The Beginning of RedBread
Establishing healthy homemade food restaurant in Belgrade wasn`t easy.
It all started in October 2000 on a short trip to Budva, Montenegro from our then home in Canada. We fell in love with the old town and spectacular coastline and decided we wanted to spend the following summer there. But doing what? After some brainstorming, we decided a Juice Bar (a concept that was already popular in Canada and the UK but not heard of in Montenegro) was a good place to start. We both already had experience in hospitality and catering and it was something we could both see ourselves doing and it would not take a huge amount of investment to start up.
After our trip, we returned to Canada and worked our winter season there as a ski instructor and tour operator representative respectively, all the time planning our new venture. Some of our friends thought we were crazy especially as we were giving up great summer jobs to go to a place we were not familiar with and had no ‘business plan’ or ‘market research’ but we would not be put off.
Risk and reward
We handed in our notice on our summer positions and gave up our apartment in Canada and then from the UK headed by car all the way to Montenegro. We picked up essentials on the way; a beautiful glass blender in Germany (now on display in Red Bread Belgrade), a very expensive but powerful juicer/food processor from a factory in Italy and in a moment of panic when we thought (thankfully) that we might not actually make enough money from selling juices and smoothies, a household sandwich press for panini and a mini oven for muffins.
We stuffed it all, along with all our belongings, in a little Renault Clio and raced to catch the ferry from Bari to Bar.
Big decisions for small brave beginnings
On arriving in Montenegro at sunrise, we were, once again blown away by the beautiful mountains in the morning light and knew that we had done the right thing.
We had found a small 8m2 premises in the heart of the old town in Budva that was a bit tucked away but cheap enough and with small sink and toilet. Our bar was built and we bought a couple of basket ware stools and table from the market for in front of the shop.
We bought some supplies from the fruit and veg market and opened up. Our first customer was one of the, very rare at the time, foreign visitors to Montenegro and he ordered an orange juice. We were very excited to have our first sale!
Red Bread sandwich saves the (every) day
After we slowly built up our business selling freshly squeezed juices to local children and panini to the old town shop workers and at weekends we would have many NGO staff working in Kosovo who were down for the weekend and an influx of tourists, mainly from Serbia, kept us very busy in the high season. On the other hand, restaurant started baking muffins and they would sell out before they were even out of the tiny oven. The abundance of fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables made our juices exceptionally flavoursome and sweet and unlike any we had tried in Canada.
After a summer of power cuts and water shortages, many many long hot hours in our tiny non air conditioned shop, 7 days a week we made it to the end of the summer with a small amount saved. In spite of that, we had lived the whole summer from our income and survived!
We didn’t have to touch our savings abroad (not that we could anyway as there were no ATMs in Montenegro at that time).
Our decision was that we would come back the next summer but would need a slightly bigger premises and more space for outdoor seating.
...but we kept adding other menu items as well
As the sandwiches had kept the business afloat the previous summer, we decided to expand our food menu and thought we would try selling our own baked bread. Our chefs experimented at home with a sundried tomato and herb bread and every one of our family and friends who tried it seemed to love it. It also had an interesting red color from the tomatoes.
At red bread restaurant we started by baking one loaf a day in our Juice Bar. Then we offered it as an alternative to the panini. We quickly became well known for this bread and were delivering sandwiches every morning to the luxury yachts in the harbor. Our one daily loaf was selling out within half an hour of opening so we decided we had to bake more and started taking reservations for sandwiches. As everyone seemed to be opting for the ‘red’ bread, we decided to drop the panini bread altogether. This involved a lot more work but it was worth it.
We moved premises again and started adding more and more of the specialities we still have in Red Bread today. Then they were totally new at the time for Montenegro: carrot cake (shock horror from many locals until they tried it), baked potatoes, fat Canadian pancakes, thick vegetable soups, nachos, tasty fruit cocktails and lots of fresh salads and cooked dishes as well.