Mr. Robby V. Peterson & Mrs. Anabela Peterson-de Sousa, owners of “Pinchos Grill & Bar”, tell us about the concept and experience of their restaurant on the pier.
What inspired you to open a restaurant business?
Both Robby and I have always been passionate about food & beverage and we love new concepts. Besides this, I grew up within the restaurant business, where my father was a chef and had a restaurant business for many years. This certainly inspired me to open a restaurant business. As for Robby, his professional background in the hotel industry also contributed to his wishes to one day open his own restaurant. We used to visit this pier often for leisure purposes, mainly by boat. The first time I came near this pier, I immediately thought, “what a location for a restaurant”. From there, I started to put ideas on paper, investigating who the pier belonged to and taking the necessary steps, which led to the existence of Pinchos.
What did each of you do before Pinchos?
Anabela: I have a sales & marketing background, with many years of experience in this field, specifically in the hotel business. After more than 25 years I decided I wanted to do something else with my life. “While trying to find my role at home I decided to become an entrepreneur”.
Robby: I have a hotel management degree and have held various management positions, having set up various company branches and other big projects. “After many years of great job experiences, I decided to commit myself full-time on our own restaurant”.
Tell us about the establishment of Pinchos Grill & Bar.
The procedure to establish a business is not the quickest. It requires time and accurate planning especially concerning the different documents and paperwork needed. You need to be very well informed on the procedures to be followed and the many documents that are required as to the permits, registration at the Chamber, name and trade mark registration, in our case, inspections by the different government departments and their criteria. From the concept to the execution, the business planning, financing, location and the establishment of the business, it took us at least six months before we officially started.
Which licenses are needed to operate a restaurant and how did the application procedure go?
In our case, we needed a restaurant license A, which has its particular, somewhat complex, application procedure. The amount of paperwork that needs to be handed in is immense, mainly because you will need four copies of everything to be distributed at the different government departments.
The procedure starts at the Department of Legal Affairs and Legislation which then passes on the remaining copies to the other required departments. The permit itself takes months to about a year before it is actually obtained. Many restaurants start with a temporary permit, which is also an option.
How innovative do you consider your business?
We think that we were very innovative if we look at the restaurant’s scale, ambience as well as the décor, where we’ve had swings, lounge sofas and chairs where people would feel they were dining in a “living room”. Looking back at Aruba’s tourism history, there had never been a full service restaurant on a pier, including the concept and atmosphere that we’ve introduced, aimed at both tourists and locals.
Another aspect that makes us innovative is our small kitchen on location, where all the meals are being prepared. On the other hand, our commercial preparation kitchen is not on location, which also makes us innovative. This requires a lot of planning, preparation and a large investment and it is quite labor intensive. Yet we are a proven case that it is possible.
Generally the whole concept itself we think was innovative. The name “Pinchos”, for instance, principally comes from Anabela’s Portuguese background, considering the idea of a skewer, which in Portuguese means “espetada”. But then we thought that the name would not be as simple and catchy as we had in mind for our restaurant. After conducting research on this word in different other languages, we thought the Spanish word “Pinchos” was very catchy and exciting. This is reflected in our main menu where several of our items are served on skewers, “Pinchos”. After a couple of years our menu has been changed quite a bit and nowadays we offer many more items other than Pinchos.
What was it like to take the step towards entrepreneurship?
It is not an easy decision and you definitely need to have a lot of courage when it comes to taking the step to become an entrepreneur and being fully dedicated to it. It requires perseverance, hard work, but most of all, passion. Doing something you are passionate about in the field that you understand and being willing and able to put in the hard work and dedication, are some of the right steps in letting you succeed in whatever you do.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities and challenges as a restaurant owner and/or manager?
As a restaurant owner you have a busy life and especially the first three years can be very overwhelming. You are constantly working and focusing on the business. Everyday tasks vary, among others, from food preparations, to purchasing, reservations, marketing, taking care of all the financial aspects, and be present at Pinchos to welcome our guests.
What is your “secret” to keep customers visiting Pinchos?
We have built a very strong and loyal repeat client base. We believe what makes our clients loyal is the personalized attention and attention to details that we give them. We have built strong relationships with many of our clients of which many have become family friends. This aspect combined with consistently good food and amiable service is the key to many happy returning clients.
What are your plans for the future of Pinchos?
For Pinchos, we just want to keep doing the good job we have been doing for the past 10 years and continue to maintain a strong relationship with our client base. Due to the location and pier size there are not many possibilities for further expansion. We do have a new project which has just started and that is our second restaurant, “The West Deck”, also near the ocean on the beach, which recently opened its doors.
What should the government of Aruba offer to promote and facilitate the entrepreneur?
Improvement of the application procedure of the different permits is definitely a must. Simplify the process including paperwork, reduce the time frame and improve customer service at government departments are some points of attention. Continue to introduce incentives for entrepreneurs, such as the recently introduced tax incentives for San Nicolas and be a little more flexible to certain requests from entrepreneurs. There are laws that forbid certain projects, but the Government can be more open-minded, especially for innovative projects. At last, we think that zoning laws need to be completed, as for the specific development plans, in order to ensure product integrity.
Do you see a potential hub function for Aruba (between Europe and South America)?
I think that Aruba’s location is a gift that we should make good use of. We need to give the idea and execution of the EMA conference a chance to prove its results, but I definitely see opportunities for our island.
Is there anything you would like to add?
We believe that the Chamber of Commerce is doing a good job and giving a lot of information and support to the entrepreneur. Nowadays, if someone wants to keep himself informed it is very well possible, because many events and courses are being organized to provide knowledge to the (potential) entrepreneur.