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Ep 44 / Gonca Esendemir / Co-founder of Flatbread Grill & Thumb Bread®, Social Media Maven

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Gonca is the co-founder and CMO of Flatbread Grill, a fresh casual Turkish Mediterranean concept conceived and developed by Gonca and her two sisters in 2007. The sisters built Flatbread Grill and launched the CPG brand, Thumb Bread, inspired by their Turkish roots and the work ethic instilled in them by their family. In this episode of Forktales, Joseph and Gonca talk about the hard work of launching a brand, taking risks on social media, and whether Lebanese hummus really is the best hummus in the world.

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Ep 44 / Gonca Esendemir / Co-founder of Flatbread Grill & Thumb Bread®, Social Media Maven
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Show Notes

Flatbread Grill is a fresh casual Turkish Mediterranean concept conceived and developed by the Esendemir sisters in 2007. The menu features a diverse mix of soups, gourmet salads, sandwiches, platters, and kids items all paired with specialty flatbreads baked daily on-premises.

The Esendemir sisters also developed a spinoff brand, Thumb Bread – a versatile, Turkish bread available in stores.  

Gonca and her sisters knew that introducing Turkish food into the community would not be easy. Turkish culture tends to be very traditional, while the Sendemir sisters made small changes to Turkish culinary traditions and thought outside the box when it comes to using ingredients and preparing traditional Turkish dishes. 

Gonca and her sisters approach social media with an open mind and a willingness to post photos and content on the fly and in the spur of the moment. 

In the restaurant industry, you can do things rather quickly. With CPG products (like Thumb Bread), the processes take longer. 

Quotes

“We were very apprehensive at first (about using social media). It took a little bit of dipping our feet in until we got warmed up. […] It’s been really helpful in reaching a worldwide audience.” – Gonca

“I learned (about social media) as I went along. It comes naturally because I love story-telling.” – Gonca 

“A lot of people almost get paralyzed by the thought of putting content out there or they get analysis paralysis where they have to fine tune everything. I think the key to successful marketing in general – especially in the social universe – is ‘let’s commit to the fact that we’re going to learn and we’re going to iterate and adjust and that it’s okay if it’s a miss.” – Joseph

“The essence of bread-making and the art of baking is lost in the factory process.” – Gonca

“One of the things about being a female in business, especially if you’re perky and you smile a lot, people have a misconception that everything comes easily and your ideas just fall out of the sky and land at your feet and it’s not like that.” – Gonca

Transcript

00:00.00
vigorbranding
Hey everyone this week I am joined by my friend and social media Maverick gunja Ascendimir she is the founder of flatbread grill and thumbbred and we’re gonna talk all about that journey and all about what she’s all about. But for now say hello give a little backstory.

00:15.36
Gonca
Hi I’m gunja I started a fast casual Mediterranean Rushur concept in 2007 with my 2 sisters our Zoom and feesoon while I was still in college. I’m the chief marketing officer I take care of marketing social media communications for for that brand and also for our new brand which is a consumer package goods product thumbbred. It’s a spinoff from our restaurant brand and I also take care of the marketing and communications social media for that as well. With my sisters arzu is the Ceo and my big sister is the chief financial officer of both companies.

00:57.55
vigorbranding
Awesome! So we’re working with 2 sisters I imagine has its benefits but also I’m sure there’s some people out there like who I could not imagine working with my family. How has that dynamic been over the years

01:12.21
Gonca
It’s gotten it’s gotten better obviously when when I was in in college I had a I was in ah, a different different space I was you know interning in the music industry I had a little bit of a wild and crazy social life. I was kind of bouncing around from job to job and my sisters were definitely had had a more linear path arzou knew right? after high school that she was going to work to save up money to put herself through college and that’s basically what she did throughout her entire college career. It was basically going to work. Going to class going to work going to class. No sort of you know, no social, no real social life and then my big sister obviously has just been. She’s the first child of immigrant parents so she had a a world of responsibility growing up and she’s you know, been.

02:03.64
vigorbranding
Um, yeah.

02:05.53
Gonca
She’s always been very focused and Responsible. So I’m the middle Sister So there you know there was some adjustments to be made there. But overall we we share the same values and we were raised we were We were raised. You know, essentially in the same way to be. Kind to be conservative and humble modest to be hardworking to focus on Success. So Those core values is really what helps us get us through the the difficult times you know the arguments the petty fights and also just going back to. Why which is family. We The you know the 3 of us support our parents and essentially you know, no matter what we’re arguing about what we’re going through. It’s our parents. That’s that’s bigger than anything so we always kind of come back to to that to that why that motivation.

03:02.53
vigorbranding
I Think that’s the power of why right is when everybody’s bought in it’s it’s easy to like put a pause on things take a step back and say is this is this living. Can we do? We need to take a minute. Let’s go back to our corners.

03:02.59
Gonca
And put aside our differences. This.

03:15.69
Gonca
Um, that’s.

03:17.77
vigorbranding
Um I love that and I love all that all 3 of you understand that? That’s what purpose is really all about um so you mentioned the flatbread grill was started in 2007 it’s a Mediterranean concept I think you also mentioned that why why bring that to market. What was the passion behind.

