In the Brno Expat Centre, we have consultants experienced in many aspects of an expat’s life in Brno. Did you know that you can come to us for assistance with opening/running your business, too? We can provide you with the help of local business consultants.
One of the experts on call is Radek Nozar, a manager and an entrepreneur himself, with several staples of Brno’s gastro scene to his name (Bistro Franz, Café Morgal). Ten years ago, Radek left a position of a CFO, escaping the corporate world to open his first gastro business. Two years ago, he found his true calling in helping others to reach their own business goals.
His experience both as a manager and as an employee combines into a broad skill set, allowing him to look at a company or a business idea with the eyes of an owner, director and an employee all at once. He also remembers all the nitty-gritty of building a business from scratch:
“I was still employed full time when we (author’s note: Radek and his wife) were preparing to open Bistro Franz,” Radek says. “We learnt everything on the go, discovering all the obstacles and facing all the shocks that come with opening your first business. So, my own start was your usual panic and punk, as we Czechs say.”
Would you do it again today? Would you open a gastro business in Brno now?
The uncertainty of the pandemic and lockdowns aside, the local scene seems rather saturated now. One would have to come up with something truly special to stand out among the many venues already out there. Ten years ago, when opening Bistro Franz, we awed customers and critics both with having small farmers supply us directly, with us introducing the producers openly, showing pictures of the ingredients on your plate from the gardens and fields. But showing these little instances of extra effort have become almost the expected standard now, and would not be enough to inspire loyalty anymore.
Lots of new venues are still getting opened, particularly in waves of fashionable ethnic foods. At first it was Italian cuisine, now it is Vietnamese and then maybe it will be Arabic. But only the best places with an identity to them will survive in the long run.
Let’s say I have that unique idea. One of your specialties is helping entrepreneurs with establishing their business. What is your most important piece of advice at the start?
Let’s focus on small to middle-sized businesses. No matter the type of business you want to open, be it a bistro, bakery or a carpenter’s, I always ask several questions that you should have clear answers to.
The very first question you need to ask yourself should be why? You need to figure out the reason behind your business ambitions. Is this your dream? Is it an escape from where you’re now? Or you just want to give entrepreneurship a try?
Next, you should have a clearly defined concept. Let’s say you’re opening a café. What do you want to offer? What is the reason for customers to come there? And why should they return? Without concrete answers, you can’t move forward.
Thirdly, you should imagine your life after opening your business – and whether you’d be happy with your position in it. You must keep in mind that very likely, you’ll be filling in many roles at the same time, and not all of them will be the reason why you wanted to go into business. In a café, you might end up being the barista, but also the cook and the marketer; the dual role of the manager and employee at once. If you don’t want that, you have to think about who to put in that post instead; whether a partner, friend or a stranger, and how that relationship would then work.
Last but not least, I’d ask what you’d do if the plan doesn’t work out. You should always have a Plan B prepared, especially in view of the turbulent pandemic times we live in.
Throughout your whole career, you stayed and focused on Brno. What’s typical for doing business in this city?
Brno is an overgrown village, where you constantly meet familiar faces on the street or in the same venues. Within the same field, everyone knows everyone. Luckily, that results in the feeling of strong belonging and healthy competition – people don’t see each other as enemies but actually support each other and the development of their field. That’s true not only in gastronomy but also in other areas. I heard that this is not that common in other cities throughout the Czech Republic. In general, I’d say the local mentality is much closer to the Viennese one than that of Prague. It’s not a coincidence that Brno is often nicknamed the suburbs of Vienna.
With this many students living in Brno, it’s also a very young spirited place, which influences the city throughout. There’s demand for progressive standards of services and products, and I think the supply reflects this.