The FINANCIAL -- Artisan bakery chain Entrée will open its doors to Azerbaijani customers this summer. The investment portfolio for the three branches of Entrée in Azerbaijan consists of EUR 1 million. This is the first foreign destination for Entrée, which aims to expand its network to over 15 foreign countries eventually.
At present Entree operates 7 cafes, the last one located at Leselidze #47 in old Tbilisi was launched early this month. French president Francoise Hollande during his official visit to Georgia personally observed the café. New Entrée café on Leselidze was the only place visited by Hollande out of agenda, unofficially. French president was personally hosted by both Founders of Artisan Bakery chain Entree: Eugene Pichkhaia and Jean Michel Charels.
Financial interviewed one of the founders of Entree Mr. Eugene Pichkhaia about the future plans of Company.
Mr. Pichkhaia together with French Businessman Mr. Jean Michel Charles founded the French bakery chain in 2008. Prior to this business he founded and managed Georgia’s leading food retailer - Populi.
Q. The HoReCa sector is one of the most saturated sectors in Georgia, with over 200 cafés and restaurants. How did you manage to compete?
A. We were not intending to compete with anyone in particular. Our goal was to create a new brand and we managed to do just that. We knew from the beginning what our values would be and our development fruited from them. I would not say that the market is saturated in this segment. On the contrary, it offers huge opportunities, despite the fact that they are scarce.
Our idea was to create a brand that would have been born in Georgia, but could become a global brand. We initially put forward the idea that Entrée would be exported to other countries. To do so, we need to articulate the values that are the foundation of the brand. This was followed by operational issues and other details, which are necessary for success.
Q. Entrée was the first non-smoking place to be established in Georgia. Was it not risky to impose such rules, while the majority of Georgians are prone to smoking?
A. All established brands have their own individual characteristics. Entrée is a place free from smoke, a place that both promotes and implements healthy living. We included this detail without any fear and we succeeded. For many it might have seemed unacceptable at first, but they got used to it. I think that we made the right move. As the brand’s philosophy is based on high-quality goods production and a high degree of supply there was no room for cigarettes. Our technology is artisan technology. It is arranged on the level of art. All the details are related to each other and form a unity of high standards. Accordingly, smoking in such an environment would be impossible. It would be incompatible with the whole concept of Entrée.
Q. People involved in business usually characterize you as a good manager. You built Populi and ran it successfully, until it started going down after you left. Which features have helped you succeed?
A. I would not say that I am smarter than others. Although I can see details which others can miss. Also, I always know exactly what I want. This helps me to avoid meaningless and negative emotions. To be constantly focused on the major goal and hard work are also vital for gaining success. Overall I always look for something new, I am from head to toe entrepreneur. All of this is a result of the success of my business activities. However, there are more successful and accomplished people in Georgia than me, which I welcome because it is very good for our country.
Accomplishment is not based solely upon financial success and arithmetical figures in an account. I have met unhappy millionaires and vice versa. The measure of mental peace and happiness are what determine the accomplishment of a person. The measure of self-confidence is the main distinguishing feature of an accomplished or unaccomplished person.
Q. How would you describe the current business environment in Georgia?
A. I took my first steps in business during the ‘90s when I was a student. Since then I have been closely observing the conditions of doing business in Georgia. The best situation for business is when the Government does not interfere artificially which is the case in Georgia at present. Businesses should be transparent. They should pay taxes and be checked that they are not breaking the law. For greater activity of the business sector Georgia needs to attract foreign investments. For This the governments obligation is to create political and legislative environment that will be attractive for foreign investors. The number of countries trying to attract investments is many, while investors are few. So, we need to compete with them. Foreign investment inflow is very important for our economy.
Q. How would you summarize 2013 for Entrée?
A. 2013 was quite a successful year for the company. We had 20% growth. Our most important step was entering the Azerbaijani market. Three branches of Entrée will be opened in Azerbaijan later this summer. We have a local partner in Azerbaijan which is one of the biggest business group in Azerbaijan. The total volume of investments in Azerbaijan amounted to EUR 1 million.
We are discussing various markets for expanding our network further. However, at this stage, considering our financial capacity and the size of the company we thought it was too early to enter central European countries, which we are targeting for the future. Entrée will enter over 10-15 foreign cities in total. Our Azerbaijani partners have created a very convenient environment for us which was a significant factor in making us decide to open our first foreign branches there.
The Azerbaijani market is three times larger than Georgia’s. This will hopefully be reflected in our business in the same proportions.
We put a great amount of work into the construction of the Azerbaijani branches and are optimistic that they will be a successful step in building our brand across borders.
Q. Could you give a description of a typical customer of Entrée’s?
A. The average customer of Entrée is young, modern, dynamic, carries European values, is focused on healthy living, is successful and regardless of age, is constantly searching for novelties. Entrée itself creates a lifestyle of freshness, health and mobility.
Q. What is the average number of guests at Entrée and which novelties will you be offering to your customers?
A. On average 500 customers visit each branch of Entrée per day. The average expenditure per person is GEL 11-12.
Q. what is the latest novelty you have offered your customers?
We have just recently added fresh pasta production from Italian cuisine. Fresh handmade pasta is very trendy in Europe and we were the first to bring it to Georgia. Customers will soon be able to taste it in each of our branches. We will start making pizza soon and have the ambition to offer the most delicious pizza in Georgia. We will also be adding exquisite meat and cheese delicacies this week. At our Leselidze Street branch we will be launching a special, restaurant-type menu, available from 6 pm every day.