03:20.89
Gonca
Yes.

03:36.38
vigorbranding
Just the brand in general.

03:36.20
Gonca
So At the time you know my my family was going through some difficulties. My father had gotten very sick. He needed open heart Surgery. We didn’t have health Insurance. You know my father has been an entrepreneur for his entire life. So You know there was there was a bit of poverty in our background So Health insurance wasn’t actually a thing and he needed you know, medical care and at the time my my big sister fe soon was you know supporting our family as much as she could and she had a great you know. Great corporate job that eventually ended up letting her go and we grew up in the restaurant industry. My father had restaurants growing up and we all love food I think anyone that knows this will tell you will always choose eating over anything else. So.

04:28.19
vigorbranding
I Love it.

04:31.80
Gonca
You know pieces that I don’t think I want to go back to working corporate and you know she she had been working her entire life where whether it was as a teenager. My father’s restaurant running his restaurants when she was thirteen years old or you know getting her first internship and ah the electronics field when she was like right out of high school. So. Um, she decided she would rather work for herself and arsy was just graduating from college with a double degree in business and finance and she was kind of at a cross roads like do I go work on wall street do I go to grad school. Do I go to law school so the 2 of them decide that they would start a restaurant and um and I was kind of you know, floating around in my life trying to figure out what I was going to do if I was ever going to graduate having your usual 20 something year old I’ve confused. What’s next to my life and yes, which I have nearly every day of my life still.

05:22.26
vigorbranding
The the Quarter life crisis as we call it right.

05:29.82
Gonca
So um, you know they’re like hey do you want to start a restaurant with us and like hey get and get in where we’re gonna go start a restaurant like all right cool I got nothing else going on and that was it and then are you really?? Um. She’s she’s just a genius. Yeah know I Wish she could be on this podcast but we have Different. We really have different schedules these days. Um, but she was like we’re going to do differentiation and we’re going to have a brand and we’re going to have something forever. She had a very very strong vision of what she wanted this concept to be and it was in me 2007 like people were doing that.

06:02.26
vigorbranding
Um, right.

06:03.85
Gonca
They were building restaurant concepts you know so she was very much ahead of her time. She was only 23 years old probably 1 of the youngest restaurant fast casual restaurant founders in this entire industry. Um, and and that was basically it and you know we used our our our upbringing. Our. Love of traditional turkish food and made it accessible to people and it was really important to kind of maintain our our cultural background in the menu. My father wouldn’t have had it any other way but you know it was just it just came together beautifully you know and it really.

06:39.73
vigorbranding
Yeah, it’s interesting because you know, um the shame of of the culinary world or maybe just the way consumers see it is We have to rope together.

06:40.67
Gonca
Worked.

06:54.10
vigorbranding
Such a large swath of geography and cultures underneath one title which is Mediterranean and it’s not it’s not um this isn’t a complaint or or the beginning of an activist speech by any means it’s it’s only a shame because there are similarities but there are.

06:57.83
Gonca
Yes, yes.

07:09.40
Gonca
Yes.

07:11.34
vigorbranding
Notable differences. So like I think I’ve sit up on the podcast I’ll say it again. My friends if they’re listening are going to roll their eyes I think lebanese hummus is the best humus like it’s really they just they nailed it. They’re good at it high 5 It’s my favorite you know, but.

07:18.90
Gonca
It is very good. Yes.

07:27.97
vigorbranding
Yeah, you know you’ll find hummus and cirkish fruit as well. You’ll find you’re gonna find hummus and Greek food. Okay I love it. Okay, great.

07:28.69
Gonca
Well we taught the Lebanese how to make it so we didn’t we did rule the out of an empire if I’m just repeating what my fathers repeated throughout his entire restaurant career. What people asked him is we did’t rule the Ottoman empire. So I mean there’s.

07:45.47
vigorbranding
That’s true.

07:46.69
Gonca
A lot of conflict there with the greeks and the armenians and the lebanese and the syrians of who really was responsible but you know those cultures became and enmeshed at some point. But um I will tell you that le but I think lebanese people come very very close to um, you know Turkish what we consider turkish food. But I think they are.

07:54.42
vigorbranding
Yeah.

08:06.50
vigorbranding
Yeah, and maybe maybe it’s the ah the French colonization that kind of helped them uplift their hospitality or whatever you know one of those things but um I think what’s interesting though is like you really if somebody were to offer me for instance, different kinds of hummus like I have a preference up but but I’m.

08:05.58
Gonca
They do a tremendous job. They really do.

08:12.35
Gonca
And can be.

08:22.43
Gonca
Me too. Mesa.

08:24.98
vigorbranding
I’m um, well traveled as it pertains to the culinary world. Um, however if if you could help for those that aren’t familiar with Turkish food would you be able to give some examples and descriptions. So.

08:33.21
Gonca
So turkish food is is very popular in in Europe and it’s not as popular here as mexican food and pizza and you know, um chinese food so it. Introducing that into the market was going to be difficult and my father originally didn’t want us to do traditional turkish food and we there wasn’t a little bit of an uproar in the turkish community when we started getting press and we were in the New York Times because people thought that we were butchering turkish food.

09:09.86
vigorbranding
Well I.

