Six months ago, Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE) alum Nina Ruemmele realised her dream of opening a restaurant serving healthy, delicious and affordable food quickly to professionals and other customers in Frankfurt, Germany. She spoke with us about the challenges of creating her business, What the Food!, and what the future holds.
Describe the concept of your restaurant, What the Food!
We offer good and tasty food to the working environment in Frankfurt. We aim to combine healthy meals with a fast, casual atmosphere. All meals are offered to stay or to go. This way, office workers can enjoy a delicious, healthy meal, even if they have limited time. We offer a variety of dishes, from vegan to meat option.
What is the organizational structure of your company?
Currently, the corporate governance of our company is the following: two CEOs, my founding partner and myself; nine employees, seven investors and two other shareholders.
You previously worked as a consultant for Roland Berger, an international strategy and management advisory firm based in Switzerland. What made you decide to quit your job as consultant and start something on your own?
It was quite a process and didn’t happen overnight. I realized that I wanted to have impact. I learned a lot in the job I had, and it was a great preparation, but for me personally, it wasn’t enough. I wanted to have a more holistic view of a business and wanted to see what impact the things I work on have.
Would you say you made many mistakes at the beginning, and what did you take from them?
We did make a couple of mistakes at the start—mostly due to lack of experience. The good and insightful thing about making mistakes is that, once you make one, you will not make it again. Mostly because it hurts. And this is the way that you really learn.
Accepting mistakes and realizing that they are a normal thing on the way to success makes you grow personally; however, one important thing about making mistakes is that you shouldn’t assign blame afterward or spend too much energy figuring out whose fault it was. That’s not the important thing to learn from mistakes. My founding partner and I discuss every important step together—in this way, we make mistakes as a team. This is really important for the partnership.
How did your studies at SBE prepare you for starting your own business?
The thing I really like about the approach to studying in Maastricht and the one thing that prepared me the best for business life is the early responsibility one has in the small study groups. Presenting multiple times during the programme, taking minutes and being the discussion leader of the courses is the best preparation one can have for the future.
You recently hosted an alumni event for alumni working and living in Frankfurt. What did this mean to you?
It was a great experience. First, because I met some old study colleagues, and also I love being a host. And of course it meant great business for us! [Editor's note: Ruemmele says this with a wink and a smile.]
You’ve already accomplished a major goal. What do you see for the future of your company?
Yes, the first step is definitely done. However, restaurants mostly have their turning point after nine to twelve months. We have now been open for six months, and it is going well. We are currently in the planning phases of our second restaurant, and that will show us the future path of our company.