LISTEN | Never give up on a goal
Geraldine Viviers says her greatest milestone was opening five restaurant businesses within three years, starting in 2020 in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Her achievements are even more impressive given that she was involved in a near-fatal car accident nearly 14 years ago.
“I was unable to resume my South African Police Service career, which was mainly in the field. I was offered a desk job but that was not my style, so I resigned.
“I happened to be visiting a friend who owned a boutique and the building owner, after we chatted, asked if I wanted to start a restaurant.
"It didn’t take me long to accept.
“Being a single parent, I had to come up with new ideas on how to support my son.
"A restaurant felt like a huge step in the right direction. I applied for a loan and got busy with Toast, the name I gave my restaurant. It was a real success and business was good.”
Then disaster, in the form of Covid-19, struck. Restaurants were closed and she had no income. The landlord gave her two months’ notice to vacate.
“I had restaurant equipment stored in various places. My house was full and so were the garages of great friends.
"My son Jacques, who has chef training, inspired me to start over and offered to help me grow.
"We have worked as a partnership ever since, me as front of house and ensuring guests are happy, as well as all the admin, him as the chef and menu designer.
"We are a good team. I decided, with his help, to learn from my mistakes and reopen as Salt Eatery once the pandemic had waned.”
Success, she says, is about hard work, striving for quality and consistency, and serving only fresh, locally sourced produce.
“I now have five restaurants. Much of our success is based on keeping the staff happy and having well structured management systems.
"And, obviously, always ensuring that our customers are happy.”
She believes a major part of her success is her passion for people.
“I love spending time with my customers, getting to know them personally. And I'm totally focused on being a successful businesswoman.
"I spend 16 hours a day at my establishments. I really love the work and I'm grateful to be in this position.”
She said her son keeps her motivated.
“He has always been very supportive and his passion for food has helped kickstart all our restaurants.
“I advise anyone who is starting a restaurant for the first time to understand that it is difficult but possible. Look at me. I was a police officer and now I own five restaurants and coffee shops. When you fail, recognise your mistakes and try again.
"You never know until you try.
“I try to keep my life balanced when it comes to socialising.
"It is important to spend time with family and friends as work can be stressful. Working as a mother and son team also helps take the load off.”
She ascribes her success to five pillars: “Keeping the staff happy, sourcing good products, ensuring top quality service, sound financial management, and good marketing.”
“And, of course, never giving up on a goal.”
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