“The Rolling Chefs“ is what Fabio Pagani’s four-wheeled restaurant is called. Fabio is a Vatel 2014 alumnus and founded his own company. From a simple idea he presented to the Capstone Program* examination board, this young entrepreneur is already thinking about expanding this concept in Switzerland in 2015, and then abroad.
* The Capstone Program in Vatel Martigny, an award-winning program in the 2014 WHA, aims to have students design, build and defend an innovative project to create a company in the international hospitality industry.
Your parents both work in restaurants, and so could you say that “you fell into the pot” when you were just a little boy?
That’s it exactly. I grew up in a family where everyone loved gourmet food as well as the values attached to it such a sharing, conviviality and discovering new recipes. So that’s how I grew up in this environment and that made me want to learn how to cook. When I obtained my French Cooking Certificate, I started working in several large hotels, where I continued learning things. After having worked as a Chef for two years, I wanted to give yet another dimension to my skills as a chef, by adding knowledge in hotel management. That’s how I decided to apply to Vatel to prepare the Bachelor’s Degree in International Hotel Management.
Why did you choose Vatel rather than another school?
For what makes Vatel stand out from the other schools: immediate application of what we learned in our courses in the various departments the hotel has, right here on the campus!
What are your fondest memories?
First of all, all the people that I met in school, because they all brought me a lot in terms of personal satisfaction as well as in terms of professional open-mindedness and inter-cultural wealth. Then, generally speaking, I was enthralled by everything I was learning. I feel that I really gained in maturity and in the thorough methodology required to create my own company.
How did you do this?
Thanks to everything that convinced me to attend Vatel: its educational method that combines theoretical aspects and practical applications. Thanks to what I had learned in my courses, I could meet the expectations in the jobs I had at Hotel Vatel 4* or in the hotels where I did my internships. And vice-versa: the many different skills I learned in my practical work allowed me to better understand the theoretical aspects.
In the framework of the Capstone Program, a winner of the Worldwide Hospitality Award 2014, you created “The Rolling Chefs,” an itinerant fast-food chain: how did you get this idea?
I came back to Vatel Martigny with the goal of becoming an entrepreneur as soon as I graduated. I already had an idea of the company I wanted to found. But it wasn’t “The Rolling Chefs.” As I continued studying and traveling, this idea took hold. When I was in my 3rd year, the School gave us a team-work project that consisted of creating a hotel or restaurant from scratch to present this idea to an examination board of professionals in the hospitality industry. At that time, my ideas were already much more concrete, and the School gave me the opportunity to put them into practice and have them assessed, while helping me overcome and manage hurdles.
Can you tell us how you built and defended your project?
Thanks to the Capstone Program, I was able to build my company’s structure. During the entire project, I acquired knowledge that would improve my ideas, while helping me actually achieve them. And these ideas changed as the program continued: from the creation of a restaurant concept, I then decided to build my project on four wheels, imagining that it would be an itinerant one. After having researched the economic environment, made the final decisions on my target and brand, I had to analyze the competition as well as the trends in the food truck market in the French-speaking part of Switzerland. Thanks to these analyzes, I was able to draw up my business plan that I presented in my final year to an examination board of professionals who validated my project. So I was much more confident, and started my business.
Tell us more about your concept and how you are working to develop it.
A few months after my final exams, I decided to formally register my company to the competent authorities. During finals, I must say that I was still pretty focused on my project and it was hard for me to concentrate on studying, but I did it, as this degree was really important for me.
Once I graduated, I took another two months to finalize my project. After that, I started my activity and started to earn my first income. To be honest with you, at the beginning, this wasn’t enough for me to pay myself. But that’s often the case when you create a company. So I had to rely on what money I had saved up, and it wasn’t easy. Now, and for the past few months, I’m starting to be able to pay myself for my work, and I hope that the financial conditions of my company will improve more in the future, so it will be sustainable. It’s evident that I’ve always got an eye focused on financial aspects. I constantly carry out analyzes and my accountant gives me a helping hand. I use what I learned at Vatel on a daily basis, as I learned how a hotel works, and above all, a hotel is just a type of company.
As of the very beginning, I was very proactive in communications. I worked for several months with a graphic artist and a web designer in order to have homogeneity and harmony between my ideas, the reality and the future. We created a graphic identity, and then spun it off with an Internet site, flyers, etc.
As for recruitment, I decided to hire one of my friends to help me manage my business: drawing up the offer, creating and giving it added value, managing stocks, etc. The Rolling Chefs currently has two employees. In the next few months, if things go well, I’m going to double the number of employees and also hire part-time employees for peak periods.
What are your next professional goals?
Developing two or even three food trucks by mid-2016. Another goal is to export this project abroad, but as a restaurant, and not as a food truck. And I won’t hide the fact that if things go well, I’ve got another larger idea in mind, but there’s a time for everything. Each and every stage must be well thought through and drawn up in detail. Let’s just say in the near future, I’m hoping to open a second food truck at the end of spring, 2015.
Anything else you’d like to say?
What I like the best is sharing and giving everything that I can. I think it is because of these qualities, that I can give the best I have, myself, to my customers.
And what I’d like to add for any students who are also thinking of creating their own company, is that you have to have a good network and this, as soon as possible. This is to be able to rely on this network, later, when you need it for the project to run correctly.
You have to be patient and optimistic, concentrate on what’s really important, and remain focused on your priorities. There are many a path that you don’t want to follow, but also many an opportunity just waiting for you to seize it. You have to know how to separate the wheat from the chaff, remain focused and not become overwhelmed by your ambitions. Personally, I’ve never stopped believing in mine and I still do, even during challenging times. The most important thing is the knowledge and experience I’ve gained.