Fresh green smoothies, carrot and beet juices welcomed students as they arrived at Professor Dunia Moreno and her business partner, her husband’s restaurant in the Diagonal Mar Shopping Mall on May 24th at 7:00 pm. The couple chose this specific location because of Diagonal Mar’s top ranking among the three most popular shopping centers in Barcelona, receiving 15 million visitors per year. Getting into any one of the top shopping centers is no easy task. In today’s competitive market, shopping mall owners are focused on creating a brand image and hold business owners, both retail and restaurants, to a high standard.
This played a significant role in the couple’s decision to launch a health food restaurant concept. Before making this decision, MA in Tourism and Hospitality Management Professor Moreno and her husband extensively toured Germany, England, and the United States for inspiration. Setting a new standard in Barcelona, Green Vita Healthy Kitchen is trying to influence the local consumer into making more mindful food choices. Although the healthy lifestyle trend is quite developed in the aforementioned countries, it is still in its infancy in Barcelona and Spain in general.
Today Green Vita Healthy Kitchen has two locations at Diagonal Mar Shopping Mall and The Style Outlet Viladecans. Professor Moreno’s husband and business partner is a restauranteur having opened over 400 different restaurants across Spain; they’re idea is to continue to expand and eventually franchise the healthy kitchen concept.
Professor Moreno gave the tourism and hospitality management students a brief overview of their business model and how they went about establishing the restaurant from start to finish. The Diagonal Mar location has only been open since this past December 2016, but the planning and preparations began over three years before. After their travels, they came back to Barcelona. It was in this moment that they identified this niche in the market. They wanted to promote the idea, "Eat well. Live Well". The concept did not limit itself to one dietary plan as the name may suggest, but rather focused on eating locally sourced foods, organic when possible, and origin based on products where quality is better from the source. Their inventory is comprised of 40% organic products.
Once they had written their 50-page business plan, they went out in search of investors. Professor Moreno remarked that unfortunately they wasted one year looking in the wrong places for financing. Traditional investment firms in Spain were looking for startups with potential for big returns in a minimal amount of time, and restaurants did not fit this category, when they are known to be one of the more riskier establishments to open from scratch, without a tried and true concept.
Eventually, they went back to the drawing board and took their business proposition to those investors they knew from the food and beverage industry, individuals and firms they had worked with in the past and presented their business plan and projected expansion strategy. It was a success, and the couple received €1 million to invest in their restaurant Green Vita Healthy Kitchen.
A restaurant with a mixed service model, where customers pick up cold foods and beverages at a counter and have their hot foods delivered tableside, has been a success. The open kitchen model, a design that is still new in Spain, has also been a hit among its clientele.
The restaurant’s peak hours of operation are Monday through Friday during the lunch period. With numerous international hotel chains and multinationals in the area, about 40% of the restaurant patrons are from abroad, where the healthy food lifestyle trend has already taken off. Professor Moreno told students it was these customers that gave the restaurant a firm start. Where most restaurants have a three-month trial period where they work out many of their quirks, trying to find operations that function efficiently and adapting to customer feedback, Green Vita was fairly successful from the start, welcoming approximately 300 hungry guests through their doors every day.
Of course, providing locally sourced, organic and origin based dishes comes at a cost, but the consumer doesn’t see it. That is one of the major selling points. In keeping with the competition, Green Vita offers a daily lunch menu ranging in price from 10 to 12 euros.
Their model is simple. Good, wholesome food at affordable prices. This draws in the customer, and that is what they need, volume.
Having only been open for six months, the restaurant has great plans. Eventually the couple would like to find a location, to continue its expansion to a street-front restaurant in the center of the city, but this takes time to find the right location at a fair and reasonable price. Until then, they will be working to promote their restaurants, already in operation, by hosting events. A couple upcoming events include Yoga and Breakfast, a nutrition workshop for children and a day where their local producers come in and present their products to the public.
In rounding out the visit, outside of a guided tour through their facilities, Professor Moreno gave students a little helpful advice as they begin to think about their future in the hospitality industry.
These were the primary points she advised students to keep in mind when considering opening a restaurant.
Know the Market
It is imperative that you know the local market inside and out. It is very difficult to go into a new city and be an expert. This takes years working in the industry and getting to know the purveyors, the consumer and what the trends are in demand for that demographic.
Try to Get Statistics
Professor Moreno and her husband opened a brand-new concept restaurant that had no previous historic records on occupancy levels or inventory margins. This has hurt them; it has been a process of trial and error that costs them money. Ms. Moreno said it will likely take one year to analyze the right equation that will limit the amount of waste and overhead they incur daily from utilizing only fresh produce.
Choose Targets and Accomplish Goals
This husband and wife combo takes one step at a time, and they do it well. Professor Moreno advises students to not take on too much all at once. It is better to tackle one task and evaluate it, rather than have multiple projects running simultaneously.
Find a Niche
Try to create a concept that is founded on research and is different from your competition. When you know your market, it will be easier to analyze the local industry to see where there are potential gaps and your ideas could fill the demand.
This was an invaluable experience for not only for Master of Tourism and Hospitality Management students, but many other GBSB Global Business School students from various degrees of study also joined the industrial visit hosted by Green Vita Healthy Kitchen. Professor Moreno’s advice and words of wisdom sank in as many students stayed after to taste the menu and converse with their peers. Engaging, thought inspiring and foundational, this industrial visit was just what many GBSB Global students were looking for during their studies.
Written by Emily Dawn Szajda, GBSB Global Content Manager