A spontaneous replacement for someone who called out sick was Pavlina Petreska’s start in the industry. A few weeks later, the trained retail saleswoman seized the opportunity and opened her own restaurant in Düsseldorf – with practically no prior experience. In 2005, she received an offer to run a self-service café in Hilden. The upside: Most of the business happened during the day on weekdays. However, this meant that the mother of two had to make all her sales in a short time. ‘That was stressful’, Petreska remembers. She ran the coffee shop for three years. Then it was time for the next step when she took over Café New York in 2008, eventually adding Alter Markt and Café Overstolz. ‘I love being creative for 3 businesses, but I hardly see any synergy effects. We offer very different food and drinks, and the economic cost varies a lot.’
‘Never just looking at a single month’
Constantly starting something new – that’s what she’s all about. But with the pandemic, the urge of expansion came to an end. ‘Lockdown, reopen, and coronavirus subsidies – all new territory. And after not using the appliances for months, we had to buy a new freezer and dishwasher; and the coffee machine needed to be repaired.’ That was a lot of money all at once, but she explained that the solution was to balance it over the whole year. That’s why she feels that METRO’s cashback option and staggered payment terms are very helpful, and not only for large purchases. The restaurateur handles her own financial matters such as bookkeeping and merchandise management. She only pays for a tax consultant. ‘My biggest investment so far has been to break down the walls to the neighbouring premises at Café New York, because the kitchen was far too small. For the future, managing employees remains the greatest challenge . This is because the minimum wage is now compulsory, but the profit margin is low. ‘The companies have to manage this issue first.’
Biggest investment: remodelling and expansion
Remodelling the business premises was also Fatih Yalcin’s biggest investment since he opened Sugo Handmade Pasta. After training as a chef at Bayer Gastronomie and completing his vocational baccalaureate in nutritional science and home economics, the Wuppertal native worked for a franchise company for two and a half years. ‘As operations manager, I handled everything from ordering to selling. At some point I realised that I have what it takes to do my own thing.’ The success proves him right: despite 2 years of pandemic, business at Sugo is booming with 6 tables in the restaurant, catering service and take-out. Yalcin has also been delivering for a few months now. ‘We should’ve done this much earlier, but we were cautious out of concern for bad reviews if the food arrived cold or late to the customer.’ He also cooks for 2 police canteens in Gelsenkirchen and Dortmund and operates coffee and snack vending machines there.
Seasonal menu, creative cuisine
The 29-year-old does not work his magic alone in the kitchen. His mother has given up her job as a doctor’s receptionist. Cold appetisers, dressings and dips – everything at Sugo is homemade. ‘I’m in the front; I cook the main hot courses; and I’m the host’, says Yalcin. The menu of the restaurant varies, because the two like to tweak the recipes. ‘We also cook seasonally and look closely at prices. We plan very carefully so we don’t throw anything away.’ At METRO they also buy electrical goods such as induction hotplates, refrigerators and freezers, as well as ingredients for the canteens and catering service, and coffee and snacks for the vending machines. ‘The prices are superb.’
New umbrellas for the terrace, the freezer is acting funny, or the bar stools are wobbling? With the FS card, METRO customers earn money from their first purchase. They receive up to 1% cashback on the purchase amount, no matter where they shop - from METRO wholesale stores to petrol stations - without limit. They also decide when the invoice amount is debited from their bank account. The flexible payment term (up to 60 days) or the instalment purchase option (up to 48 months) provide additional cushioning.
Metro FS offers financial wiggle room exactly when the client needs it.
Cash flow with buffer
Besides his parents, his sister and his girlfriend also lend a hand here and there. ‘We discuss financial decisions together, but ultimately I make the decisions.’ His parents taught him to plan very conservatively. ‘A solid cash flow with a good buffer for difficult times is crucial and has helped me a lot during the coronavirus pandemic to manage repairs and new acquisitions or to pay in advance for catering services.’ He also uses METRO’s cashback options via the Financial Service App. ‘A solid calculation also means planning with foresight, i.e. including tax arrears, value added tax, sales tax, etc.’ He has also handed over his tax affairs to a consultant.
For the future, he would like to see a larger seating area and an outdoor section with lots of greenery. ‘But as a restaurateur, banks don’t consider you very creditworthy, especially if you’re young.’ From the banks’ point of view, restaurant finances cannot be reliably planned, and sales are not guaranteed in advance, explains Yalcin. ‘We also deal with perishable goods that need to be sold quickly.’
Like Fatih Yalcin, Pavlina Petreska will have to raise prices in the future. ‘But customers understand, because when they go shopping, they see that everything has become more expensive’, she says. ‘When you eat out, you want to enjoy the meal and be pampered. Beyond profits, we also cherish the smile of our guests when they had a good time at our place.’