When did you set up the Brasserie? What was behind your decision to set up this business in Phuket?
I founded the Brasserie more than three years ago. The main attraction was to open a venue in phuket town that would become a benchmark in Phuket – “incontournable” in French. The decision to set up a business in Phuket came because I was missing something that I loved in Europe: a classical, informal yet chique brasserie like you can find in Paris or Brussels. It didn't exist in Phuket
What were you doing before?
I was living and running my company in Hong Kong and China (which I still do).
Where are you from?
I come from a country where we like to live the 'Burgundy style': Belgium. My hometown is Sint Truiden: the center for apple, pears, strawberries and much more. Go and visit! It's small but you'll be surprised. You should go in April/May, when all the cherry trees show their magnificent snow-white flowers...
What’s different about Brasserie Phuket? What are its unique points?
When you enter the Brasserie, you feel something different. It hits you: am I in Paris, Brussels? The unique thing about the Brasserie is that we serve only the best and freshest ingredients. And where can you find fresh inmported game meat or live crayfish from France? Also unique is that everything is home-made, from the bread to every dessert. But the Brasserie is not only about eating – it's about atmosphere and drinking at our famous bar. And there again, we're unique. It's not just drinking, but savour one of our 50 Belgian beers.
Why would someone choose the Brasserie compared to your closest competition?
To be honest I don't think the Brasserie has any competition yet. It's unique in its concept. One thing that makes us different is the consistancy of the dishes.
Tell us something about your role in the business?
My role is to be there every day and to make sure that everything goes smoothly. The kitchen, the restaurant, the athmosphere – and to chit-chat with my customers.
What are the main challenges?
To improve every day and never think that you're at the top because that's when you go down.
…and what are the biggest difficulties?
The biggest difficulties were adapting to work with local staff. We're so different. But then it's a challenge not to give up. When you see some of my staff today, they are top! That gives me a wonderful feeling.
What is your main target market?
Our main target is expats who loves their food but also local Thais – who represent 50% of our customers!
What is your approach to marketing Brasserie Phuket to your target?
We do adverstise in a few magazines, but we really believe in word of mouth. Especially in such a small community. And it works!
What do you like most about what you do now?
What I like the most is seeing a customer going out with a smile and saying: "Thank you so much for the wonderful food and evening.
And what do you like least…?
Arrogant customers who don't have a clue what they're talking about!
What do you expect to achieve within the next 3-5 years?
The next two years we will concentrate on all the small details to make it even better. Then we'll open our new venue next door: 'High Definition' which will be my new challange, together with Dutch top chef Thomas Diepersloot and my daughter Babette. Again this will be unique in phuket.
What do you see as your biggest successes to date?
That I'm happy with what I'm doing. All the rest is not important.
To what extent did the global financial mess affect your business?
Difficult to say because Asia is doing well. I suppose we would have more customers from Europe, but I'm not complaining. We're doing very well
Please give us an overview of your typical day ‘at work’.
A typical day at work is to have a briefing with our chef and staff. Have a look at the kitchen. Then I check the computer for reservations. My lovely wife takes care of operations.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I'm hard but correct. Seventy percent of our staff left (except in the kitchen) after one or two days. The ones who are still here today are exactly the ones we want!
What is your over-riding ambition at this stage in your life?
Again, it's not really about me – it's the people close to me. Without my wife (Lin Kwanjai) the Brasserie would not be what it is today.
If you aim too much for something, you won't get it. Concentrate on your work and love what you do – and people will come to you. Enthusiasm is contagious, you know...
For further information about Brasserie Phuket