09:09.84
Gonca
Um, turkish turkish people are very they tend to be very traditional my father has a turkish doctor a turkish mechanic a turkish and so they they they tend to be very traditional and stick to tradition um so we were we were really the trend setters and we were the first to to take. You know to even to take homeless and scoop it onto a salad. You know that was unheard of or to you know change the the chicken marination to you know, be be a little bit more intense. Um. The shepherd salad we made it the chopped tomato salad some people know it as an israeli salad even that we we changed the the recipe and the way we make it. Um, so people who were not turkish. People are not used to that I mean now you can see our influence in in. People in traditional and turkish menus. But back then it was we were kind of thinking outside the box and really you know we like to eat tazeki as a sauce um on our on our kebobs and in turkish people actually serve that as a debt they don’t serve it as a sauce. Now they serve it as a sauce because it was you know it’s the mainstream thing to do with Middle East through Mediterranean food. But your your basic staples of you know kebabs dona there’s a lot of there’s a lot of meats I don’t think Turkish people.

10:22.00
vigorbranding
Um, right.

10:34.89
Gonca
Do as much with the spices as other cultures. Do we like to keep it simple. Um, but you know big part of our money was also our our bread which is was different and big differentiator for us then you’re your standard staples feta cheese is really big for us and. Any mediterranean middle eastern medie is gonna have that cheese. You know we had your traditional things like stuff grape leaves Verdic Lama june which is a turkish pizza but those things didn’t do as well as you know something like our Mediterranean chicken was.

11:08.63
vigorbranding
Sure.

11:11.31
Gonca
Extremely popular on our menu or Greek solid and we did. We did do some some some pizzas but the turkish pizza didn’t unfortunately did not work out. It’s still not as popular here in this country. You know outside of traditional turkish restaurants.

11:28.53
vigorbranding
Um, so the Turkish pizza is that kind of like a xatar.

11:30.90
Gonca
So um, so it’s it’s a basically minced meat with seasoning. There’s no sauce and the the meat has to it has to be fresh. It always has to be very fresh. Yeah, you’ll hardly ever walk into a Turkish restaurant and find it not. Not prepared that day or actually when we were doing we were preparing you mince the we were taking the mince meat at seasoning right? before we made the pizzas and it’s in a very very thin thin crust. So. It’s kind of like ah, an open face I Want to say a banada but it’s not fried. It’s it’s baked.

11:57.42
vigorbranding
A.

12:06.78
vigorbranding
Yeah, okay I’ve seen this before So the the meat itself it almost looks like really finally ground beef with red reddish a brown reddish orange hue to it and then it’s like almost covers the attire flatbread. Fantastic.

12:08.53
Gonca
So.

12:13.46
Gonca
Yes, yes, yes, yes yeah, and it’s really and if you can get it like it’s It’s actually really good if you can get it at the right place and and we did it. We did a good job with it.

12:26.60
vigorbranding
Yeah.

12:30.57
Gonca
And making it but again like we didn’t serve it in the traditional way with the the the toppings. Um, so it didn’t just it didn’t really work for our menu.

12:38.51
vigorbranding
So sure. Yeah I think what’s interesting is like I think the turkish culture as it pertains to culinary is is getting more and more attractction as time goes on, you’re gonna maybe hate me for this but Salt Bay definitely put a turkish turkish flair on the map right? um.

12:46.67
Gonca
Um, now and now I know how people feel like when we were the book when people were acquainting us with Turkish crews back then because we were so out there and now since here you like equate.

12:57.16
vigorbranding
So that’s great.

13:04.95
vigorbranding
You write? ah.

13:06.90
Gonca
Salt way as as a he’s a here Turkish it. Um, you know he’s I Love what he’s that he’s done. It’s it’s it’s it’s It’s really entertaining and it’s It’s amazing because this is a brutal industry so to see somebody come up like that. Ah I Love it. But I think I don’t. I’ve looked at his menu I don’t know that he I know that there’s influences of Turkish food. But I think he deals a lot with you know steaks and and meat and just kind of doing his own spin on it which I think is fabulous I thought I wish every restaurant owner would do that instead of you know.

13:31.84
vigorbranding
Yeah.

13:42.65
vigorbranding
Yeah, yeah, that’d be nice right? I mean but you know this world is iteration right? I create there is no original thought is what some people will say it’s just iterations on what’s been I Think what? what? what? I loved about that whole moment for him.

13:42.99
Gonca
Stealing ideas from other people. Um. Um, yes.

13:58.87
vigorbranding
And he still he still has restaurants. He’s and I think one is in vegas he still does well um, is whether you like him or hate him. You can’t deny that the man was passionate about his craft about his food and it shows so the reason why I know about turkish pizza is because I somehow from assault Bay Video

13:59.34
Gonca
The end. Yes.

14:15.24
Gonca
Um.

14:17.72
vigorbranding
Went into the guy who I think started doing those videos for him and he also has a number of other personalities that he works on and so I’ve seen them make that pizza. Um, so I have to try it next time I get an opportunity. Okay.

14:19.95
Gonca
Is.

