"Looking back, I kind of have achieved what I wanted in life. I have a healthy and great wife and kids, a peaceful life. I didn't need to deal with anything or start something new, but the concept of Manifesto fascinated me so much that I thought I'd go for it."
What made you personally decide to start your business in gastronomy?
My path to entrepreneurship was slightly unconventional. As a Greek born to Greek parents in the Czech Republic, I wanted to know the roots of this beautiful country and so I moved to Greece in 1988 as a musician. Unfortunately, the situation for our band was not great and after a short time the band broke up. I didn't have a job at that time and needed to earn a living, so I started working in a café, as they say "from scratch"; from cleaner to the waiter. I was young and not afraid of work and for a season in 1989 I decided to go to the island of Paros. Then, in mid-September 1989, after a summer job, a friend and I went to work in a small Greek restaurant in Germany, where I tried bartending. The idea of opening something of our own didn't wait too long, and my friend and I turned our experiences in Greece and Germany into a bigger business plan. Almost everything was financed with all our savings and we were also partially supported by the bank. In 1990, our first restaurant opened in Stuttgart and six months later another one followed. The first one did very well from the beginning, because it was in a good location, the second one we had to help with tastings, for example, but after two years the operation stabilized and at one point we had two businesses at the same time. So I became a restaurant owner for the first time.
"Without Manifesto, I have to rely on myself. If I make a mistake, I have to correct it myself," reveals Vasileios. Foto: Václav Miškovský
Do you have an experience associated with Yaya's that you will never forget?
It's lively and cheerful here at Manifesto at Yaya's, we always want to create a comfortable atmosphere. We Greeks don't function without a smile, we rejoice in the little things. We have celebrities or even politicians here, just yesterday the former Czech President Václav Klaus stopped by our restaurant, we exchanged a few words and he said he enjoyed our food very much. And that's what pleases us the most, when our customers like it and come back to our little sunny Greece.
Is there anything you would advise new gastro entrepreneurs?
Gastro is the toughest industry - working 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. A lot of people think they're going to open a stand, a container, a bistro, a restaurant - it doesn't really matter what or how big it is. Well, they think that by opening something, then they don't have to worry at all and that their business will be profitable all the time. But first they have to try it themselves, every day: shopping, cooking, even going behind the bar. It's better to think 5 times than to go headfirst into the gastro business. Not just to scare off, it's a really tough but nice job. The hardest part is to find a great team and staff that will be to your liking. As a restaurateur and foodie, it bothers me when the staff is on the phone, frowning. That's not how business can work. Everyone should be smiling, especially at their potential customers who come in to look at the restaurant menu today and every day.
Manifesto changes often and above all grows, bringing life to dead places and enriching the gastronomic and cultural life of all visitors. Are you planning an expansion and why?
I'm thinking of opening a small restaurant. A big restaurant means a lot of work/admittedly more money because you have more space and more seats, but it's still a lot of work. But I'm happy here and now where I am. However, if an interesting opportunity came up I would probably still open a Yaya's.
"It's better to think 5 times than to go headfirst into the gastro business," advise the owner of the Yaya's restaurant. Foto: Václav Miškovský
To do business with or without Manifesto? What do you see as the main difference?
Without Manifesto, I have to rely on myself. If I make a mistake, I have to correct it myself, as they say, "eat it". When Manifesto makes a mistake, it's a problem that needs to be solved right away. The huge advantage I see is that I don't have to deal with the marketing and the service has a quality, and it's really the same for everyone. Taking care of this important part of the business is really hard work and I would have to handle it all "from scratch" myself. I also see the debaras of dishes and cutlery as another big plus, it would be impossible to wash everything etc in such a small place. This really saves a lot of trouble.
What is most valuable to you about operating inside Manifesto?
I have a very good relationship with the management and vice versa - whenever I need something, they try to help me. They listen and are always there for me, for which I am really grateful. I always have someone to turn to. So for me, it's a professional team.
What are the biggest daily and long-term challenges for you?
I am 60 years old. I've been kept alive all my life by my wonderful family. Having a good, calm and stable home is really the most important thing for me today and every day as an entrepreneur. Looking back, I've achieved what I kind of wanted in life. I have a great wife and kids, a quiet life. I didn't need to deal with anything or start something new, but the concept of Manifesto fascinated me so much that I thought, I'm in. So we did not have exactly a happy opening at the beginning of the pandemic, but here we are still, at Yaya's in Manifesto. It was a challenge to get to young people during Covid, but surrounding yourself with young people is important to make you feel young all the time too. Anyway, I'm not going to get into anything big now, I'll wait to see if my daughter or son might want to open their own restaurant in the future. At least I'll have time to listen and advise them.
Greek salad is a true icon of the Greek cuisine. Foto: Václav Miškovský
What is the most difficult situation you have faced recently?
Winter seasons are almost always difficult. The sun is the sun, and without the sun I'm pretty miserable. Once the summer season is over, autumn and winter come, we suffer a bit, fight for every customer and then wait for another spring. Well, I guess I would say that everyone has to plan it out to get through the winter in their own way.
Vasileios likes not only smilling customers, but better his own smilling stuff of the restaurant. Foto: Václav Miškovský
On the other hand, what has made you the most happy recently?
Personally, I am happy every day when we wake up, we are healthy and the most important thing is to be positive from the morning and to make the day, and life in general, so that everyone is as happy with themselves as possible. Be happy as you are, don't expect someone else to make you happy. Enjoying the little things in life is a big plus as well.
What do you think customers will expect in 5 years?
That we'll be delivering or sending food to customers by drone. I think we're going to see a lot more robots in our daily lives soon.
What are the 3 most important factors you look at when putting together a new menu?
Experience - what customers like best. We prepare everything with our family according to authentic Greek and traditional recipes and we also draw on our past restaurant experiences. Plain and simple, we cook what people like. And it works, everyone loves it.
Freshness - everything in our restaurant is fresh every day, we work with local products, for example olives and herbs we get directly from Greece.
If you didn't have Yaya's, what would you be doing?
Apart from gastro, I have been involved in real estate for more than 20 years. So besides working in our real estate office I also like to travel. If I am thinking about it right now, if I didn't have Yaya's, I'd probably travel a lot more.
Greek Souvlaki is one the most (summer) iconic dishes in Manifesto Market. Foto: Václav Miškovský
What do you miss most from Greece in the Czech Republic?
Sea and sun.
If you had to recommend another restaurant from Manifesto that you enjoy the most, which one would it be?
I'm happy when everyone around me is working well, when every restaurant has a successful day and the customers like it. It's such a collective joy. And when they walk by and smile, it's great.
Interview conducted by Klara Olivova.