Interview with Simon Spanjer owner of restaurant De Kraai
“My biggest dream is to start a pancake house in the US.”
Restaurant De Kraai used to be a self service restaurant owned by Albert Heijn as an AC Restaurant. The restaurant started in 1976. My parents took over the restaurant ten years ago, and I am in the process of taking it over from them. The restaurant is located in the typically Dutch windmill village, Zaanse Schans. We use a specific machine to make the pancakes instead of cooking them in a pan, machine, which guarantees quality. Using a machine helps us increase the amount of people we can serve at the same time.
Our main target group are visitors of the Zaanse Schans, but we also organise events outside our regular opening hours. In total we have 400 seats, so we can accommodate large groups of people.
Hotelschool The Hague definitely prepared me for my work now. I did both my internships at hotels. My first one was at the Hilton in Amsterdam where I worked for the banqueting department. My second internship was in Cape Cod, USA at Chatham Bars Inn. Here I was the Restaurant Manager of the Beach House Grill. I did my placement in the US as I believe hospitality was invented in the US; many of the big hotel chains originated there. Working with Americans was a different cup of tea as they are not used to the ‘yes, but’ culture we have in the Netherlands. I also worked with many other cultures, and this was perhaps the most interesting part of my internship. Hotelschool The Hague prepared us for these cultural differences by giving cultural classes. At least that is how it was when I was attending the Hotelschool.
The hospitality business makes you deal with different challenges and you have to work very closely with all the departments of the hotel. Learning to work in this kind of environment was a big advantage in my line of work. Working in hospitality is mentally and physically challenging, and you have to be in top condition.
After my graduation, I went to work for Sales at Crowne Plaza in Amsterdam. Later I became Account Manager for a distributor of IBM. Working in different branches expanded my experiences and skills. However, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and taking over the Pancake House was the best thing I could do.
My biggest dream is to start something in the US. The Americans like pancakes and they like the Dutch. My dream is to combine those aspects and start a pancake house offering typically Dutch pancakes.
For now I am thinking of adding a Bed and Breakfast to the restaurant, or perhaps creating meeting spaces above the restaurant. This way we can cater business events.
I am enthusiastic about my work and I try to bring that across to my staff. You can serve the best pancakes in the world, but if your staff does not treat guests in a positive and friendly manner, your restaurant does not work. Investing in employees is important because then you know you working with the right people. The more you give, the more you get back.
My advice for Hotelschool students is to follow your heart and your dreams. Do what you like to do, not what others want you to do. If you are able to do what you like, you are thinking positively. Of course you have to deal with setbacks, but if you are able to fight them, and you win, a lot of great things can happen!