Starting a Restaurant

Interview with Greg Varypatakis, Owner of Amherst Creperie

Greg Varypatakis might still be a college student, but the restaurant business is in his blood. His parents have run a restaurant for 27 years, and he's learned the business from the ground up. He shares his insights on starting a restaurant in this interview.

Interview with Greg Varypatakis, Owner of Amherst Creperie.

Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?

We're currently in the process of ripping up the old place and starting from scratch. Renovations should be completed soon.

When did you start the business?

Amherst Creperie's tentative grand opening is on February 19th.

What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?

I was, and currently still am, a student at the University of Massachusetts. I will get my degree from the Isenberg School of Management in May.

How did you come up with your business idea?

After going to Greece nearly every summer and seeing the success of creperies, I decided to do some research about the success of crepes in the New England area, because taste buds vary by region. I went to several places in New England, each over an hour away. That meant that if the businesses I was going to see appeared to do well, there was an untapped market in Amherst. The creperies were packed, and as a result I researched the process of crepe making more thoroughly.

Who did you hire to help you - Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers, etc? Would you suggest others do the same?

I had a little help from an soon-to-be accountant graduating in May. For the most part I did not use these resources because of my experience through my parents' restaurant. If others are not in the same situation, I highly recommend speaking to an attorney, an accountant, and as many small business owners, even if they're not in the same industry, as possible. It's extremely valuable to know certain things before you get going, rather than find out the hard way.

Have you hired additional staff? What is your greatest human resources challenge?

Yes, so far I have hired 9 employees. The biggest challenge is trying to profile a person on how they would perform as an employee of your company without seeing them in action.

Do you own a business with family members? What do you think are the benefits and challenges to running a family owned business?

I do not own this business with anyone else. However, I know from personal experience that a family business has its benefits and its challenges. My parents have had a Greek restaurant for over 27 years, and I know that it's extremely difficult working with members of your family. You will argue constantly - not because you hate each other - but because the environment is so stressful and you don't shy away from arguing with your family. The important part is to remember that it's just business. Everything would boil over by the time we got home. The benefits would be that you get to enjoy success together. It's always nice to have a successful business where everyone in the family is relying on this one place to provide for the entire family.

Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?

It's actually extremely important to incorporate these practices into my business, because the town I am opening business in is about as liberal as you can get. Staying on this subject, one of the most important factors in opening your business is to have a complete understanding of the environment that you're doing business. This can make or break you.

Social marketing is consistently being written about in the small business space. Has it worked generating business for you?

Yes. Although the business hasn't opened yet I would say that 75% of people in the area know that it's going to open. Marketing is probably the most intricate piece in a new business. It's very important to create a Facebook page for your business and let your "fans" know what is going on with your business. It's also a good idea to get into the newspapers, and on local websites if possible. I would strongly recommend getting a press release written about your business and submitted to all local television stations.

Temporary labor can be a great asset to an entrepreneur. Have you ever hired temps or contractors? Would you suggest this as a strategy for new business owners?

No, I would strongly advise against it. Temporary workers know that they are, well, temporary. With this mindset, and understanding that there doesn't appear to be any type of promotion, it's rare to see a temp worker go above and beyond to do their job.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

Be sure to overstate your budget. For example, if you have predicted that your startup budget will be $50,000, it would be a good idea to find the funds necessary to be able to come up with $70,000.

Always have access to more cash than you think you'll need. Excellent advice, Greg. Thanks for sharing with us.

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