While building Constant the idea never really left our minds, and in 2016 the timing was right. We had opened the Copenhagen leg of the agency and could more closely understand the food scene in the city.
In a fast changing takeout landscape, it was still the sandwiches and pizzas that dominated the high frequency categories. More exotic alternatives were emerging but either in a slightly high priced category or with a fine dining take.
We wanted to make dumplings for everyone, fairly priced and fast. We wanted to make the dumpling format (dough with filling) a platform to unite our two cultures, and we wanted the casual experience of street food but the simplicity of the Nordic aesthetic.
For a start, being your own client proved harder than we thought. From the interior to the brand identity, setting on the right feel was an ongoing compromise. Countless iterations. This was a personal project and it needed to reflect us: authentic but relevant. Timeless, not trendy
Half done as an experience.
Understanding the area where we were opening the first shop, we decided on the principle to open fast, rather than perfect it. Like a working prototype almost (an MVP in startup lingo), where we would gradually add and subtract to arrive at an experience that worked. The timing of course played a part too, but also the context of the shop: this was not an area that traditionally welcomed perfectly branded concepts and popular chains. It’s a local community full of culture and respect for the small business owners.
Running an agency, we could of course go hard on flashy street signs and marketing, but we chose not to. We wanted to grow into the community and be respected for what we do, first.
When first announcing that we’re opening a restaurant, the immediate reaction was mostly sceptical. The F&B world is tough and demanding and you don’t have the experience. And the hardest critics were right, it was tough. Physically and mentally tough. But also extremely rewarding.
Not just from a “wow it’s cool to be able to invite clients to our restaurant” POV, but also from a pure learning perspective. Running a restaurant is real. You can’t hide behind shiny computer screens or fancy keynote presentations. Your brand is on the plate and the feedback is often not more than 10 meters away. One mistake in the operational flow and you won’t be able to meet customer demand.
The customer’s expectation of the brand is constantly negotiated with every visit. Consistency is key, not just in food but across the various factors that make up the total experience: the content they see online, the staff, the music, the plating, the vibe. We opted for a very casual look, unpretentious and real, avoiding the struggle of making everything look perfect. We believe that in the end it’s the combination of price point, expectation and value that allows us to build lasting relationships with our customers – not just a flashy branding strategy. The restaurant scene is getting flooded by new concepts, one more shiny than the other.
Practicing what we preach.
Many people have asked me why we don’t do more promotions, Facebook advertising and many other things to push sales. If would be so easy for you. Well yes, but it doesn’t necessarily make it right.
Only now, almost 2 years into the venture are we considering the next step. We know the challenges and the potential of running a dumpling business. We wanted to know the business inside out ourselves before comfortably going into the next phase. And yes, it might include some new signs and a flashy website, but that’s the small part.
We believe there’s a room for a simple dumpling offering almost anywhere. So we’re soon venturing into a stage which will allow us to scale up and bring even more dumplings to people in Copenhagen and beyond. It will be another steep learning curve, but we will tackle it with the same humble attitude and belief. After all, anything we learn will give us an new insights that can be applied across Constant’s consultancy business – and that’s part of the motivation too.
Get more insights on the GAO journey from our friends over at Maekan or in their audio story below.