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My name is Benoît Depaye, I am 37 years old and, together with my wife Linda, we run a restaurant in Luxembourg City.
Before we opened our vegan restaurant “Snack in Joy”, I worked in the automotive industry.
Linda and I became vegan ten years ago, driven by a growing awareness of animal rights. Animals are just as sentient and sensitive as human beings.
Our diet never stopped us from cooking "normally" at home or from enjoying our favourite childhood dishes.
But, when we went out to eat in Luxembourg, we were often frustrated by the lack of vegan choices.
Inspired by a trip to London, which has an abundance of vegan options, we decided to get into the hospitality industry despite our utter lack of experience.
So we started out in this very unique sector with no idea as to its operating rules. Now we know how crazy this was, but at the time we were blinded by our excitement about the project and all the positive vibes around us.
To gain access to the hospitality trades, I took a HACCP (food hygiene) training course and successfully earned my certificate. To better understand what it is to be an entrepreneur, we also took advantage of the nyuko support programme in the summer of 2019.
This support gave me the tools and knowledge needed to properly manage a business. I am eternally grateful to my coach, and to the entire nyuko and House of Entrepreneurship team, for instilling in me the confidence needed to believe in my project and see it through to the end.
Once the project had been tested and approved, we started to look for the right space for our concept. We wanted to be very close to the centre of town to attract as many workers and tourists as possible.
We found our spot in March 2020, just a few days before the first lockdown.
We had planned to open in August 2020 but the pandemic forced us to adjust our timetable.
The major issues were the months of lockdown and the time it took to renovate the space, with never-ending pandemic- and closure-related delays.
The lockdowns and delays were very expensive for us in terms of rent, as we hadn't even started our business yet.
We finally opened on 10 May 2021.
We had initially expected to have a financial cushion so we could open the restaurant with peace of mind, but our cushion melted away because of the pandemic.
Unfortunately for us, we were not eligible for state aid because our business was not open before March 2021.
The delight of the palate is important, even if one chooses to avoid products derived from animal exploitation.Benoît Depaye
People are not aware of all the things that aren't vegan in the products they buy! For example, we have seen cans of beans that contain cow fat and found fish oils in fruit juices!
For the two years before we opened “Snack in Joy”, we experimented and tasted hundreds of substitutes from different countries to select the products that are now on our menu.
For each traditional dish, we had to find the ideal vegan alternative. There's a whole range of options, but we had to test a lot of them before we found the tastiest ingredients.
Vegan cuisine requires more research because it has not yet been tested as much, but by investing enough time you can always find the same flavour that everyone knows.
Success did not come quickly after we opened our restaurant. It is true that you had to be a little crazy – or very determined – to open a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic!
To address this problem, we worked very hard on our digital marketing.
We held onto our dream. “Snack in Joy” survived the crisis and is doing better every day.
We are very proud to see our business grow and to give pleasure to more and more people.
Talk about your project and your dreams to everyone in order to meet people who will help you achieve your goals.
Don't underestimate the power of social media.
Be patient and very flexible.
Never give up, believe in yourself and dream big!
We contacted Spuerkeess through its partnership with nyuko and were thus able to take advantage of benefits for new companies.
A Luxembourg bank that finances a young, unemployed Belgian entrepreneur like myself is definitely a bank bold enough to help with and invest in projects that it thinks are viable.
Luckily, our Spuerkeess advisor believed in us and we are very grateful to her.
Nyuko has signed a partnership with Spuerkeess, in order to foster entrepreneurial spirit and strengthening the bank's position with company founders from the start of their businesses. More info in our article: https://www.spuerkeess.lu/en/blog/experts-corner/nyuko-fostering-entrepreneurial-spirit/.