Follow The Leader: Natasha Sideris, Founder And CEO, Tashas Group

As the woman behind Tashas Group, which has 15 restaurants in South Africa, nine in the UAE, and more set to launch soon, Sideris delves into how businesses should go about geographical expansion in a successful manner.

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This article is a part of the 2022 edition of Entrepreneur Middle East's annual Follow The Leader series, in which enterprise head honchos from the region talk strategy, industry-specific tactics, and professional challenges as they lead their respective businesses to success.

Tashas Group
Natasha Sideris, Founder And CEO, Tashas Group

"Planning geographical expansion is part science and part intuition," says Natasha Sideris, the woman behind the Tashas Group, which has 15 restaurants in South Africa and nine in the UAE. Since she is about to launch a few more venues in the UAE, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and the UK very soon, I centered my conversation with Sideris on how businesses should go about geographical expansion in a successful manner. "Keys to planning involve, firstly, finding a partner in the region that buys into your vision, and secondly, spending time on the ground getting to know the market and assessing if your business will thrive there," Sideris replies.

Of course, Sideris is speaking from experience, as this is the second big expansion strategy that she has implemented for her enterprise. The first one involved expanding Tashas Group beyond the borders of its native South Africa by opening its namesake restaurant's first international outpost in the UAE a few years back. "When we decided to expand our business internationally, we realized that the UAE was a natural next step," she explains. "It has a mall culture like Johannesburg, and there was a gap in the market for a concept like Tashas." At this point, some of you might wonder exactly what kind of a concept Tashas is, and Sideris describes her first brand under the Tashas Group as "a simple, unthemed, day-time concept where customers could enjoy stunning food in beautiful environments with world-class service."

In 2005, Sideris launched Tashas' first restaurant in Atholl, South Africa, but she has since developed a number of F&B brands, including fine dining establishment Flamingo Room, beachside restaurant Bungalo34, food and retail emporium Le Parc, luxury quick-service concept Nala, and nightlife hotspot Galaxy Bar. When asked how she manages all her venues that involve a workforce of about 2,000 people, Sideris points toward the support she gets from "a head office team of about 28 people." "There is no way for me to supervise all the venues, although, I try to visit at least a few stores every week," she explains. "I have an unbelievable operations team that understands my exacting standards, and trains our teams at the store level. This team are also on the floors at our locations most of the time, working with the teams, assuring that everything meets these standards, and that our customers are having the best experience possible."

Source: Tashas Group

For the international expansion of Tashas Group, Sideris prefers two models, the first of which is franchising. She is well-versed in this concept as she started her career in the hospitality sector by working for two different franchises- Nino's and FishMonger in Johannesburg. "I learned that to be successful, a franchisee must be completely engaged in their business, and not leave it to someone else to run," she says. "Having a passion for hospitality is a must. Without it, running the business just becomes a job. As a franchisor, every little detail needs to be thought of, giving the franchisee a thorough operating manual of how to run every aspect of the business, and they need to be held to account. If this doesn't happen, the brand experience from location to location will be different, and it will damage your reputation."

The second strategy that Sideries uses to geographically expand her business is centered on finding the right partners, and investing time to understand the local market. "What I have learned is that it is important to become immersed in the local culture and market," she explains. "By understanding the people, you have more chance of meeting their needs, creating mutual respect, and realizing long-term success."

Related: Seafood Souq Co-Founder Fahim Al Qasimi Is Building "A UAE-Born Business That Will Change The World"

Source: Tashas Group

Since expanding her business into the UAE, Sideris had made the country her adopted home as well. From an F&B perspective, the UAE has proved to be an endless inspiration, she adds. "There are so many things that I love about the UAE," she says. "If you have a great idea and are willing to work hard, the possibilities of success are very high in the UAE. It's a competitive environment that makes me want to push the envelope. Also, I love the warmth and hospitality of the people. The safety, organization, and cleanliness of the UAE make for a fantastic lifestyle."

And when asked about the opportunities still available for entrepreneurs in the UAE's crowded F&B segment, Sideris suggests the example of one of her own brands that's set to open in Dubai soon. "I feel that there is a tremendous opportunity in a 'luxury quick service.' People are time-poor, yet they still want to enjoy beautiful food, in a stunning space with great service. Our new concept Nala, which is being launched in January of 2023 in Alserkal Avenue, is based on this premise," she concludes.

Source: Tashas Group

'TREP TALK: Tashas Group founder and CEO Natasha Sideris shares her tips for entrepreneurs in the F&B domain

Focus on what you love "As an entrepreneur, you are going to have to commit an extraordinary amount of time, effort, and energy to build your business. Make sure you are doing what you love. It will give you the passion and the energy to go the distance."

Put in the hours "The key to achieving true expertise in any skill or business is simply a matter of practice. Keep focused, and keep learning."

Look for gaps in the market "Take a big picture view, consider what opportunities are available in the market, and then design your offering around it."

Don't let a lack of funds deter you "One of the biggest challenges as an entrepreneur is finding the money you need to start and grow the business. When I approached the bank in 2005 to open Tashas, they wouldn't lend me a penny, as I didn't have a proof of concept. So, I had to be creative in how I funded the business in the early days."

Choose the right people for your business "Surround yourself with people that share your passion, values, and vision. I am honored to be surrounded by an extraordinary team who are passionate, and completely committed to our vision as a group. We never rest on our laurels, and we are committed to the never-ending pursuit of excellence."

Train your team "By training every member of your team, you have a much better chance of assuring consistency in every expression of the brand. It is an area where we have invested a lot of time and resources, and we know that it is and will always be an important ingredient in our success."

Love your customers "My father taught me that being a restaurateur is about how you make people feel. If they feel loved, they will always come back for more. It is always much more enriching for you as an entrepreneur as well."

Every detail matters "Being a restaurateur is like being a conductor of an orchestra. You must have oversight of absolutely everything– the food, the interiors, and the service. Every little detail makes the bigger picture."

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