Christophe Bonzi has more than 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry and two eateries under his management. Nay Thiha exchanged emails with him and talked about running a restaurant in Yangon.
First, let us know about you. What brought you to Myanmar?
I’m French and was born in Aix en Provence (southeastern part of France). I graduated with a master’s degree in finance and have worked for the last 20 years in the hospitality business.
In France, I had a restaurant for five years then sold it to move to Asia. I arrived in Singapore in 2013, stayed one year then moved to Myanmar in January 2014. First I worked in a hotel in Inle for six months then moved to the head office in Yangon. Since then I opened O’thentic with my business partner in 2016 and recently Boho at Yangon Night Market last October. Moreover, I’m a consultant for an NGO “The French Bakery” which provides bakery training to disadvantaged youth in Myanmar.
What was the first challenge you faced doing business in Myanmar? How did you overcome it?
I will say we were lucky and took the right decision at the right time. Since I arrived in Myanmar, I’ve seen many businesses open and close. At first, Myanmar seems easy to do business, but actually, it’s not. Need to be patient and go forward step by step.
After all these years how did O’thentic evolve as a restaurant?
At the opening in 2016, we served only French Galette and pancakes and we only operated the ground floor (around 35 seats). Today, O’thentic has a double capacity with 70 seats as we extend the restaurant to the upper floor. The kitchen is much bigger and our menu is more attractive with a large choice of dishes… pizza, pasta, burger, grilled beef, sandwich, breakfast, business lunch…
How did Burmese people find French food? How did you try to meet their taste?
We try to keep our prices reasonable and we have weekly specials every day with 50% OFF pizza, burger, pasta… Every day you can come to Othentic and taste some western food starting from Ks4000. Since the opening of the restaurant, we have always listened to our guests’ feedback and continuously improve our menu by taking their suggestions into consideration. Burmese people are curious and many of them come to O’thentic by showing the photo of someone’s post and want to try it.
Tell us about your current operations.
O’thentic has been open since 2016 and Boho Bar since last October. The concept of Boho is a Bohemian-style bar. We wanted to be different from the other bars at Yangon Night Market. We are proud of it as the design is unique. Our cocktails are renewed every month by our professional bartender. The food menu is composed of Asian snacks (tempura, salad, grill, rice…) with a touch of boho style. Every day we have our crazy offer, a great combo with an amazing price. You can find our crazy offer on our page.
What’s the difference between running a bar and running a brasserie?
It’s easier to run a bar than a brasserie *wink emoji*. Brasseries have more challenges as food is the main priority. During this situation, it’s more difficult to manage our stock as operations are up and down, we never know which day we are busy or not.
I believe you’ve been through a lot here, pandemic, political instabilities, etc. But with the opening of a new bar, you seem thriving. What’s the secret behind your staying power?
Keep myself busy and stay positive. I do a lot of sport and focus on what next.
Photos provided by Christophe Bonzi.