14:27.73
Gonca
Well, that’s that’s see that’s a nice thing though. That’s that’s really that’s something that is it is just nice to hear that because knowing that is someone that wouldn’t have ever discovered Turkish Pizza has access to it because of the you know the internet that’s really good.

14:45.60
vigorbranding
And and social and so speaking of social you’re an absolute like icon on social media. Um, you know Linkedin I mean you’re you’re active.

14:47.26
Gonca
I like to hear to hear that. Yeah, that’s that’s awesome. Debate a ah me wolf since I’m going to go today later today. We until my sisters Alissa. I’m an icod on social media. They’re gonna be like air. Whatever wash the dishes.

15:05.87
vigorbranding
That’s all right I’ll send you a cut out of a blue check. So you can carry it around just to prove it. Um, so how how has your activity on social media helped grow the flatbreads Grill brand and then.

15:11.69
Gonca
Is.

15:21.15
Gonca
Um, so you know when we started out. Um it’s it was I think Twitter was just coming up. Facebook was still for college kids and and Linkedin was still just a job job hunting tool.

15:22.31
vigorbranding
Thumbred brand which we’ll talk about in a second.

15:38.94
Gonca
You know we came up in a very different time. Um I know I’m dating myself and I sound like you know back in my day but we had to really rely on word of Mouth. You know I I look back and I’m like wow if we had Tiktok back then like it would have been amazing to bring people into our environment and show them and document and given them behind the scenes and. You know when we were young and we had a lot of energy and we were vivacious enough to want to do that so we had to really work on building through word of mouth and then the social media started happening and we were like oh we should probably look into this and explore but we were very um, apprehensive at first because. You know what we were the only woman doing what we were doing not only in the industry just in cultural wise you know there’s turkishamerican women are not starting restaurants. They’re not starting brands not without the help of their husbands or their brothers or so we were very much. Um.

16:25.36
vigorbranding
And.

16:36.38
Gonca
Ah, female foundunded brand and it was unheard of so in the restaurant industry. Um, so we were apprehensive and it took a little bit of like dipping our feet in until we got warmed up and um, you know we thought okay well this is kind of like there’s something something here. So. We’re we had to be very mindful because we are aligned with the Brand. So How we use social media and it’s it’s important to us what image we convey online because people do associate us with our brands. It’s been really helpful in reaching a worldwide audience. You know I’ve. I’ve had the the pleasure of speaking with people online who you know are are across the country or across the world. They’re like oh I’ve heard about your restaurant I followed you and your sisters and so and so and I’m like Wow like it’s crazy that people really are keeping up to Date. So I Love that it’s it’s. It’s helped us connect with people and build that bridge. Um, you know and I think they just learned as I went along I’ve always been kind of like a little tech Nerd. You know I was building websites where as soon as like I had a desktop computer in high school. So.

17:47.69
vigorbranding
Yet.

17:51.78
Gonca
Um, you know it just it. It comes naturally because I like storytelling I see myself as a storyteller and I and I love writing that’s one of the reasons Linkedin is probably 1 of my favorite platforms is I get to tell stories on there and it’s less of a visual. Visual medium and it’s been significant in that I can stay connected to people and I can forge real connections and I could meet new people that I would otherwise not really have been able to meet because I you know I spent a lot of time working in my restaurant so there was.

18:27.65
vigorbranding
That’s right.

18:28.56
Gonca
Outside world. The only way I was really connected to it was you know through digital mediums. Um, but yeah, it’s ah it’s just it’s It’s been terrific because people know about the brand and they’re exposed to it that and they would otherwise not be exposed to it if it wasn’t for social media.

18:47.32
vigorbranding
Yep.

18:47.22
Gonca
But in terms of like my my Maven my iconic skills really? That’s just all learned through trial and error. You know.

18:52.61
vigorbranding
Well I think that’s so that’s a good point because I feel like a lot of people. Um, um, almost get paralyzed by the thought of putting content out there or they get analysis paralysis where they they have to Finetune every single thing and I think the key to successful marketing in general.

19:04.45
Gonca
A.

19:11.47
vigorbranding
Especially in the social universe is not outright trial and era. It’s not. It’s not simply just you know shotgun Blast Hope something sticks. It’s more like let’s take a very educated Guess let’s commit to the fact that we’re going to learn and that we’re going to iterate and adjust.

19:22.22
Gonca
Moving.

19:29.60
vigorbranding
Um, and that it’s okay, if it’s a miss. Um, and it’s a completely different thinking compared to traditional marketing and advertising thought which is like no no, no, no, no, this has to be surgical and perfect and and and you can understand why considering if you’re going to spend a million dollars putting a Tv ad out there that thing better damn well be great.

19:30.00
Gonca
Yes, um.

19:37.79
Gonca
Um, yes.

19:47.19
Gonca
Yes, yes.

19:49.50
vigorbranding
Um, whereas on social a little bit more leniency and less of a financial commitment. Um, go ahead. Yeah.

19:52.87
Gonca
The the interesting thing is that you know when people look at our social media platforms. Whether it’s our you know or send them your sisters or flatbread and and um, they’ll be like Wow This is so good like so well thought out and we’ll put together and like most of those photos were posted on the fly. And without much thought you know there is just there are certain parameters that we follow like is this you know this is represent our values um does it. You know convey a sense of authenticity. But from that point on it’s just oh, This is a great photo I think I’ll post that you know.

