03.2017 09:00
Іван Зайцев

Andriy Khudo is the co-founder of Emotions Holding “!FEST”. They told about the way from one restaurant to the most famous Lviv chain, the rules of the new conceptual restaurants creating and the finding staff difficulty.

“!FEST” Emotions Holding conceptual restaurants became a long time since the Lviv hallmark. Almost every visitor to the Lion city considers it his duty to visit at least one of the many holding establishments – be it the legendary “Kriivka”, “House of Legends” or “Gasova liampa” (“Kerosene lamp”), “Masoch-Café” or “Zidivska Knaipa”(”Jew Kneipp”), Arsenal. Ribs and spirits, or “M’iasa i Spravedlivosti”(“Meat and justice”). Each of the restaurants differs from the others and each has its own unique atmosphere. The Holding co-founder Andriy Khudo said to about the birth of !FEST Emotions Holding conceptual establishments, where and how Company leaders find new ideas, why Ukraine can become the European gastroturizm center and what the future wait for the Ukrainian restaurant business.

Each your holding food restaurants has its own characteristics, a legend, an original concept. Where you are looking for ideas and inspiration?

– Ideas come and pass initial processing in a narrow partners-leaders circle. And only then these ideas passed for further operation to our Holding team. There are a lot of legends and interesting stories in our city and the region in general. A certain part it was on the surface, it does not have to search, it was necessary to tell just these stories.

No one has used such opportunities just before us, it has been sporadic attempts, but most of the establishments were in fact museums, but not city living history. We decided to try to develop an interactive format where people have the opportunity to touch the legend, to be with it in the same room. And we guess: themed restaurants with its own legend and entourage, such as “Kryїvka”,”Masoch Café”, “Gasova liampa” (“Kerosene lamp”) and others are very popular among Lvov residents and visitors.

Do you accompany yourself each establishment: from the concept and legend creation before the opening and the work first weeks?

– It is necessary to separate: there are project management and operational management. These are two independent directions, and each of it has own characteristics and own team. It involved people who have the task to collect all the concepts into a single unit, and a subdivision that is engaged in construction, interior design and sewing clothes; some of our colleagues are engaged in music, menu design, and staff training. This is painstaking work of many people, which takes months. And after starting the establishment management it passes to the other team already – operational managers.

It makes no sense to give the whole cycle to the same people: someone is stronger in project management, but one are feeling uncomfortable in their daily work. Someone contrary is stronger in cases that require constant systematic work, but one is much weaker in developing the concept and implementing it into practice. The top management task is to use the each employee strong suit, providing them the opportunity for self-fulfillment and development, and does not require him to perform those functions, where he is incompetent or ineffective.

Kryivka Lviv


Country of Legends

Tell us about the legend creation, for example, “Gasova liampa” (“Kerosene lamp”)

– Until now, few people know that the kerosene lamp was invented in Lviv. But we could not pass by such ready legends and created a conceptual thematic restaurant, where, incidentally, there is the largest in Ukraine and the second largest in the world collection of kerosene lamps. We set a goal to inform people about that socially important invention was created just in Lviv, use it to promote the city and Ukraine in general. Many tourists find out only in the restaurant “Gasova liampa”(“Kerosene lamp”) that the lamp was invented in Lviv, and it leads to a “wow effect”: our guests can see firsthand and with his own hands to touch the legend.

And what about “Lviv kawa kopalnia” (“Lviv coffee mine”)?

– It’s all an interesting story. A few years ago I witnessed the amusing dialogue between the city guests from Donbas. Visiting “Lviv kawa kopalnia” (“Lviv coffees mine”), where there is a stylized exhibition – “Kawa kopalnia” (“Coffee mine”), the woman said to the companion: “That’s how coffee is produced! And I thought, it grows on trees…”. That is the establishment legend was so believable that people even believe it! (is laughing).

