Meet entrepreneur Riad Farhat, owner of Waterkant & Bukowski

"After I finished high school I only knew one thing; I wanted to become an entrepreneur. A friend suggested Hotelschool The Hague. I was working at a bar at that time, so hospitality was something I liked."

Riad Farhat

"I had a great time, I learned a lot. With courses such as Marketing, Finance and F&B, I had a well-filled backpack for the things I needed to learn. It really helped me during the first couple of years of opening up different places. But the most important thing is the network I built at Hotelschool. It is priceless and something that no one can teach or give you. The student association really helped me with that. It’s not only about who you are, but who you know. Who can do this for me, what can I do for them? That’s 50% of Hotelschool The Hague, and it really helped me.

I also loved my internships. I did an internship in Barcelona. I made a lot of contacts, saw a lot, did a lot and learned a lot. My management placement took me to Bombay, India. I worked on setting up a restaurant/club there. The knowledge I took from that internship was incredible.

When I was working on my thesis we started our first business, Maxwell, at Beukenplein in Amsterdam. It was an instant success. It’s in a deprived urban area, Amsterdam-Oost. They used to call it the Plaza of Death. We had the idea that Oost needed it. There are people living there who want a nice place to go to. Our whole concept of working in Oost is that you need to keep people in their neighbourhood. That you need a place that will lift the entire neighbourhood, as local residents no longer need to go to the city centre. We couldn’t have dreamed of the results.

We were 27 and lived off very little. Because of that, we were able to open our second place, a restaurant, eight months later. It was a culinary café. That went well, and after that we started café Kuyper, two years later. We noticed that there wasn’t a place to have a nice beer combined with nice food. It was an instant hit. After that we opened the Biertuin. The concept is craft beer, spit roasted chicken. What you see is what you get. It’s a great success, attracting even people from outside of Amsterdam."

"Then, we opened Bukowski and Henry’s bar. Those are a bit more cosmopolitan, a bit more international than Kuyper. Kuyper is known in Amsterdam-Oost, while Bukowski is world famous in Amsterdam and surroundings. We received lots of international media coverage, also because of the name. Bukowski was a controversial writer in the '80s and is now a cult figure. Besides that, we have a cocktail bar, only open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. A sort of a pop-up bar, but throughout the week it’s part of Bukowski.

We call ourselves the 3 Wise Men from the East, that’s our BV. We have chosen a certain path based mainly on bar, food and drinks. We decided to sell the restaurant and focus on easily accessible and fast, not so much on culinary cooking.

This summer we opened Waterkant. The concept is simple: location with a large terrace overlooking the water. The area, next to a big parking garage used to be a no-go area. Dirty, unpleasant and lots of drug users; we completely turned that around.

Being a successful entrepreneur sounds very romantic, but it’s not. You need to know what you’re doing. Everything you learn at school is useful. You need to do research. You need to find out what people want, where there is a need. You also need to be a do-er. You need to think about your concept, but also not think about it too long. If you have a good feeling, just do it. Your first feeling is usually the right one."

"I remember working on an assignment at Hotelschool. My whole group thought I didn’t do that much. The only thing I did was delegate. Making sure that everyone had lunch and stuff, I wasn’t working behind a computer. I spread my ideas and the rest of the group worked on it. During the presentation I received an eight, while the rest got lower grades. I could answer all the questions the teacher threw at us. The students complained about it: “He got an eight, but he didn’t do anything. I wrote the whole paper!” The teacher simply replied, “then he should actually have received a ten, because he knows everything about the material, He’s the only one who immediately gave an answer. The paper was delivered in time. So what did you learn?" Well, they didn’t know. But, to translate a well-known Dutch proverb: the best helmsmen stand on the shore. That’s the way it is.

I think that entrepreneurs need to learn how to help others. If you help others, it will come back to you. If garbage men come along to pick up trash, I will give them a coke. Some entrepreneurs don’t get that. You can’t only think short-term. On Kings Day, it’s going to be a big mess here. But those garbage men will clean a bit extra then. Then they want to make that effort, go that extra mile. Granting people extra things has to come naturally, it’s not a trick. And your network never ever stops. It is super important for entrepreneurs but I think it’s important for everyone."