MICE TALK: Charles de Olim, Pappas and the makings of a renowned restaurant
In the fickle hospitality world, running a successful restaurant and renowned event venue is not for the faint hearted. Pappas on the Square, located in the Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton, is one of the few Johannesburg dining landmarks that has not only stood the test of time but continues to attract new patrons.
Charles de Olim, c0-owner of Pappas on the Square provides an insight on how the family owned business has grown.
Q: Describe the Pappas Experience?
A: The complete customer experience has always been very important to us. From the moment you walk in to the restaurant and are greeted by our larger than life host, Costa, to the delivery of wonderfully presented food on the table and the friendly and attentive service you receive throughout the lunch or dinner. This consistency is one for the reasons we still have so many return patrons visiting our restaurant for thirty years.
Q: How has Pappas been able to maintain the authenticity of its dishes?
A: It helps that we visit Cyprus at least once a year and get to enjoy amazing food both at our families’ homes as well as trying restaurants for new ideas. But there is nothing that replaces experience in a kitchen and fortunately we have an amazing and loyal group of staff.
Q: Sandton and the iconic Nelson Mandela Square is visited by many tourists, how do you tap into this market?
A: It is so rewarding for us and the team when our local tour operators and destination management companies take us on board as a preferred supplier – we cater for their group breakfasts, morning or afternoon coffee / tea breaks, lunches and of course dinners. We get to know them, they get to know us and these partnerships work well.
Q: And then, corporate / business events – we note your reservation book is filling up with some exciting events and functions
A: Yes, but we’re not just looking at large evening groups – we have a beautiful, sophisticated, newly decorated space which can be used during the day as well for small business groups providing them with an informal setting for networking and brainstorming – with needless to say drinks and delicious menus on tap ! Not only that we’re open to suggestions and ideas and we’re not averse to changing the restaurant set up to suit your particular event.
I would urge every event planner in this town to come through for a visit and let’s chat – now is the time to be forward thinking and shifting events (no matter how big or small) out the box !
Q: What is the worst part of your job? The best? The most rewarding? The most challenging?
A: The worst part of my job is agreeing with a customer who has had two bottles of wine too many that they are absolutely correct.
The best is working with a self-motivated team and enjoying seeing smiling customers leaving the restaurant.
The most rewarding thing is turning an upset guest into a regular customer.
The most challenging is keeping the restaurant financially sound.
Q: What do you think it is about the restaurant industry that makes it so tumultuous?
A: The hours are very long and it can take its toll. If your energy levels are low it’s difficult to motivate and inspire your staff. Mismanagement of finances is probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks and we’ve seen many restaurants close their doors because of small financial oversights.
Q: What trends are you seeing in the restaurant business?
A: Tasting plates are still a very popular trend and we have expanded on this in our Small and Medium plates Meze offering which can make up a larger selection to serve a table of friends. Everyday fine dining is also a trend that people are looking to. We use fresh and high quality foods and serve these up in an attractive way. As far as drinks go, craft gin and rum is here to stay and distilleries will become more creative in their efforts to stand apart from the crowd.
Q: If you had to give one piece of advice to an up-and-coming or aspiring restaurateur / event manager what would it be?
It’s all about people. Both staff motivation and customer service. Get that right, and you will succeed.
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