Making the Details Count
After embarking on countless memorable trips together to Greece and Turkey, Rob van den Blink and two of his friends had the idea of bringing the Aegean dining experience to their home in Miami.
When Rob van den Blink and his friends Jerry Bock and Erhan Kostepen started DOYA, their mission for the restaurant was to bring the Aegean dining experience to Miami. The three used to dine at Erhan’s house frequently, each time enjoying a colorful spread of meze-style small plates. After countless dinners and a few memorable trips together to Greece and Turkey, they knew they wanted to spread this experience to a bigger community.
A modern Mediterranean-inspired restaurant in the heart of the Wynwood neighborhood, DOYA seeks to give customers a multi-course dining experience of both warm and cold dishes, as well as stellar service and a unique ambiance. For reviewer Joe D., who stumbled upon the restaurant through a Yelp Elite event, the experience achieved all of those marks and was nothing short of memorable. “I loved this place so much for a special event that I went back a couple of days later for more,” Joe wrote.
So how does DOYA stand out to customers like Joe in a bustling, food-centric neighborhood like Wynwood? It’s in the details. In his review, Joe touched upon the restaurant’s environment, which DOYA gets “just right.” This was no accident; Rob and his friends chose an old L-shaped warehouse and transformed it into a cozy garden oasis over the course of eight months. “We were very adamant that we wanted to take a space and make it our own,” Rob said. “And by default, that meant we had to be property developers before we became restaurant operators.” From crafting a terrace out of the parking lot to adding an open kitchen, each aspect of the interior design was intended to capture an eccentric but modern look.
Rob and his team also pride themselves on attention to quality. All plates coming out of the hot kitchen are cooked over a wood-fired kitchen, and ingredients—from the specialty cheeses to the tomatoes—are carefully selected by the team. This resulted in an ambitious 50- to 60-item menu of innovative cold and hot dishes. “My absolute favorite was the muhammara, red peppers ground with pomegranate and walnuts,” Joe wrote in his review.
Another key part of the DOYA experience is the attentive service. “Every day before lunch and dinner service, all the chefs, all the waiting staff, all of us, we get together and talk about the service that’s upcoming,” Rob said. “We like to create a work atmosphere that is respectful, that is appreciative of the staff. And the cliche is so true in hospitality which is: Treat your staff right, and they treat your guests right.”
As much as the owners consider DOYA a labor of love, they also possess a certain degree of business acumen. With a 60-page business plan, the team had a concrete foundation laid out before actually building DOYA.
“When it comes to the hospitality industry, you typically get people that either come from a chef background with that passion and knowledge,” Rob said. “Or you have people that maybe only come from the business side. But when you merge those two together, we think that's where a lot of the magic happens.”
The perfect blend of authentic personality and strategic thinking is what makes DOYA enticing to customers like Joe. “I've actually been back, I think, four times now,” he said. “I went back the next day and then went back a couple more times with clients. It was just terrific.”
Rob and his team live by these additional tips to help their restaurant thrive:
- There’s tremendous value in writing a business plan. Even if you’re not taking it to a bank or investors, your success depends on you taking the time to think out the numbers and the words that describe your business and what you do.
- It’s all about the little things with customer service. At DOYA, staff is constantly filling water for guests in other sections and paying time and attention to all guests no matter how busy they are. Joe felt this in his experience.
- Responding to and leveraging critical reviews is a mindset. Sometimes you just have to let things go, but be confident that what you’re doing matters. If you have intentions and purposeful execution, it’ll all work out.
Listen to the episode below to hear directly from Rob and Joe, and subscribe to Behind the Review for more from new business owners and reviewers every Thursday.
As Yelp’s Senior Field Marketing Manager and Small Business Expert, Emily is responsible for building a thriving network of local business owners, operators and marketers through education and networking events (now, exclusively virtual). She hosts events and webinars to provide business owners with resources that help them succeed and grow in the world of online reviews. Emily’s expertise lies in customer engagement, reputation management and all things digital marketing. Her knowledge encompasses countless industries and through thought leadership and speaking engagements, she’s able to share insights that business owners of all kinds can leverage for the future of their business.
Emily is also host of Behind the Review, a podcast from Yelp and Entrepreneur Media that features conversations with business owners and reviewers about their experiences—whether positive or negative —giving listeners behind-the-scenes insights and real life learnings.