Graduate insight with Greekia

Hugo Cassou and Tom Jullien are 2023 graduates of the Bachelor’s Degree in International Hospitality and Restaurant Management. After their studies, they opened Greekia, a Greek-inspired street-food concept in Lyon. Less than a year after their first opening, they chat with us about their project and future ambitions.


Can you tell us about your career path since leaving Institut Lyfe (formerly Institut Paul Bocuse)?

Originally, Greekia was a project that we created in the 4th year specialisation in entrepreneurship. We had already signed a sale agreement for premises near Place Bellecour, although we hadn’t even finished our course at the institute! Instead of the mandatory placement in the 4th year, we embarked on this entrepreneurial project in 2022.

We had some complications with our premises for almost a year, so we took the opportunity to test our concept at Heat (a Lyon food court) during that time, before officially opening in April 2023.

We then opened a second restaurant in January 2024, in Avenue des Frères Lumières in Lyon. 

Tell us about your establishments and your responsibilities today?

Fascinated by Greece and after some great encounters during trips to the country, we decided during our 4th year entrepreneurship specialisation to work together on this Greek-inspired street-food concept. We developed the part relating to the offer, the positioning of the brand, marketing and communication. The menu was tested many times before we opened our first establishment.

In terms of our responsibilities and our roles in Greekia, we are still part of operations to support the teams in the restaurants. There is obviously a huge managerial part because we have grown quickly, but we can’t yet afford to completely leave the operational part. Currently, the team is 11 people spread over the 2 restaurants.

The placements and professional experience during our course have been very important with regards to the managerial approach and the team management that we have today.

What do you think are the essential skills needed for your roles?

I think you have to be disciplined and hardworking, because we don’t keep count of our hours, and have a lot of empathy and kindness. It is essential to communicate with your teams to understand what isn’t working and move forward together, in the same direction.

What challenges did you encounter?

We had some problems with our first premises which are located in a listed building, with administrative procedures that took longer than expected and several requests that had to be submitted to the council to be able to carry out the works.

Since the two openings, there have also been problems at the personnel level: as in many sectors, we are having difficulties recruiting staff. So we have to adapt, have a lot of empathy, and we make sure we have a different management style compared to our predecessors in the restaurant business, where the consideration for the needs of the teams was totally different from today.

What are you most proud of today?

Hugo: Originally, Greekia existed on paper, we presented it to our class and now, in 2024, customers come to eat in our restaurants, they come back and they give us positive feedback. It is gratifying and rewarding to see this evolution.

Tom: What I’m most proud of today is to have made one of my dreams come true by opening my own business. It’s an adventure that requires a lot of effort, but all the challenges we have overcome have strengthened my determination. When we opened our first restaurant, seeing our loved ones gathered to celebrate that event, feeling the excitement of creating something new, these are great experiences.

How has Institut Lyfe enabled you to achieve your current results?

Hugo: The institute gave us a lot of discipline, which I had not necessarily acquired before. Even though we’ve opened an establishment offering street food, the discipline is the same as that required during our studies at the institute: we work on our products with precision and we take care of our customers. We are rigorous, professional. Also, when we opened our first establishment, we received enormous support and help from the teams and collaborators from Institut Lyfe.

Do you have a particular recollection from your studies at the institute?

Hugo: I have lots! My best memories were all in the creation of pop-up restaurants, seeing projects come to life. It was an amazing way of learning, of going from the theory to the concrete, and that’s what we’re experiencing today with Tom.

What are your ambitions for the future?

We will soon be opening a 3rd establishment, in an area of Lyon where we are not yet established. We’re also working with a consultancy firm to help us launch a franchise and open new Greekia restaurants, in order to accelerate our development throughout France. The first franchisees will open in early 2025.

What would you like to say to students who want to get started in entrepreneurship and in the restaurant business?

Hugo: You need a good dose of passion, not be afraid to have a go and make mistakes. Students of Institut Lyfe are lucky to be in a school where there are lots of collaborators from all walks of life, and alumni that they can count on if they need help. We are graduates of the school and we often come to meet current students. It is always a pleasure to share our experience!

Tom: What I would advise students who aspire to become entrepreneurs, especially in the restaurant sector, is to first think carefully about what you want to do. There are many ways to be enterprising, sometimes opportunities, sometimes beliefs, and sometimes just the desire to do business, and there are just as many solutions to answer all of that. The whole point is to think carefully about your project and why you are doing it.

It is very important to listen to advice, to surround yourself with people who are experienced in the field and to talk with them. Sometimes some advice doesn’t seem relevant at the time, but often you end up understanding it better later on.

Nothing is impossible if we give ourselves the tools. Ultimately, going down the entrepreneurship path is an exciting and rewarding adventure. With the right combination of passion, preparation and determination, the dream of opening your own restaurant can become a reality.

Would you also like to become an entrepreneur and open your own restaurant concept? Then our Bachelor’s Degrees in International Hospitality Restaurant Management.

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Photos credits: Maureen Domprobst / Foodisterie