An Interview with Jovo Savič, The Owner, KOGO Restaurant chain

The Orchestra is to be conducted by me

The owner and chef of the successful Kogo restaurant chain in an interview for Leaders Magazine describes why good relations with clients are so important. Jovo Savič was born in Sarajevo. After graduating from secondary school of hotel management he worked as a waiter and during that time he became manager of a restaurant. In 1992 he emigrated to Prague with his family and two years later he launched his first Kogo Restaurant in Havelská street with his friend Goran Motika.

Ninety percent of your interviews are made mostly because of your clients. Don't you mind that media prioritize who comes to your restaurant beside your cuisine?

“Most of the people who come to the restaurant come because of the meals and the atmosphere. They don't care who is sitting inside. There are journalists and magazines who focus on who is with whom in the restaurant. Anyway there are many others who write about the cuisine.”

Was it possible to get famous in the 90's without well known people coming to your restaurant?

“When you open a restaurant, you never think about inviting the prime minister. We have never invited anybody like that. When we have organised a party or campaign we have just invited guests who come to us regularly. If  the person is a businessman, has a private office, director of a bank or is a tennis player, is not important to us.”

The quality of the restaurants in Prague since 1992, when you started, has changed a lot...

“Prague is hundred percent better. If we talk about good restaurants and the materials which are used. There are many restaurants with nice interiors, many bars, many new things. Prague is definitely moving ahead.”

As a chief, have you had to get used to quality raw-materials are common nowadays in many places e.g. from Italy?

“No I haven't had to. We were doing that since the beginning. People keep saying to us that we are not normal if we import vegetables. More than ten years we have been importing besides vegetable fish, meat and cheese. Ninety percent of materials used in our kitchen is imported. It is not only Italy, but Spain and France too.”

Have you always known that Czechs want good-quality raw materials? Or it was a risk in the beginning?

“Basis of our restaurant are domestic clientele including foreigners, who live in Prague. Since the first day we tried to focus on this and on importing good-quality raw materials and that's why they are interested. The Prague market is number one for us.”

And do they like to pay more?

“The one who wants to eat healthy and tasty food go to the restaurants where the cuisine is based on fish, and high-quality meat. There are people who don't have the budget to do that and that is the reason why they go to different restaurants. You know, it looks like we are little more expensive but the amount of our portions and mainly the quality of our food, if we talk about olive oil, vegetable, meat or fish.. that is the biggest difference.”

What are the very basics for a good working restaurant?

“Everything. From the service, raw materials, ambience, tablecloth, food preparation, chilled wine..
You have to take care about everything. Hardly anybody can imagine how much work we have to do.
Every day I come at eight and I leave at twelve, until we close. I come as the first and I leave as the last.”

How do you motivate yourself after so many years?

“I personally enjoy it very much. I don't do any parallel business, I focus just on the restaurant.”

You don't cook on television..

“I have already had some offers, but I refused. I asked how much time does it take. I would have to be there four days a week. It does not worth it. I rather focus on what I do have, and that I do it the best I can.”

What kind of project are you preparing?

“31st of October we will open a new restaurant in the project “Quadrio” on Národní třída. This restaurant will be similar to Kogo - hundred percent good food, besides that will have a different concept and prices. Národní třída is very frequented place. There will be more than one hundred and fifty places and a garden, so it will be huge.”

Two years ago you opened a restaurant in Špindlerův Mlýn. Was it easier than in Prague?

“In the Špindlerův Mlýn Kogo is part of the Hotel Savoy and the restaurant had already been there in the past with different operator. At that time the restaurant didn't have a good reputation. Despite that we were able to help the restaurant in few months and we don't have any problems nowadays.
Many clients go there. They know us from Prague and know the quality of the food and service they get here.”

How do you plan to entice new customers?

“We are quite known by the Prague clientele. We are going to entice guests by good service and a new attitude towards food preparation, which will be based on grilling by unique techniques connecting classical charcoal grill with the system of a closed furnace. I believe that people who come to Kogo will feel well here.

What is your relation to the social media?

“We have the company Facebook pages and we present our news there. When we buy good tuna, we invite guests. But we definitely do not overwhelm anybody with the information. Anybody who comes to the Slovanský dům knows what to expect.”

I have read you haven't acquired Czech citizenship yet. Why?

“I had some trouble with my personal documents. But the next year I will acquire the czech citizenship I suppose. I really want it. I hire over a hundred employees, I pay taxes and my son has czech citizenship. I am hundred percent considering it, I hope the bureaucracy will be simplified.”

You started the business as a foreigner in the nineties. Is it easier for your colleagues nowadays? For example from Serbia.

“I have no idea how it is today. When I arrived in the 1992, it was not so a competitive here. People from the whole world have started to come here, both the tourists and businessmen. If you compare Prague in 1992 and in 2014, the city is different. It is bigger, houses are reconstructed, modern business centers, amazing companies and shops. On the other hand, thousands of young people are having fun every night here. We can be compared to Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Berlin. Prague lives.”

Previews years trends are to have the quality restaurants even Prague's suburbs. Is Kogo always going to be in the city center or you are planing to expand to the suburbs?

“We are not only in the center, we have a restaurant in Špindlerův Mlýn. We have a restaurant at the Golf Resort Albatross. The truth is that anybody can have a restaurant out of the center. We were already thinking about a new project, when we will be finished with Quadrio, out of the center.”

How do you handle your free time when you have it?

“I have very little free time, but I play tennis in Štvanice regularly. At least for times a week between lunch and dinner times, the rest I spend here.”

In your business is it necessary to have good relations with clients?

“You have to be honest. You can not cheat the people. If I won't get good-quality food, I never offer it. The relations with the clients are friendly.”

Czech temperament is different than Serbien. We are probably more introverts. Have you had to adapt to that?

“That is not true. Each nation has it's own characteristics. There are good people and bad people. I know many Czechs who are really great, having fun and they are not introverts at all.”

Who is your for you personally the leader?

“I am the leader in my restaurant who is sharing the work with waiters and cooks. In some way the Orchestra is to be conducted by me. Example of the good leaders can be football trainers such as José Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti are. They are good and they carry over their skills onto the players same as me on my employees. Or a really good politician, who there are but a few in the world.”

You have a friendly and familiar relationship with the people who work for you. Is it a recipe for the success to have loyal employees who like to come to work?

“I prefer friendly and familiar relations, but there are borderlines. There has to be. In my restaurant it works well, but is possible that somewhere else it wouldn't work. The way of business which I do  and my system are based on trust and friendship.”

by Jaroslav Kramer
Source: Prague Leaders Magazine

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