It is estimated that around one third of all US small businesses closed their doors because of the COVID-19 pandemic and, while that number does not consider temporary closure vs. permanent, it does highlight how big of an impact the global pandemic had on this sector. There is not one consistent element that led to these shut-downs, but instead an array of struggles and challenges that likely chipped away at their success over time.
The restaurant industry is one that took a particularly hard-hit as they faced multiple rounds of lockdowns and battled to stay afloat amongst capacity restrictions, staffing issues and supply chain delays. However, as restauranteur and president of Panacea Management Group Consulting, Lee Schulman, notes “the [restaurants] that were succeeding… are going to emerge much stronger. Those operations were forced to look closely at all the details of their systems and refine them in real time and on the fly.”
One Man – Two Business Successes
Samuel Icyk is originally from the south of France but, since his childhood, he had a deep love of all things American. He was elated to be given the opportunity to work at the highly-esteemed Monsieur Paul restaurant located at Disney World’s EPCOT Center. There, his knowledge and expertise of French-cuisine came together with his powerful communication and delegation skills. In this fast-paced environment, he was forced to learn quickly and he credits his experience there largely for his success today as an entrepreneur and manager. Although he was incredibly grateful for his time at Monsieur Paul, and the opportunity to work with such a decorated French chef, Samuel had always had his sights set on starting and managing his own ventures.
Turning his dreams into reality, Olala Crepes first opened its doors in January 2017 at the bustling Liberty Public Market in San Diego, California. The concept is a fresh spin on a classic French dishm crepes. Samuel honors his roots by using his grandmother’s very own family recipe, and he even imports the organic buckwheat flour from France. He recognizes that the modern American consumer is more interested in healthy options than ever before. This is why he created an array of high-quality personal-sized crepes, with fresh locally-sourced ingredients. Alongside the crepe menu, customers can also choose from paninis, macarons and a variety of other French pastries. He’s even included some vegan and gluten-free options to meet diverse dietary needs.
It’s not just the delicious food that has made Olala Crepes such a success. Icyk has created a business model that allows customers to get healthy, delicious food in a matter of minutes – and they even get to watch it all happen as the food is prepared in front of them. He is also an outstanding manager who kept his business thriving and his employees satisfied during one of the hardest times the food industry ever faced in the United States. With the pandemic, many managers struggle to find competent staff but Icyk does not have this problem thanks to his strong work ethic, excellent training skills, and good remuneration of his employees.
The first Olala Crepes was so successful that, in 2018, Samuel opened a second location on 5th Avenue – the busiest street in downtown San Diego. Amazingly, the 5th Avenue location has also been a huge hit, with sales in both locations clearing more than U.S $1 Million last year. As so many restaurants sadly crumbled during the pandemic, Icyk made a monumental and exciting pivot to turn his business into a nation-wide franchise, starting with the location on 5th Avenue. The third location of Olala Crepes, 2nd as a franchise, will open in Los Angeles area. Over the next three years, Olala Crepes is set to open locations in Los Angeles harbor, and Nashville – and that’s just the beginning.
Icyk was thrilled to have gotten his first real taste of entrepreneurial success, and it gave him motivation to continue pushing himself forward. In 2018, Samuel launched his second business, Pure Açai, keeping in line with his passion to deliver quick and healthy cuisine. San Diego’s Liberty Public Market had already proven to be a winning location, so it was an easy choice for his new business as well.
With Pure, Icyk has delivered an innovative açai and juice bar. By focusing on high-quality, fresh, organic ingredients as well as powerful superfoods, he has created a menu that is both delicious and nutritious. He recognizes that, especially after a global health pandemic, the average American is eating more mindfully and consciously but, at the same time, cannot afford to waste their precious time. Grabbing a smoothie or juice is an excellent option, but customers can also opt for a smoothie bowl or bagel if they need something more substantial. The second location of Pure Açai will open this year, in the LA area, with more locations soon to follow as it moves towards franchising as well.
A Rising Tide Floats All Boats
Undeniably, Samuel Icyk is incredibly proud of the success that both of his restaurant ventures are finding. He has worked tirelessly and credits his ability to think quickly and creatively, his leadership skills and his determination for the achievements that he has made.
That being said, he also strongly believes that his team is essential to his success and finds it immensely rewarding to be able to create hundreds – and someday maybe even thousands – of jobs for the working class of America. As both the economy and the population continue to rebound from these challenging times, he is helping so many to climb their way back up to solid ground. With Samuel on board, it seems the future is bright.