Pizza Pide is a Turkish restaurant servicing the Leslieville area with some great cuisine. I've passed by it multiple times and every experience there has been a great one. We met Havane and her team and knew immediately that we had to sit down for a chat.
Sadi: I just want to start by asking you how the business is going these days, so far?
Havane: Business…it was a little down. August and Beginning of September, but it’s going to pick up now because everyone’s coming back from vacation and schools are starting.
S: How long have you guys been here?
H: So we only started operating the business in the beginning of June (2015), we took over. But my partner, she was working here as an employee for over five years now. So she took over the business in April and we joined her in June.
S: Why did you guys decide to come into the business?
H: Because she was already working here as an employee for five years, and she really liked it. And moneywise too, we think it was going to be okay. And we also wanted to show everyone the Turkish food, we wanted to have them taste it.
S: You guys seem to serve a lot of Turkish food obviously. Why Turkish food?
H: Because it’s different for Canadians and for different cultures as well. Yeah in the beginning, people were hesitant to come in, but once they had the taste of it, people started to come back. And they do come back.
Andrew: The restaurant industry is very difficult to break into. A lot of people frequently say that they are not in it for the money, so I wonder, what’s the story that made you want to go into the restaurant business in particular?
H: Like I said, because she was already working here for five years, she really enjoyed doing it and she really liked the people and she liked seeing the people eat and make the nice comments about Turkish food and everything. So that’s why we decided to keep it going.
A: So how did you meet your business partner?
H: She is my sister in law.
S and A: Ah okay that makes a lot of sense. Okay so for strangers, people who don’t know so much about the restaurant, what do you want them to know about the restaurant?
H: The most important thing is that it’s 100% Halal, like it’s…people who are Muslim they do have a hard time finding Halal food, 100% Halal food. So when they come here they know they’re getting Halal food right? That’s one thing and for Canadian’s, if they want to taste something that’s not like pizza but close to pizza I think it’s great great food to start at.
S: What do you find is the most popular item that people are ordering here?
H: Here number 18. That’s the one that’s a mix of everything. So whoever comes here’s the first time, they usually order number 18. It has chicken, Turkish salami. One side has spinach and ground beef and the other has spinach and feta.
A: And what’s your favorite dish?
H: My most favorite dish is the number 4. It has ground beef with feta cheese on it.
A: And what’s the one that you guys at the restaurant are most proud of serving. Like there’s one that’s most popular but is there one that you are most proud of?
H: Oh that’s number 10. That’s the lamb. And that’s because we make the lamb by ourselves. Like we cook it ourselves and everything. Like we invented it from the very beginning.
S: Is there anything here, or is there any food that you want to serve here but maybe you’re unsure about how…
H: Yes I actually do but it’s not on the menu yet! I want to make a Pide that’s made out of potatoes. And um, it’s more like...not…French Fries taste but you will have that potato taste and everything. But we’re not sure. We tried it out, we liked it but I dunno if it’s ready.
S: Still risky?
S: So when you’re not here, what’s your favorite place to eat, what’s your favorite restaurant in Toronto that you like going to?
H: When I’m not here? I like to go to Mustafa. The one at…Dufferin and Wilson. Yeah it’s a nice place.
A: So people have heard about Pizza Pide before and I don’t know have you ever read restaurant reviews about your place?
H: Yes I have.
A: And how did you react to those reviews? Because I’d imagine, some reviews are really good and some reviews are not so great.
S: Do you guys pay attention?
H: 90% of it was…the comments were very nice. The only thing that people comment on, is the place itself. But we do have plans to have a little bit of construction going on. And hopefully we’re going to start soon. It’s time to renovate the place.
A: I noticed you guys changed up the table cloths.
H: Yeah, starting to look a little better.
S: Do you guys have like a favorite customer, or someone that comes in every day?
H: Everybody here is our favorite customer. But we do have regular clients that come in almost every day.
S: Have you ever had anybody come in here and come away with a really negative experience or complained?
"Especially when it’s their first time trying it and they're hesitant to come in, and after they try it and you see that smile on their face. It’s worth it." - Havane
H: Never seen it.
A: Now I can imagine being in the restaurant business, I can imagine that there were some really tough times as well. How did you guys deal with those tough times?
H: Mainly it was the hours. When it comes to tough times it’s mainly because of the hours. Because we don’t have that many employees it’s only her and my husband that work full time. I just come here once in a while to help them out. So it’s like if one of them gets sick we’re kind of…dead. So they have to be here like 8:30-9, and they cannot leave until 11PM. So the hours are pretty tough but then again, it’s worth it.
S: Then why did you choose the restaurant business instead of another type of business?
H: Destiny haha…I don’t really know. But that’s what we like to do and she was really interested in it and we were always behind her through every step.
S: Do you have previous experience with other restaurants before?
H: This is my first, but not for her.
S: So you guys placed a lot of faith and trust in her?
H: Yes that’s right.
S: So do you guys have any plans to maybe expand or things like that?
H: Yes we do. For sure. We do have people coming in and want to franchise us like Domino’s. Already.
S: Yes I can see that. It’s an interesting concept. Not a lot of places like this.
H: And we are actually planning to expand. Maybe not right away but hopefully in the near future. We’re trying to put one in Hamilton.
S: What would you say is your favorite part about the job?
H: To be honest it’s seeing people happy. Hearing their comments over our food at the end. Like when they come in and try our food. Especially when it’s their first time trying it and they're hesitant to come in, and after they try it and you see that smile on their face. It’s worth it.
S: So what would you say is your least favorite aspect?
S: Yeah that’s hectic. Owning a restaurant is…
H: Hard. Especially when you have kids and everything. It’s really hard to deal with but someone has to make the sacrifice right?
A: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten when you joined the restaurant business, and also what piece of advice would you have to give to people who want to join the restaurant business?
H: Well, to be honest, if you don’t like what you’re doing, I don’t think you’ll be successful in any job, anywhere. So…in order for you to be successful you have to love what you’re doing. And if you don’t really like the food business or anything to do with cooking then it’s the wrong job for you. Like you have to have the passion inside you. Otherwise things will not work their way out.
A: That’s something we’ve heard consistently over our interviews. And they’ve said the same thing, ‘You don’t go into the restaurant business for the money, you go in because you love the food’.
S: Has anyone ever given you a very good piece of advice?
H: I heard the same thing. Before I even started, they were like ‘If you’re just doing it for the money, don’t go.’ You have to love what you’re doing. After a while, if you don’t like it, you’re not going to make money in the long run. The first priority has to be you have to like what you’re doing.
S: Did you have any other previous business experience that helped you out in the restaurant?
H: Actually, I still have a shoe store. I own a retail business as well.
S: Do you ever find that you need the same set of skills for both of those businesses?
H: Yeah it’s customer service. In all businesses you have to have that. You just have to keep them happy, basically that’s got to be your number one priority.
A: And where is your shoe store if you don’t mind us asking?
H: It’s on Orfus Road. Orfus and Dufferin.
S: How long have you and your business partner been in Toronto?
H: Oh I’ve been here for like….21 years. She’s been here for six.
S: Well I think that’s more or less it for us. Thank you very much for your time!
949 Gerrard St E