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23 May. 2024


How to open a restaurant in Ukraine and abroad in 2024? Restaurant consultant and expert Igor Pokachalov tells all about the current market and pitfalls



How to open a restaurant in Ukraine and abroad in 2024? Restaurant consultant and expert Igor Pokachalov tells all about the current market and pitfalls

Opening your own restaurant is an asterisked task, both in Ukraine and abroad. As Igor Pokachalov noted, if you are planning to do this now, think again first. However, everything is possible, especially if you have a strategy, a plan, and a specialist who will tell you about all the important nuances and coordinate your actions. Learn everything and a little more about the restaurant market and starting a new business in this niche in 2024

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The restaurant market is not a simple but very interesting segment that continues to adapt and develop even during serious global crises and wars. This is proved by millions of facts, and some of the most striking examples are the modification of the restaurant services market during the Covid-19 pandemic and the not perfect but lightning-fast adaptation of the industry during the war in Ukraine. For example, during the full-scale invasion, coffee shops became real record holders, as the number of such establishments in Ukraine increased by 35% compared to pre-war 2021.

This proves that opening your own restaurant can be successful in any, even the most difficult, conditions. It all depends on your strategy and plan. And to understand whether you are really ready to embark on this path and what you may need for a successful start in Ukraine and abroad, we talked to expert and restaurant consultant Igor Pokachalov.

Read all about the modern restaurant services market and the nuances of opening your own restaurant in our interview.

Igor, welcome! Could you tell our audience who you are, what you do, how many years you have been in this business, and why you chose this particular direction?

Good afternoon. My name is Igor Pokachalov and I have been in the restaurant world for 25 years. I have come an interesting way from a bartender's assistant to a restaurant consultant. I started out as an assistant in one of Odesa's nightclubs, and in five years I became the owner of a summer bar on the Black Sea coast. However, I made a lot of mistakes, so I continued to study.

I spent five years gaining experience at the famous Fanconi restaurant chain, then went through the iron school of the Ibiza club in Odesa. In 2012, I opened a restaurant in the city center. Odessans still remember this bright establishment. 

During this period, I began to provide advice on restaurants in general, because even then I had a lot of knowledge and all of it was gained from my own experience. It was then that I realized that creating new projects was MY thing. It was my personal path of development and growth. Having gathered a team of specialists around me, I started this creative and very important work.

To begin with, I would like to discuss the current market of catering establishments in Ukraine. This issue is of interest to us and, probably, to our readers.

The restaurant business in Ukraine has suffered huge losses. But our restaurateurs have not given up and continue to work. The growth rate of this industry has dropped by almost 70 percent, although I expected worse. 

For obvious reasons, the western part of our wounded country is now working, and it is from there that I receive the largest number of orders for consultations. Kyiv is also moving forward. To spite the enemies! 

There are still many difficult periods ahead. Restaurants have already faced a staff shortage, and this need will get worse. Problems in the country's energy sector will also hit this area hard. There will also be a shortage of domestically produced products, which will affect prices. 

We can talk and analyze a lot about this, but it is very difficult to predict everything in such times. I know one thing: our restaurateurs will cope because they are Ukrainians.

Tell us, how many projects have you launched in Ukraine? And what challenges did you face at the beginning of your restaurateur career?

As for the projects that I launched on a turnkey basis, these are twelve establishments. I participated in about as many more at different stages of their creation. I have provided consultations for establishments in Poland, Romania, Spain, Moldova, Greece, America, and China. I am still advising Ukraine, Moldova, and Greece.

As for the difficulties at the beginning of my career as a restaurateur, of course, my favorite employees are my employees. I had to work hard on myself to learn how to cooperate with people. Yes, to cooperate with them, not to force them to do things mindlessly.  

Later, when I was doing restaurant consulting, I don't remember any difficulties. They were there, of course, but I didn't pay attention to them as I used to. First of all, my services were in demand and I didn't have time for that, and secondly, I was much more experienced. 

What are the first steps to take when thinking about opening a restaurant?

I'll answer this question briefly. First, figure out for yourself why you need a restaurant. That is, define the goal. This is the first step. And after that, build a strategy and a plan on how to move towards it.

Could you tell us about the financial aspects, including the start-up capital needed to launch the project, as well as financing and cost management, which are critical to the success of the restaurant? 

Everyone understands that finances are the main component at the stage of creating a restaurant project. The question of how much money is needed is a concern for everyone. From my own experience, I can say that there is no upper limit, but plan for a cost per square meter of 1000 euros. However, I want to emphasize that a lot depends on the chosen format, concept, location, and condition of the premises. 

As for cost management at the stage of project creation, the main advice is to do all the miscalculations, calculations, and estimates only with the help of specialists. It is better to contact several specialists at the same time. Let them do the math together. 

Another piece of advice from my own experience. Add 15 to 20 percent to the amount you have been calculated. There are always unplanned expenses. Trust my experience.

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What advice would you give to someone who wants to open their first restaurant in Ukraine? Perhaps you can recommend a destination or a certain cuisine that would definitely work in Ukraine?