But seriously, the Lvov is the Ukrainian “coffee capital”: there are cafes, coffees, coffee grounds at the center of almost every step. Lvov coffee is a brand that many of the city visitors to buy it as a souvenir for friends and family. So this image do not beat was silly: through and created a legend of “Lviv kawa kopalnia”, and it remains popular among Lvov residents and tourists. So it was created and legend, the “Chocolate Lviv maysternіa” (“Chocolate Lviv manufactory”) concept: delicious original high-quality hand-made chocolate has only our shop. And people are willing to pay for this legend, for the atmosphere and the taste a certain fee.

That is, do all ideas prompt you Galicia?

– Each region has its own characteristics, its own advantages, its own culture and traditions. In particular it is cooking. Galicia is no exception, we have a large baggage of centuries-old traditions that we can modernize and use to create its own special, diverse establishment and dishes. I am sure that the Galician cuisine deserves more than just being the local cuisine; it can compete with the world’s cuisines. And our goal is – the Holding company, and our colleagues who work in Ukraine – to promote the Galician cuisine, and to promote it in the world, do it known to foreigners.

Another direction – where we are looking for an unusual concept for the establishment – numerous trips are. In a world there are so many interesting, diverse, conceptual restaurants, cafes and bistros. My colleagues and I are travelling to different countries, are studying the other people experience, are analyzing the trends, are finding an interesting concept, elements of which are then are using in our restaurants.

What is it?

– From the most recent: in Portugal we saw a small bar “Ginger”, which only one kind of product – tinctures – offered customers. And the visitors were more than enough. For me, the best indicator of a successful restaurant is queue entry. We have used this experience in creating restaurant “P’ianaia vishnia” (“Drunken cherries”). As you can see: the concept has been more than successful – turn constantly is in the restaurant.

Theatre “PRAVDA” (“True”) beer – it started a long time, but now it changes virtually the beer consumption culture in Lvov and Ukraine. Until now, the consumers are more like “lager” beer varieties, but we accustom them to the Belgian brewing tradition that is closer to wine than to the classic beer. And customers get used to it. We are doing a kind of “crafting revolution”(is laughing).

And what about other !FEST establishments?

– This year ten years marks since we opened our first restaurant – “Kriivka”. And until now, in order you to get into the restaurant, you will have some time to wait! That is, the concept works in spite of the fact that it has ten years. A similar situation is and with other, which opened later: restaurant “M’iasa i spravedlivostі” (“Meat and justice”), Arsenal. Ribs and spirits, “House of Legends” and the like.

Lviv Business Card !FEST

The visits to !FEST establishments are almost mandatory program for many city guests. Do you agree with the opinion that the Holding restaurants become a magnet, the attention center for tourists?

– It is necessary to understand that in the last ten years, the Lviv image very changed. When we enter into the business, the Rynok square was crammed with cars, and this location had any attraction for tourists. Now passage through the square is too difficult, but for another reason: there are a lot of people.

Specifically we do not track: how many tourists come to the city with the purpose to visit our establishments. But we “hit the top ten” with own original restaurant concepts, it is aimed at our city popularization.

Is it promotion of the city, or just Holding?

– In the first stage, we have discovered a lot of establishments in a short time: about two restaurants in quarter. This gave an additional marketing: we did not need to invest in the chain promotion, and even now we do not spend money on the usual customer engagement channels such as TV, radio or press. We opened a new conceptual establishment, and it is “pulled” for that concept that it was once opened. Such is itself a “cross-marketing”.

And this dynamic of new restaurants creation, of course, has changed the city image in a certain way. Many of my friends from other cities asked coming to the city: “And what !FEST opened new? What’s new in other establishments?” Now our trend picked up by other market players, a lot of conceptual establishments are opening, many are closing …

By the way, had you to close own restaurants?

– We did not close any establishment for ten years. Yes, there were some unsuccessful experiments with the restaurants concepts, we had to account or to seek a completely new ideas and approaches, but so that to close once and for all – this was not.

