What do brands like Apple, Facebook and Fedex have in common? Aside from being well known the world over, these brands were all started by students who decided to venture beyond their years to build empires of their own. Angelo Haitas (currently 41) had similar vision and passion, which drove him to start his very first restaurant that inevitably led to the establishment of Plaka. All this while still being a student at university.
Haitas’ dream started to unfold while he was studying for a degree in Aeronautical Engineering, after identifying a small retail space alongside his family’s business. With his strong drive to succeed, Haitas risked all to secure funding for the space and started a traditional Greek restaurant with a partner, that was soon well-loved by those in the community.
“The idea of opening a restaurant just came naturally to me and I knew I could make it work with so many Greek food lovers out there,” he shares.
“As the success of the restaurant grew so did my aspirations to make it even bigger. It was when I parted ways with my partner that I took the leap to rebrand the restaurant so that it was more current and contemporary and appealed to a wider customer base. Plaka was born in 2003 in Illovo, Gauteng and has reinvented the way people look at Greek food by making it modern while keeping true to its classic roots.”
The reinvention of Plaka is not where this restaurateur’s legacy ends. With the knowledge gained from his experience at Plaka, Haitas went on to launch a second restaurant concept, which plays more on the Mediterranean side of things, and has become very popular among the younger social circles.
“After reinventing Plaka, we saw a series of other competitors replicating our model, which inspired us to create a new brand concept that would show innovation and differentiate us as a group from the others. This new brand had to have nuances and a DNA linked to Plaka, without it appearing to be a typical Greek restaurant.
“Plaka’s chic sibling, Mezepoli was established in 2009 and is a stylish meze/tapas and wine bar with an unmistakable Mediterranean influence that includes the exciting flavours and colours of Spanish tapas, Italian antipasti, and the freshest sushi. Where Plaka is the place that families gather, Mezepoli is for the trendsetter and urbanite with a sophisticated, adventurous palate.”
Since establishment, Plaka and Mezepoli have seen a controlled growth within Gauteng, and the Western Cape, as the business model allows for further expansion and multiple stores.
“The actual restaurants are structured as franchises but the ethos of the business is still very personal. This business concept works well for both our core team and the store owners as all parties can benefit from the structure and support of a franchise model, which ensures the standards and procedures of the brand remain constant without losing the personal touch all restaurants should have.
Haitas does indeed believe that direct and qulaified management is the key to a successful restaurant.
“The restaurant business is a challenging one that requires constant attention in many different areas. Aside from ensuring you serve great food, you need to strike a balance between the right décor, ambience, location, facilities, pricing, service and even administration. If you are not present and hands-on to ensure your business is on track, you won’t ensure its success either.”
With their hands-on approach and passion to succeed, the teams at Plaka and Mezepoli just might have the stuff that legends are made of to build a Greek food empire that will leave a legacy for many years to come.
Opinion piece shared by PR Worx.