For a new Local Story, we spoke to Willem-Jan Goosen, owner and founder of Bistro St. Sjaak. He studied between 2000 and 2007, was a member of Olof and made several attempts to find a study that suited him. Meanwhile, he has been working in the hospitality industry in Tilburg, including Vagant, café Brandpunt and café Stoffel. When, after seven years, it became clear that studying was no longer going to work for Willem-Jan, he decided to become an account manager for a company in Eindhoven. Cold acquisition didn't work out either. Then he started doing what he really liked: cooking.
"I then worked for three and a half years in a restaurant in Vught and two and a half years for a caterer. While working at the caterer, I began to get the itch and the urge to start my own business grew. When the premises where Bistro St. Sjaak is located became vacant about 8.5 years ago, I was given the opportunity to write a business plan, after which the financing was arranged," says Willem-Jan.
How many staff do you have?
"I don't have any full-time staff. I do have two cooks for about twenty hours a week and I also employ about six to eight students."
Do you have any campaigns aimed at students?
"Not really, but I do like to accommodate groups of students who come to dine during the week. Then I give them a special deal, but that is often specifically aimed at the group that comes over. I do promote myself somewhat in the student world, but that is more under the guise that I like students to come and dine with their parents once a year (or more often of course), or in honour of their graduation. In that respect, I am not a student restaurant but just a bistro. The student market is great in Tilburg and the challenge I face is to make sure as many students as possible come to eat at my place."
How are you coping with the current crisis difficulties?
"Considering the circumstances, not too bad. Three days a week I am a kind of luxury chip shop. Then you can just order our classics, the delicious fries with stew, shrimp croquettes and/or steak tartare from me. People can pick it up at my place or I can deliver it on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. In addition, I work in an old-fashioned fish shop in the city to keep the sheep on the dry side. The easiest way for both the customer and me is to order on our website, make your choice and pay online, and you will receive an app with your order within 15 minutes.
Do you have any collaborations at the moment?
"Not at the moment. Last summer when we opened, we did have many collaborations. With wine merchants, liquor stores or that I went elsewhere to make mussels in the city at Gin Fizz. I'm open to collaborations of course, but the three days I'm open with my chip shop is fine for now!"
Are there any other opportunities to be able to support you 'locally'?
"Right now the jumper campaign of Wear Tilburg is running, with which you can support the Bistro enormously. You can also buy the cookbook from Chef in Lockdown, you can throw money through the letterbox, but you can also give money ;) And what also helps us is sharing St. Sjaak as much as possible on socials, including Instagram and Facebook."
Do you notice that the bond with other local entrepreneurs has changed because of the crisis?
"As difficult as it may be to put a positive spin on it, the bond has actually been strengthened. We share our experiences with each other and there are of course some entrepreneurs who put their heads in the sand, but you don't see them at all. Overall, that bond has improved in the centre."