Matiate: a Restaurant to Celebrate Diversity. Interview with Faris Demir, New European Entrepreneur

On a nice evening in late June, UNITEE’s team went to Antwerp to meet with one of our members: the successful New European entrepreneur Faris Demir who welcomed us in his restaurant ‘Matiate’ for a very nice dinner.

To start the interview, we would like to know more about your background and how you created your own business, your restaurant.

Before coming to Belgium in 2000, I lived in Antalya in the south of Turkey, where I was selling handmade carpets. Since our customers were mostly European, we would spend six months in Antalya, and six months visiting clients across Europe.

In the year 2000, I decided to settle here, in Antwerp. I worked as a restaurant manager for 5 years.

When I found this location to open my own restaurant, I thought it was an opportunity I should not miss. There was a small competition. You had to submit an application report about the business you wanted to establish in this place. I did my homework and worked out the menu in to the smallest details. There were three other candidates and they chose me. In the end, I opened ‘Matiate’ in 2006.

What is the specificity of your restaurant?

The restaurant was named after a city in southeast Turkey that is now known as Mydyat. Until the 7th century, considering it was the richest area in the world, Matiate was a multicultural place with Mesopotamian, Kurdish, Assyrian, Muslim, Armenian, Jewish influences… All the communities were living there in harmony.

In our restaurant, we try to make sure people from different origins and backgrounds will have a nice experience.

Our customer base is mostly composed of Europeans but we also have Lebanese, Indian, Moroccan people who like to come eat here. That is why we had to combine Asian and European tastes, with many vegetarian dishes.

Finally, we try to keep affordable prices, while still providing very good quality.

Why is it important for you to also serve your clients in person?

The thing I enjoy the most is the personal contact with our clients to see what is happening, talk to the customers to follow their reaction in order to give them a better service the next time. We always try to bring new things to the restaurant and therefore we need to follow customers’ experience.

How do you manage to combine work and family?

It is still quite a challenge. For example, today, I only saw my kids in the morning when I drove them to school. It is very difficult because working in the restaurant business takes away your social life, no matter how many employees you have with you.

I have to say this is one of the reasons that made me become a member of Betiad, an association that represents Belgo-Turkish entrepreneurs. Before I met people from Betiad, I had no life apart from my job. It organises different kinds of activities where you meet interesting people not only from Belgium, but also from other countries.

Would you have any advice for our readers who want to become entrepreneurs themselves?

I think that they should not work more than five years for somebody else. Of course, having a business nowadays is not easy and requires hard work.

Youngsters need to have targets, know what they want to do, be creative and constantly renew themselves. I see many young persons making the mistake of counting daily, according to how much they have to work in order to get the money they need to finish the week. I think it is the wrong way of doing things.

It is not about how much you earn at the end of the month but rather what you have learned and your added value should be questioned.


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