After meeting on a night out in West Hollywood, Julian Kirwan and Sergio Seibert came up with the idea of opening their own place, inspired by the things they missed from their respective homelands of New Zealand and Brazil, including their mothers’ cooking. Bakers & Roasters was born in Amsterdam in 2014. Since then, Julian and Sergio have opened a second Bakers & Roasters, and more recently added a third restaurant to their collection - Los Feliz, a Cali-Mex restaurant in Amsterdam’s De Pijp neighbourhood.
Why did you decide to open your first business?
Since we first met we had the dream of opening a restaurant together, the ideas were plentiful but the concept took many years to develop. Everywhere we travelled to, every restaurant we visited, we were always critiquing the concept, offering, design, USP and that grew bigger, later involving friends and family. Initially, we imagined Julian baking some pies and cakes and myself roasting and pouring coffee but we grew pretty fast and before we knew it we had two chefs and brunch dishes were rolling out of the pass.
At the time, opening a café in London was seriously risky and expensive and the opportunity seemed far better in Amsterdam. When we got here we spent a few months learning about the food scene and we knew then that we had a strong concept. Seven months later we had the keys to a beautiful old garage that we transformed into our first Bakers & Roasters.
Was your opening a second site always in the dream pipeline?
No, it wasn’t! We had different concepts that we wanted to develop but we came across a few sites and estate agents and crazily we ended up signing up for two new spaces at the same time. We decided to make the first site into a second Bakers & Roasters as we were at capacity at the original location. This left us to fulfill our longtime vision of turning that little fire brigade building into our latest concept – Los Feliz – Cali-Mex.
Were there any brand new curve balls you hadn’t encountered the first time around? Were some things a little easier?
For me it felt a little easier. For our second Bakers & Roasters we made the decision of copying exactly what we had in our first site in terms of design, equipment, and colours. We used the same architect, builders and wholesalers.
The one thing I would say we would do differently next time is having a few Friends and Family days prior to opening to the public! On our first day, we smoked out the apartments above us and the fire brigade came, our dishwasher didn’t work, our grease trap wasn’t connected properly, and we flooded our basement to the point we had to close our doors. Three days later we were able to safely open to the public.
Operational systems and processes can be replicated for multiple locations, but how did you ensure the business culture and brand integrity translated across a whole new team and environment?
We had a full team in training for quite a long time at our first location. Our restaurant manager and two senior chefs from our first site moved across to the second site and we also worked there in the weekends for a few months making sure we were on track, following company standards and treating guests equally as well at both sites. At the beginning it was hard to keep the manager and chefs motivated. They were used to working in a very busy restaurant and had never done an opening before. They struggled with the slow days.
How did you approach staffing and recruitment? Did some of the existing team move to the new location? What effect did this have on your original space?
We were cautious with recruitment. We hired the exact number of staff members we needed for a basic roster – enough to achieve our sales targets. A few key members of staff moved across to the second site, and that did not affect our original site. We knew it was coming, we had the construction on schedule, and Julian was on it!
How similar are your businesses to each other? Were location, clientele and competition factors in defining the two sites?
With the first two locations, what we offer is identical. However, the two restaurants are in completely different locations. The original Bakers & Roasters is in De Pijp, a super bohemian and hip neighbourhood of Amsterdam with loads of young residents and expats. Competition is greater in De Pijp – you can find the best brunch places there. Our second Bakers & Roasters is in Kadijksplein, a sleepier neighbourhood with an older crowd, less foodie, and less familiar with brunch. Happily, the reputation of the original Bakers & Roasters has brought people to the neighbourhood that would not have previously visited.
What’s next for you, the business, the brand, the vision?
Now that our Cali-Mex restaurant is open, we will take a break from developing new businesses and just enjoy what we have. Our vision at this stage falls more in the personal field. We want to start spending more time in our homelands New Zealand and Brazil, travel more, study, and spend more time with family. We Love Bakers & Roasters and we would like to see it spread across Europe. We receive franchising proposals and investor interest often, but we enjoy having only ourselves to be answerable to, and are not ready for that big step. Opening three restaurants in three years was challenge enough for now!