20:15.95
vigorbranding
Sure.

20:29.89
Gonca
But again it comes out to what you said it’s It’s just a free medium. It doesn’t cost me anything to crack open my phone and put it up there. You know so.

20:37.50
vigorbranding
Yeah, and I think what’s great is the phone. The phone really changed the game I mean that’s being able to shoot really good photography on the fly video on the fly and interact with these met methods is just it’s an absolute world Changer I’m excited to see what happens next? um.

20:40.63
Gonca
1

20:53.56
Gonca
Um, I’m a little scared but um.

20:55.55
vigorbranding
You know around the corner I’m scared too I mean obviously it’s probably going not to do something with implants in your brain. But um, but so you you did a great job on building the flatbread grill grip brand and then um, 10 years after the start or a little over 10 years after the start of that brand. You guys launched thumbbread.

21:02.70
Gonca
Oh.

21:11.67
Gonca
So.

21:13.44
vigorbranding
Ah, like you mentioned is a Cpg Retail Brand Um tell tell us what is thumbred like not the brand but the actual bread. What is it and how is this taking off for you.

21:23.48
Gonca
So you know I Um, the some bread is something that are you my my little I call my little sister she hates it but she’s you know she’s still younger than me even though it’s not by that much. So she’s my little sister. Um, she.

21:34.75
vigorbranding
And forever.

21:41.35
Gonca
You know she was really the powerhouse behind that. Um I just took her ideas and I ran around within and expounded on it. Um, she was intent that it just from like her her her business sense that we needed differentiation and the differentiation was going to come from making our own special. Breads not really thinking about nobody knew anything about making any kind of specialty red so she learned she’s a master baker. Um, it’s so much scary. How good. She’s become um and it was just something she saw in her head and wanted to bring it. Life and it’s a you know, recipe that she tweaked over the years and became phenomenal. Um, it was something we talked about a lot we were you know we were open for a couple of weeks and The New York Times 8 there and they loved it and when they they put the review and the article out it was pretty much the title of it was. Breads that are flat and flavorful so it was for us who was like oh wow like people are noticing our bread that’s interesting and then seeing you know, teenagers and children were really drawn to it. They would come in and they would ask for thumbread. It was just a very versatile bread like I don’t want to. Down to salesy. But when people are like oh what? like what did you? What was the purpose of it. We needed a bread that was flexible that we could use across our entire menu. You know with our we had an extensive menu so we had salads and soups platters we had panini so we wanted a bread that we could use for pretty much. Everything and thumbbred became that and then of course people started buying it individually. Um and again like it was just something we talked about and one day we just we just went for it. We did it ours who came up with ah an interesting packaging idea I built the prototype and then. You know we took it to market and we we did a little tester run and a local specialty retail chain did really well so we thought okay well we do have something. We’re not just you know in our where it’s not just in our minds like oh we have the special bread and people love it like people really do love it and. You know it’s out there in the world now making its around and you know where where we are wherever we’ve put it so far. It’s done really well and considering it’s a brand new product like people are picking it up and they’re interested in it. You know we’re starting to get. We’re starting to get. Emails in and Dms about the product. So it’s it’s nice to see it gaining some traction after having you know done it so long.

24:19.11
vigorbranding
Um I love that? Yeah yeah, and it sounds like it is true innovation. So there’s 2 things I want to comment on there 1 is just as I think Thomas is very indicative of the culture. The bread is too I mean like.

24:33.10
Gonca
Yes.

24:36.36
vigorbranding
Fantastic bread is something notable and it it does vary from culture to culture and actually subculture to subculture I mean the the kind of bread that you get in a certain part of Israel for instance would be different than another part. So it is such a a hallmark and something that is truly ownable. So that’s amazing.

24:37.60
Gonca
No.

24:49.63
Gonca
Okay.

24:54.50
vigorbranding
Ah, the other one that I think is really that I really want unpack here is the Cpg world could not be further away from the restaurant world and I don’t think restauranturs always understand that um, that.

25:07.12
Gonca
And absolutely.

25:10.43
vigorbranding
You know the the jargon is different the terminology the need is different. The consumer state is different the speed all of it. Yeah, all of it is different and so you wear the the cmo hat there RZWears the Ceo hat how has that shift or the everything hat great. That’s mu.

25:17.59
Gonca
Margins.

25:23.75
Gonca
Um, everything that is that everybody.

25:29.14
vigorbranding
Good ceos. Do um, how do you guys even begin to pivot when you’re talking about Flatbread Grill needs versus thumbbread and then where’s that overlap I mean just how do you even begin to answer that question I don’t know but I’ll leave it with you.

