Rumour has it that a full-proof way of making a small fortune in Phuket is to start with a big fortune. And then you open a restaurant. Many tried, few succeeded.
We can and should learn from our or even better, someone else’s failures. However, it’s success stories that both inform and inspire, which is why we decided to explore one. Here is the story of one of Phuket’s most popular bistros, as told by Mario Ninotta, the man behind Little Paris.
Though of Italian descent, Mario grew up in France, where his parents run restaurants in Lyon and where he first encountered the world of culinary arts. At 14 he studied at CIFA Lameloise school in Burgundy; at 27 he bought a hotel there, one that he still owns today; Phuket came into the picture in 2015, when, during a holiday, Mario met a real estate agent who challenged him to open a restaurant here. And so, he did. One year later, in December of 2016, Little Paris was launched in Boat Avenue.
Two years on and it is one of the most popular restaurants there; swing by Little Paris in the evening and you’ll encounter a small crowd, come back the next day and you’ll see many familiar faces of returning customers. So, how does Mario keep his restaurant full when there are so many others around, some of them half empty?
According to him, there are a few keys to a restaurant’s success. Firstly, location matters. A simple, fairly priced menu full of all-time favourites does too. Keeping staff happy to reduce turnover and train them properly is vital. A friendly, modern ambience achieved through thoughtful interior design and impeccable cleanliness helps and a bit of modern technology such as menus presented on tablets and available in multiple languages certainly doesn’t hurt. And last but not least – interaction with the patrons is key; at Little Paris, they are always made to feel special.
In the end, however, nothing can substitute passion, loads of it. Running a restaurant which opens daily from 8:30 AM to 11:00 PM takes a lot of effort and it is passion that helps the owner remain positive and bubbly. What it also helps with are new ideas, and Mario has plenty – including an upcoming expansion of Little Paris with the addition of a Bakery-Patisserie to the concept.
It seems that at Little Paris, Mario is that special, secret ingredient that makes his bistro a favourite not only with the French guests but with a wider Thai and international Phuket community. In his own words “The recipe for success is presence, work, and love of gastronomy.” Do you have what it takes?