Which places did “not soar”, and it had been restructure?

–Yes, the same is “Arsenal. Ribs and spirits” or the “P’ianaia Vishnia”. (“Drunken cherries”). Previously, there were establishments with other concepts, which were unsuccessful. First “Rynok Edy” (“Food market”) arranged in the commercial premises where “Arsenal. Ribs and spirits” is now located. But it gathered a large audience only in the tourist season, because Lviv residents were not interested by project. The next concept at this location was club. But it worked two days a week and did not bring enough money.

Therefore, in the same commercial premises we opened “Trapeznaia” (“Refectory”), i.e. home and relatively cheap food eatery. The concept also proved unsuccessful – revenues did not cover the rental, repair costs, staff salaries. Already we thought to abandon from commercial premises, but the third attempt, in May 2016, has been successful – today “Arsenal. Ribs and spirits” has become one of the most popular our chain establishments. It is thanks to eatery single-product: the main dish is ribs and related products; there is not a wide choice.

The main question

What are your requirements for the garcons and other staff?

– Required is English. It must have. Our company has two tutors, who are constantly engaged with employees, teaching them English. There are in Lviv a lot of tourists from Europe, and if the garcon speaks English, it is an additional factor to help attract clients.

Waiters should behave in a certain way, to play the role in each of your conceptual establishments. And it is difficult to compare the personnel behavior in the “Masoch Café”, the restaurant the “M’iasa i spravedlivostі” (“Meat and justice”) with garcons in “Galicia Naydorozhchaia restoratcіa” (“The most expensive Galicia restaurant”). How do you do it?

– Our team carefully selects the staff, taking into account the peculiarities of a particular person. That is, if you are commie, then work will not be able for you in “Kryїvka”. If you are an introvert, the “Masoch Café” is not for you, there is need to constantly play, constantly attract visitors, to play certain scenes.

The hardest part is when you select conceptualist, i.e. a man who embodies the establishment spirit. Such is Mykola in “Kryivka”, who has been working for ten years, or cat Andrey in “M’yasa i Spravedlivostі” (“Meat and justice”).

And how do you find these people?

– It helps a lot, when a person comes out of the theater or drama school. Then it is easier for his to play own role, he behaves more freely and relaxed. While on the other hand, it takes time that collective to become accustomed to this role.

Another example is “House of Legend”. This is not only commercial, but to a certain extent and social project. Most of the staff at this restaurant is the small stature people. They are also taught, to be prepared by members of our great team, sincere and warmly service clients.

In order to visitors complained of the staff, it is necessary to have clear criteria for the selection by “input”, a clear understanding of own values ​​and understanding of the people – they share your values. And continuous training: managers school, school cooks, periodically hold workshops and seminars for different levels employees are working for us.

Does !FEST has a large staff turnover? How many people are retiring?

– If we talk specifically about the team core – it is almost zero, we are working together for many years, and there are only a few cases when a person is retired from our Holding to a new, higher position. We have plenty of opportunities for personal and career growth.

If we talk about the garcons – the fluidity is. In Ukraine, unfortunately, the garcon profession is considered to be something temporary. Although, garcons earn very well in some establishments, and they have the opportunity to grow, eventually becoming restaurants or directions managers.

Another big problem is the cook …

What’s wrong with them?!

– We cannot pay the big salaries to professional chefs in dollars after the last hryvnia devaluation. Plus, cooks do not consider their profession prestigious, despite of the fact that some can achieve the heights when they run on the same kitchen with chef-cooks with the international reputation… This is why many of them choose to work abroad. Yes, there are much more work is necessary, in a few months to be away from their families, but the salary is much higher. Now we are gradually tightens our salaries to the European, but it is a long and rather painful process: the hryvnia devaluation three times severely struck on us. It is very painful: you put a lot of effort to get up to a certain level, and then the sudden devaluation reduces your efforts to nothing.

The second part of the interview with Andriy Khudo coming soon on

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