25:42.81
Gonca
that’s a that’s a no that’s a great that’s a great question and I think a lot of people wonder that because um, one of the things about being ah a female in business. Especially if you’re you know like prippy and you smile a lot people people have this. Um this ignorant conception that you’re. Misconception that everything comes easily and your ideas just fall out of the sky and and land at your feed and opportunities come out and it’s not like that for us everything every we go into everything with the belief that we’re gonna work very hard for it. You know we’re we’re born to immigrant parents and I think anyone that’s. That’s first generation or second generation you watch your parents crawll on their hands and knees you already have that implanted in you that anything I go for in life is going to be a struggle that I have to work my butt off for so there’s never a sense of entitlement like I’m just going to take this product to market and everybody’s gonna open doors for me. We kind of knew. There were going to be a set of challenges but we did have the foundation of our brand. You know it’s it’s hard to compete. Um, it’s hard to kind of take away from us that we’ve been in this industry and a very very tough industry self-funded for all of these years you know as owner operators and the pivot was easy only because we we had been so hands on with this product for so long we had. We had the data we needed like we know that we were selling. You know millions of sandwiches on it. We we got to interact with customers. Ah you know 5 year old can walk into your restaurant and ask for a piece of thumb but that that says a lot because you know for especially for gen z bread is not on their top list of things that they they think about so.

27:26.70
vigorbranding
That that’s right.

27:30.97
Gonca
You know we already have the data there and we had the foundation and we had the the flatbread growll brand which is which is quite. You know it’s it’s it’s strong. It has a we have a worldwide social media following. We’ve gotten major press for it. So. Once we had the packaging idea in place and that was there that we knew we were going to market with something that was different and unique and you know the branding was there. The the trademarks were there all of that stuff once the the identity lined up for us taking it out into the world was um. And want to say it was a piece of cake but it’s just a matter of getting in front of the the right people the right distribution. At this point you know I think the most difficult thing for us was assessing the the price point and the margins you know and in the restaurant industry. You compromise a lot on your margins because sometimes you don’t have a choice because economic conditions or you know Cisco might give you a higher price for your tomatoes if there’s a storm in California and you have no choice to pay double for your lettuce so you compromise on your margins in cpg you can’t do that because.

28:36.62
vigorbranding
Yeah.

28:38.99
Gonca
Will you set your price you get to change your price unless you really want upset your retail partners and you can’t you have to pad it and make sure that you’re making money because this is even in the in the restaurant industry. You’ll hit times where you have no cash flow or you just have to like survive and and and you know. Cut your payroll cut your portions increase your prices you don’t get to do that with Cpg. So um, you know I think that that’s one of the the biggest things that’s different from me from what I’m seeing is that if I tell someone that this is our price I can never go back and say. Hey actually to just kidding I’m sorry like um, you because you only really get 1 yeah, you only get one chain I mean a lot is changing like right now then you know, um, a lot of suppliers are because they’re having so many supply chain issues that they’ll do okay, we’re going to increase our our price in three months

29:19.49
vigorbranding
Yeah, we missed up.

29:36.65
Gonca
But um, you know that’s it’s It’s not something you could do overnight like you can raise your menu prices overnight if you wanted to your customers will adjust and it’s not like that in cpj. Yes, yes, that’s exactly it. It things take in our restaurants.

29:46.36
vigorbranding
That’s right, Yeah, it’s it’s slower and more rigid comparatively. Um.

29:55.46
Gonca
I mean building a restaurant always took at least six months to a year for us no matter where we were going because we were always renting spaces that were not. You know they were not restaurants. So um, you know and in the in the restaurant industry you could you could do things rather quickly. You want to do delivery you get on a new third party app you you know you want to put it a self-order piece. You update your menu cpg we’re having conversations with people now for 2000? Um, yeah, 2023 and it’s like it seems like so far out, but that’s that’s how the planning goes. You know it’s it’s. Everything takes wherever you have to have multiple multiple meetings in the restaurant industry. You get instantaneous feedback. The customer will almost always let you know right away like I hate your product I love your product regular and if they don’t tell you to your face I’ll go on Yelp right.

30:45.38
vigorbranding
That that’s right.

30:47.28
Gonca
So in the in the Cpg industry. It’s not like that sometimes you could send a sample out and you’re waiting two weeks to hear back or you know like we’ve we’ve been in one of our retail partners since February and we’re just starting to get data back now you know it’s almost the end of April now we’re starting to get customer feedback and and sales figures.

31:01.31
vigorbranding
Well.

31:06.28
Gonca
So it definitely does move a lot slower in in this world. Um, and so that’s 1 thing that’s frustrating because when you you know when you have a product that’s that’s you feel like it’s it’s ready for the world. You kind of have to go at everybody else’s pace which can be frustrating.

31:20.52
vigorbranding
Oh insanely I think that’s a sureify where to get me into a really bad mental state I don’t do well with having to wait. Um, so I can’t imagine. Yeah exactly. So yeah, you rushed to to get what you need to get done and then you’re just waiting. Um.

31:23.87
Gonca
Um, hurry up and wait. Yeah.

31:36.55
vigorbranding
But that’s amazing I mean making that pivot to Cpg and and while still maintaining a strong restaurant. Presence is to be lauded and I love what you’re saying about hard work. So I think it was Samuel Goldwin who’s renowned for saying the harder I work the luckier I get and and that’s usually what it is I mean I’ve even had people say to me like.

31:48.58
Gonca
Yeah, yeah.

31:54.89
vigorbranding
Oh you’re lucky that you got to launch that bill book and I’m like lucky I’m Mike bro I like worked really hard for that.

