How would you assess the current status of the restaurant industry in Kazakhstan?
In Kazakhstan, it took some time to develop after the Soviet era. During the early stages, restaurants were regarded as places where customers enter, order, get served, pay, and then leave. It was a mechanical process. This changed when foreign chains entered the market and raised the standards for food quality and service. Also, new five-star hotels in Almaty have raised expectations and quality. The growing number of international flights coming in and out is supporting the development of the sector by exposing Kazakh travelers to the importance of good food, good service, and atmosphere of restaurants when travelling abroad. Once back, they want to see the same standards applied to the restaurants in Kazakhstan.
How is Parmigiano Group promoting a new culture of food among local consumers?
I was an absolute newcomer to the industry when we opened our first restaurant three years ago, which was Parmigiano. There was a major gap in the market at the time. There were few options for customers looking to enjoy dinner with family and friends in an intimate setting with high standards. Parmigiano was intended to be a small Italian restaurant with a welcoming atmosphere. We managed to achieve this; however, the restaurant ended up being bigger than initially intended. From an architectural and design point of view, it was a very satisfying project because it brought different views, concepts, and ideas on the design side to the market. All of our restaurants have been designed and built by us, and their concepts have been created internally. We do not franchise. The restaurant ended up being so successful that we decided to adopt the name for the group. If you want to become successful in this business, you need to bring professional experience: in all of our restaurants we have foreign chefs from places such as Moscow, Italy, Malaysia, and Australia.
Can you talk about your implementation of a delivery service in a fine dining setting?
We can deliver from any restaurant within its working hours. On a monthly base, we see about 15% growth. Word of mouth is the best advertisement. Almaty is not a big city, so restaurants have to fight for every client and guest. This makes us especially proud because we have been quite successful in that. We have recently started the special delivery program “Simple and Fresh," which provides balanced and healthy food. It became very successful among our current guests and attracts new clients.
What kinds of events are you organizing to promote your restaurants?
We bring in international chefs from time to time. We also cooperate with the Almaty wine club. We have a lot of special events. In 2014, we opened four more restaurants, marking a big step forward. Our steakhouse Crudo was recently awarded the best restaurant of the year, and Parmigiano has been selected twice as the best restaurant of the year. We received two excellence awards from Wine Spectator. These accolades set a high benchmark. We do not fight for these awards, but they are still important because they show how we were assessed by a discerning critic. This is vital in terms of promotion.
Are you planning to open any restaurants in other cities of the country?
We received many of offers to open a restaurant in Astana. However, starting operations in a new city is complicated, and if we decide to go there we would have to spend about one year in preperations. We have to find staff, including the right chefs, and bring them from Astana to Almaty for training. Astana is such a rapidly growing city that it still does not have a well-developed restaurant industry.