The food and beverage (F&B) business are one of the most challenging business sectors, and the pandemic impacts many. You have to establish the restaurant accordingly to local guidelines, source and select suitable food suppliers, hire and manage a team of experienced chefs and service team, service standards, various SOPs and marketing team to promote your business. From setting up the business to retaining customers, a restaurant owner has to ensure every little thing is well taken care of to run the operation smoothly for the long term.
Stefan Mintchev owns 5 restaurants and a liquor store in Horizon Hills, Iskandar Puteri, as of today. He has a dream to build more restaurants in the same area as a destination serving various cuisines. This destination is called Horizon Hills International Dining. Let’s hear what this F&B dreamer has to share with us.
Could you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Stefan Mintchev, and I was born in Bulgaria. My mother is Italian, and my father is Bulgarian. I am fortunate that I lived in many countries around the world, just like my family. I lived in Canada, South Africa and The Bahamas for many years. I had my restaurant in Vancouver, Canada. I came to Asia in 2010. I was managing hotels in Phuket, Thailand and shortly came to Singapore where I managed a few restaurants. I came to Johor in 2015.
Is this the first time you operate an F&B business in Malaysia?
Yes, this is the first time. When I came to Johor, I decided to open my restaurant here. I started the first restaurant Coppola about 6 years ago. Coppola is a fine dining restaurant serving Italian cuisine. The year after I opened the second outlet named Sofia, a cocktail bar. Followed by Mexico and Istanbul as the third and fourth outlets. Doner Kebab is the latest restaurant opened end of 2020. So far 5 restaurants in Horizon Hills on the same line.
Why did you choose Horizon Hills as the location?
I have a dream of making Horizon Hills a culinary destination. That is why I opened 5 different ethnic restaurants and I believe we can do something exceptional here.
What are the challenges in managing 5 restaurants?
The challenges we face in Johor Bahru are the same as everywhere else in the world and the restaurants I managed. Challenges in handling staffs and suppliers, for instance. We are not worried about that. We have a good team. I hired Malay Restaurant Managers, international chefs and a service team. We must not worry too much about the problems. We drive business without worrying about the economy slow down or the pandemic. We are very positive about making this destination works.
What are the famous dishes served and what makes them so special?
You have to put love and heart into your cooking. Any dish can become famous. We serve traditional food, and I do not believe in fusion or experiment too much on it. The food needs to be simple and tasty. We have many famous dishes, but I would not say that they are famous. They are just well-made food.
Could you share with us your experience living in Iskandar Puteri with your family?
I love it here. My wife is Japanese. We have a very good experience living here. We used to live in Horizon Hills, and we moved to Puteri Harbour recently. Johor is one of the best locations to live as it is surrounded by nature.
Where are your favourite hangout places in Iskandar Puteri?
My favourite place is looking at the beautiful scenery of Kota Iskandar with my wife. Kota Iskandar buildings look like Ottoman style palace and original Arabic 5 star hotel to me. It reminds me of my background as my family lived in Istanbul for decades. We will spend some quiet time overlooking at sea, it is beautiful and peaceful.
Have you been to any other places in Malaysia?
I have been to Penang, Langkawi and Redang Island. I fact, I lived on Redang Island for 3 months. I have also been to Melaka, one of my favourite places. Malaysia is beautiful.