31:58.51
Gonca
Yeah, a very good book right? now. It’s not. It’s definitely not as easy as as people think it is and I and when people ask it like just sit down and write and i’ like that’s it. We’ll sit down right and I don’t know it’s It’s a lot of like mental keeping motivation. Yes, yes.

32:04.88
vigorbranding
Yeah.

32:12.74
vigorbranding
And then edit edit edit edit Edit edit edit edit it yeah like over and over again, throw it all away because everything sucks start over? Yeah I mean it’s a nightmare. Yeah, it’s.

32:18.17
Gonca
Ah, yeah, that’s where I got this week just delete it all. You know.

32:28.91
vigorbranding
It’s not easy. Nothing is easy. Nothing worth anything is easy, but it sounds like you and your sisters have a fantastic work work ethic that was instilled in you by your family I Think that’s something that you see common across many immigrant cultures including you know, even my family might.

32:37.19
Gonca
9

32:45.93
vigorbranding
Family were hard workers I don’t understand people who don’t work hard I try I just don’t understand them. Um you know and so and it’s obviously it’s it’s bared fruit for you and I think that’s amazing. Um, so this might be the the toughest question of the entire chat if you had 1 final meal.

32:48.16
Gonca
Exactly.

33:02.23
Gonca
Um, this is actually this is a very difficult question because I love food. You know I can go out with like a shake shock burger in my hands. Um, but I do there’s 1 restaurant I really love so much and if I could.

33:04.19
vigorbranding
Where would you eat and what would you eat and why.

33:21.14
Gonca
Go there more often I would and that’s wolfangs in Times Square Wolfgang steak cows but I also am dying to try carbon bone carbonboate depending on if you want to do the Italian pronunciation I am dying to try them and I um have great admiration for major food group but I haven’t.

33:29.65
vigorbranding
E.

33:40.71
Gonca
Ever Had to been able to eat anything at restaurants I could probably get as sure I could probably call one of my restaurant friends to get me a reservation. Um, but I’m just I’m dying to try their lobster ravioli. Um, so I think that if that would that would probably be.

33:49.59
vigorbranding
That’s right? yeah.

33:53.41
vigorbranding
M.

33:58.53
Gonca
My last meal I would hope that it’s as good as everyone says it is so I just love Italian food.

34:00.24
vigorbranding
Yeah, that’s amazing. Yeah, what’s not to love I mean I’m part sicilian so it’s ah I make my own pasta I make my own sauce and I think that’s 1 thing that’s interesting I love that you guys have made so many things. Um.

34:08.92
Gonca
Yeah.

34:17.44
vigorbranding
From scratch on your menu I know that sounds silly but I don’t think people quite realize how many times it’s a plop and drop from Cisco and not always a bad thing.

34:16.82
Gonca
Yes, moving.

34:24.63
Gonca
Yes, yeah, no I’m so glad you said that? Yeah, it’s ah that was early on that was one of our zo’s one of Oursy’s things with the branch who was like we are going to make fresh food to order at affordable price points and serve it in a warm casual environment. Um. So and and that again that was like that wasn’t a thing you had fast food and you know you had quickserve and full service. But that there wasn’t a thing like making from scratch you know and people do get their homeless stuff. Great believes their tazeki from from Cisco us foods and we we. Have always always made it from scratch I think that if we did it my my father would probably disow us so you were to be like are you getting that out of the can. What are you doing like they would be insulting an insult to our culture to do that. So.

35:08.00
vigorbranding
Yeah, there were some other repercussions.

35:15.44
vigorbranding
Um, yeah, oh one and it is such a different flavor and I know most people listening to this agree and so I’m probably preaching to the choir. But if you haven’t tried to like eat bread that was made not in ah ah, a factory.

35:33.41
Gonca
Yeah, no I I listen I when I’m selling bread now. So when I go out into the field and I toss the Buyers And’m like this is not a factory made kaiser. Okay, and they don’t like me for saying that. But that’s the truth because a lot of the bread you see out there is factory made.

35:35.70
vigorbranding
Not that that’s bad like look we in a supply chain like you said.

35:45.30
vigorbranding
Brain.

35:53.10
vigorbranding
That’s right.

35:53.19
Gonca
You know our bread is still handmade and there’s still even though it’s semi- Automated. We’re still every bread still goes gets touched by us. Um, and and there’s a difference. You know there’s a difference between the flour we use the way it’s mixed the process. So yes, a lot of the bread you’re seeing out there is and there’s there’s some great. Great. There are some great factory-made breads and phenomenal but they are you know the the the essence of breadmaking the art of baking is it’s kind of get. It’s lost lost in that you know that Factory process.

36:15.27
vigorbranding
That’s right.

36:24.19
vigorbranding
Yeah, well and there’s the reason why it tastes better too and if you really think about it like for instance, there’s a a place on the street here. It’s a gem. It’s called star provisions and on one side of the building is more of a cafe every day kind of eating on the other side is one of the best restaurants in the city of Atlanta.

36:34.53
Gonca
Me.

36:42.24
Gonca
Um.