The first piece of advice is to think carefully again))))). This is a joke, of course. Having your own restaurant is great. You need to calculate everything well. Don't hesitate to contact specialists. Don't try to copy someone else's system of work, because each project is individual. Don't panic or hide your business if something goes wrong. Everything can be fixed. Learn constantly and be prepared for difficulties from all sides. 

As for the direction of cuisine, there are so many different peoples in Ukraine that almost any cuisine will work. The main thing is to conduct a thorough analysis of demand and the region.  Of course, national cuisine will always be in demand. And what is very interesting is that the new wave of popularity for Ukrainian cuisine comes to us from Europe.

As far as we know, you are currently helping our compatriots to open their businesses abroad. How many Ukrainians want to start a restaurant business abroad?

Yes, I consult projects in Spain, Romania, Greece, and Moldova. I am also negotiating with Canada. This shows that many Ukrainians are planning to open a restaurant abroad. Also, many projects are already operating in other countries. Unfortunately, I know many cases of unsuccessful projects. I try to find out the reasons for these failures and collect data for analysis. 

But in peacetime in Ukraine, many restaurant projects also ceased to exist, so you have to be understanding, work on mistakes, and never give up.

Today, given that the catering niche is one of the busiest around the world, what do you think you need to make your restaurant competitive?

There is only one answer to this question. In any country, your restaurant is guaranteed to be successful if it has a unique selling proposition. The USP in a restaurant can be different - it can be an interesting place, author's cuisine or unique products for that region, or an unusual concept, or something else. Think about it. Imagine and fantasize. Create. 

And if you don't have time or inspiration, don't hesitate to contact me.

How different is the approach to running a restaurant business in Ukraine and abroad? Are there any significant differences?

Of course, there are differences, but they are not significant and are more often related to the nuances of the legislation of the country you have chosen. In general, the rules for running a restaurant business and the approach to management are almost the same.

You have already answered about the budget for opening a restaurant in Ukraine. How much more expensive is it to open a restaurant abroad? And what difficulties can you face at the beginning of the journey?

Of course, there is a difference in cost. First of all, it is the cost of work. The cost of works and services related to opening a restaurant is higher than in Ukraine. Next, you will have to buy various licenses and pay for approvals. To calculate these costs, it is imperative to hire local accounting firms, because there are many important nuances in these matters and they differ not only in countries but also in cities.

How popular is Ukrainian cuisine abroad? Is it profitable to enter the European restaurant business with Ukrainian cuisine? 

Ukrainian cuisine, like everything Ukrainian, is gaining popularity. We all understand what circumstances accelerated this process, but we have what we have. If you enter the European market with Ukrainian cuisine, I recommend paying attention to colder countries, such as Austria, Norway, Germany, Canada, and the cold part of America. In countries with a warm climate, it will be harder, because the variety of their products has no competition.

I know of cases when a Ukrainian restaurant opened on the coast of a warm sea ceased to exist after three months. The answer is obvious: people don't go there for borsch and varenyky.

This issue also requires a thorough analysis. But anything is possible. The main thing is a professional and creative approach.

Abroad, especially in resort towns, hotel restaurants are especially popular. For example, we are currently working on the launch of the Anta Residence Canggu hotel in Bali, and as far as we know, you are already providing advice on the restaurant in this hotel. In your opinion, what are the key aspects to consider when launching a restaurant in a resort region? What strategies would you suggest for successful interaction with local culture and culinary traditions?

Hotel restaurants have certain advantages over regular restaurants. These restaurants always have a certain number of guests staying in the hotel, and they all visit the restaurant at least once. The most important task of the management is to retain them and make them come back to this particular restaurant.

Of course, such projects are highly competitive and require a lot of effort to develop and promote such hotel complexes. What is needed for this? Of course, it is a team of talented and experienced professionals.

But I want to say that given who is leading this project and the team that has gathered to implement it, I am confident that it will be the best hotel with the best restaurant in the region.

As an experienced restaurateur, we have to ask: what is the most delicious cuisine you've tasted, or maybe what is your favorite?

This is an interesting question. I have a specific view of the taste of dishes. When I like something, I immediately start thinking about how it was made and what its cost is. Yes, it's ridiculous for ordinary people)). 

And the most delicious cuisine I've tasted is Bessarabian. I was born in Bessarabia on the border with Romania, so Moldovan sarmali, Danube herring, Black Sea rapana and flounder, and Bulgarian kavarma are all the most delicious because it's from my childhood).

 As for pleasant experiences, I was pleasantly surprised by Portuguese cuisine. Very unusual combinations of ingredients and impressive flavor explosions). 

Give advice to a Ukrainian who wants to start a restaurant business abroad. 

I advise Ukrainians not to hesitate, because there are many people who want to open a restaurant abroad. I advise them not to be afraid. A restaurant in another country is no longer something unknown and dangerous. 

I advise you to live in the future. Live today, appreciate every day. Dream and go for the realization of your dreams. Exactly yours!!!!

We remind you! Despite the challenges faced by the tourism industry today, Ukrainian hotels and travel companies are actively improving their strategies to ensure stability and attractiveness for our citizens and foreign guests. Read more about how the hotel and tourism business in Ukraine is adapting and continuing to operate in the face of war in our previous article.

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