He knows the regulars. We had a very pleasant interview with Tarkan Şahin, the founder of Hayat Cihangir, a business whose glasses come with lace. As with all our interviews, our meeting place would be the business itself. However, since we were at home due to the coronavirus, we were able to meet on our phones and computers thanks to technology.
In Hayat Cihangir, in one of the oldest districts of Istanbul, there is still the service concept and atmosphere of old Istanbul taverns, even though they no longer have lacy glasses…
Could you briefly tell us about your business? When was it founded, what did you think when you started this business? What is the most important feature that makes your business different from other businesses?
Hayat Cihangir was founded in early 2011. With the advantage of living in Cihangir, I decided to stay here thinking that the location determination was also correct. It was the end of February, that day, we continue to this day. Previously, I continued my activities with different businesses in the sector. Hayat Cihangir is my last stop.
Hayat Cihangir has a specific target audience. We are able to reach this audience with the contribution of previous experiences, and we host people of the quality we want. We are doing this job in one of the beautiful places in Istanbul. We are not in a very fierce competitive environment. There are 2-3 businesses like us in our neighborhood. The point of view of those operators is the same, we have similar quality likes. Therefore, of course, there is a serious competition between us, but this competition is in order to increase the quality of the work. Cihangir is a location where there is no such stress as “I should close more customers”. In addition, the human profile we serve is also in a certain structure, as I mentioned before. Therefore, I can say that our most distinctive feature is that we are now able to serve with the understanding of taverns expected by Istanbulites in the past. Recently, businesses have begun to differentiate in order to survive, to earn more cover or more income. Hayat Cihangir stands out from the crowd because she can keep her stance against this metamorphosis.
What is the secret of your success? What do you need to do well in this industry? What advice would you give to new entrepreneur candidates who want to enter the sector?
I can tell an anecdote about the past. I work in the shop one day. One of our supplier representatives said, “Mr. Tarkan, will you have tea with me?” asked. “What do you mean, of course,” I said. We sit and chat. “We go in and out of a lot of places every day because of our job. Your success really catches our attention. What’s the secret?” I thought when you said My answer: ‘Discipline’ Our commitment to our plans in order to achieve certain goals while doing our job, making this a company culture is the key point of our success. Of course, discipline alone means nothing. There are important factors such as the applicability of the plans, the right of the personnel to participate in these plans, the ability to focus on the targets, and the determination of priorities. And if you can touch them, you have success.
I would advise my friends who are eager to enter the sector to think a few more times. Because we are an industry where total input costs are high and profitability is low. It is also very easy to break from discipline due to human-related factors. You need to be careful.
What do you think are the most fundamental problems of the food and beverage industry? Corona virus is already a problem. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the future of the industry? Why?
With experience, an event happens every 3-4 years. The terrorist acts that took place in the Beyoğlu region in the last twenty years, social events, the intervention of chairs in the businesses, commercial problems, and the aggressive business conduct of the people in the market… We can count dozens of problems that can be considered as such. There are many such unsolved and growing problems. In addition, vertical or horizontal movements of people who are not competent in the sector are among the most serious problems. Everyone is eyeing everyone’s business. Everyone is trying to make money from everyone’s job. You can’t take care of your staff. There are people who have a penny and have nothing to do with this sector and enter the market for different reasons. People who have somehow made money, avoid shopping with checks, say hot money will come, and start businesses like ours. Then, in the establishment where they eat and drink, they temper the service staff with whom they establish sincerity, and the kitchen staff along with the staff they have tempered… In summary, there is a need for personnel that cannot be created from the infrastructure. There is no merit left. Working as a busboy for 3 days today, he leaves his place on the 4th day and enters another place as a waiter. His busboy friend doesn’t want to work as a busboy in your business when he sees that he’s a waiter…
While we were thinking that the Corona Virus will never come to our country, he said smack and the country has been closed for 1.5 months. There is nothing to do. I think the epidemic can be devastating for some of the players in the industry. In my personal opinion, this destruction will be regional in the post-epidemic period. Spaces of the right size, paying the right rent, will be able to survive. Businesses that do not appeal to the general customer, but that have a certain knowledge with a certain quality and do not compromise on certain issues. I think places like ours will be more advantageous. In summary, I think sustainability is the next part of the job.
Maybe there needs to be a change!
I believe that new businesses, new operators, young people with a new worldview will provide the energy necessary for our country to take its place in the world gastronomy that it needs after the epidemic. Of course, it is important that the state encourages this issue. Within certain rules, it will be positive for the sector in the long run that our country, which is located in such geography, becomes a gastronomy center. Of course, there is a need for properly planned facilities, especially training in gastronomy. During my time in Australia, I had the opportunity to personally experience that they care about this issue. While applying very strict rules for immigration, I have witnessed firsthand that these strict rules are being bent for qualified chefs. What I realized when I went to Paris recently is that they already have a field of attraction, but they also realize the importance of this business long ago and they do business with such great effort and success… Therefore, they are far, far ahead in gastronomy tourism. I believe that gastronomy tourism will give life to the sector.
There are some rumors that when restaurants, cafes, etc. businesses open, they will be able to serve half or one-third of their capacity. Do you think it is a sustainable practice for the survival of restaurants?
I also ask myself… Some missionary movements are needed. Businesses need to open up, even if it causes a loss. It will take a while for people to normalize. It will contribute to the normalization of places and people. Yes, businesses can have difficulties in this regard, of course. On the other hand, our country is full of surprises. Not everything happens logically. You are looking at a business, you have a business vision, it may not work at all. With this logic, you say how this business will run, the man has been standing for years. It’s not very predictable, time will tell.