36:43.94
vigorbranding
Um, the reason why I bring this up is the food that you’re getting at the cafe is the food that they serve at the best restaurant in Atlanta including their baked goods and when you’re when you’re a bakery or a butcher.

36:48.67
Gonca
And.

36:58.65
vigorbranding
The the product that you know it moves so fast that you’re able to make it fresh and when you’re making stuff fresh. You don’t have to have additional things that give you the shelf life that you would pull off of a grocery store shelf again I’m not knocking it. It has to happen. It’s the way it works but there is a notable difference in.

37:02.54
Gonca
Yeah, yeah.

37:18.81
vigorbranding
Handcrafted real food and even down to butcher like when I want to have a really good meal I’ll go to buckhead Butcher I will spend the money even if it’s ground beef like you wouldn’t think ground beef I mean you would but like many people wouldn’t think ground beef has a scale.

37:24.88
Gonca
Um.

37:36.54
vigorbranding
But really good. Ground beef is fantastic on burgers. It’s like unbeatable compared to you know, grocery store.

37:39.74
Gonca
Think now I my big my big sisters ah that she does a lot of cooking for us at home and she’s she’s always going for the the expensive premium ground beef and I used to make fun of her for it. But I get it I totally get it. It makes all the difference.

37:55.31
vigorbranding
Yeah, it really does.

37:59.17
Gonca
But it’s nice to it’s nice to hear that because you know we’re we are premium products and are you know, taking it out to Market. It’s in the bakery category and trying to explain to to buyers that listen the customer will pay a little bit more for a premium product and. Once they have it. They’re going to love it and they’re going to keep coming back is that’s that’s been a big challenge for us because they are used to the Factory bread. They are used to the the um I don’t want to see cheaper make more affordable breads that give them better margins that are.

38:26.86
vigorbranding
That’s right.

38:33.39
Gonca
You know they’re not made with Premium Flower. They’re not hand Formed. They’re coming off the factory Line. So That’s that’s been a challenge for us. But um, find that we’re finding kind of our groove and we’re we’re connecting with people who get it. Um, as opposed to you know, just taking it out and showing it to everybody who who may not necessarily get it I think it’s It’s new ideas take a while sometimes to catch on and I saw this with the restaurant where people are like Well what are you doing like you’re starting a restaurant. That’s that’s Weird. You know and now everyone’s like I want to stone a restaurant. So.

38:57.98
vigorbranding
That’s right.

39:06.29
Gonca
You know it takes sometimes new newer ideas that are outside the box like a branded bread Artistan bread is like blowing people’s mind like wo people. There’s an opportunity there so and it takes ah a little bit of time. Um, but I think that once it catches on it’s gonna it’s going to.

39:12.72
vigorbranding
Right.

39:24.87
vigorbranding
I Think so too and we’re rooting for you. We really are when when you tell me that everybody wants to open a restaurant now. Maybe it’s because it was just Easter but I’m like forgive them father. They know not what they want like like like.

39:25.15
Gonca
Be phenomenal. So I am optimistic for the future I Get Thank you.

39:35.47
Gonca
Yeah, yeah, I’ve had people like go I have had people say to ask like oh I you know I gave up my job and I started a restaurant because I saw you and your sisters on Instagram like what were you thinking? What even gave you what why would you ever even think that we know what we’re doing all. All the time like do you understand like how you know wet know what we’re doing but I just mean like every day we’re putting out a fire and you you don’t see that on even the people who kind of repurpose their stories of vulnerability and difficulty. You know to inspire give you a behind the scenes there.

40:03.56
vigorbranding
It’s a grind.

40:13.74
vigorbranding
Absolutely.

40:13.82
Gonca
They’re still filtering their story. You know like nobody will tell you the truth of how insanely difficult it is especially if you’re ah you know you’re an owner operator who is funding your own business and you know you don’t have Vc backed money. Open a hundred locations and a team of like 25 director of operations. So it’s um, don’t be bold. Yes, yeah.

40:36.52
vigorbranding
Oh even though when you do have that It’s just a whole different set of challenges I mean it’s not in my opinion. It’s not better or worse I’ve seen both and it’s just different and still a pain still difficult. It’s definitely that’s right.

40:48.50
Gonca
Oh yeah, especially where you have um, ah the money people to answer to yes in the restaurant industry nonetheless.

40:55.74
vigorbranding
They want to see their money back. So you know that becomes really difficult. Yeah, um, well this has been fantastic and it’d be wonderful. Um, you know I heard you slightly mention that you’re writing a book So when you when you launch that I want to have you back on I Want to talk about it. Um, and.

41:06.82
Gonca
Yes, thank you I Plan on finish got promise Miles is so many of my friends that are that are writers and authors are like it is a book coming is it becoming and I’m like um.

41:13.19
vigorbranding
Keep up the great work. Ah.

41:24.70
Gonca
Someday maybe I don’t know I have half a million words right now to toy your outlets that was the some process. Mr.

41:29.30
vigorbranding
That’s good. Yeah, it’s a process. It definitely is and just like everything else. It’s a grind so I hope to see it out there in the world. Thank you for your time. This has been amazing.

41:32.88
Gonca
Um, yeah, thank you, Thank you so much. Thank you I Really enjoyed it.

 

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