Hungarian Food, have you tried it? If not, well, now’s the time! February’s ‘Faces of Food’ interviewee is Krisztina Halloran from Hungary Bites.
Having worked in the food industry for more than ten years, Krisztina started her food stall business, in 2019, because she missed traditional tastes from her home country, in particular, Hungarian Chimney Cakes (a cross between donut and brioche) and Lángos (a deep-fried flatbread served with various toppings). Both, are types of street food served throughout Hungary and neighbouring countries.
I’m a Hungarian living in Ireland for 15 years with an Irish family. I’ve always been proud of my heritage, and I wanted to keep that alive. I started to bake Hungarian cakes and breads for friends here and it just grew organically from there. Before I knew it, I had a full-on food business serving European cuisine, grounded in Hungarian flavours and influence. I now have two fixed market locations in Waterford and Dublin and a mobile food trailer for festivals and pop-up markets.
What’s your favourite thing about running your own business?
Working for yourself, having that little bit of freedom to make the decisions and be the boss. To have the final say on menus, produce, costs or changes. To set challenges and to feel fulfilled when you achieve those.
And what do you find is the most frustrating?
Working for yourself ha-ha! It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, the buck stops with you and sometimes that’s a scary place to be, especially the financial side of things. Another big challenge I have faced is being Hungarian and the type of food I do. It’s been difficult to get people to experience and try it, but when they do, we have a customer for life!
Describe an average workday.
My workday usually starts bleary eyed at about 5am. Two espressos later, a prep list made for the day and I’m ready to go. We have two beautiful boys, so the workday routine revolves around them to a degree, but once the school run is out of the way, it’s into the kitchen, usually by 9.30am. At Hungary Bites, I’m very particular about the food. It’s all fresh, local, organic (where possible) and nothing is processed. I peel, chop, bake, fry and cook everything from scratch down to our own sauces. So, a lot of my time is spent preparing the food for the next few days. I’m often there 10-12 hours on prep days.
Weekends, we are in the Phoenix Yard Market in Waterford. I usually get there about 11am for a 1pm start, after that it’s service until 8.30/9pm. Both walk-in customers and delivery service. Of course, everything is made to order in the stall and it’s all fresh. 9ish – that’s my favourite part of the day…wash up usually takes about an hour and I’m done. Then it’s a rinse and repeat for the weekend!
What keeps you going or inspires you?
Customer reactions are what keeps me going. I love seeing people’s reactions when they try a lángos for the first time or watch me baking chimney cakes it’s amazing to see! My inspiration comes from home, from Hungary. I miss the cuisine there, the hearty food, so I try to use that inspiration to fuse with other European dishes to create a unique eating experience.
Initially, did you manage to get any support or funding for your business?
I didn’t, perhaps that was a mistake on my part, because I didn’t know about the LEO and similar services are there to help. I went at it myself. Of course, with the support of friends and family who all pitched in with odd jobs and a kind word.
Can you see your business expanding further? In what way?
That’s a difficult question to answer at the minute. I would love to see it expanding and I have a dream of one day having my own little café, but these are uncertain times and it’s hard to see past what’s right in front of you sometimes. Given the way I cook, it’s not so simple to get someone else in to do it so there’s that side of it too. But one day who knows there might be a Hungary Bites Café near you!
Do you have any ‘time saving’ tips for business owners?
I wouldn’t be the best for time keeping or saving, I’d say I’ll be late for my own funeral! But my husband is forever telling me to work smarter not harder.
So, I guess- check your processes, make lists, prepare as much as you can. Factor in, that extra 10 minutes at the end of your day if it saves you 1 hour tomorrow. See where you are losing time and what you might be able to do to adjust.
Did you embrace or dread the shift to online (further induced by the pandemic)? Does having an online presence help or hinder your business?
I didn’t move straight to the online delivery platforms. I really wanted to be sure my food would travel well before I took that leap. There are still a few dishes, I just won’t sell online because you won’t get the best experience from a delivery.
That being said, once I was happy with the menu for online, I jumped in! We are on Uber Eats and Deliveroo and honestly, it’s been a help. Those dreary evenings when you have that ‘typical Irish weather’ night- you’re certainly not going out to get food but with just 2 or 3 clicks later…you have it delivered to your door. This has definitely helped and opened up a new market for me.
How do you engage with your online customer? -What’s your favourite channel?
Instagram and Facebook but it’s not something I’m confident or comfortable with if I’m being honest. I try to post and do stories but it’s time consuming. I get the importance of it, and I am trying to give it more focus.
Krisztina’s Tasteful Tips
What advice would you give someone who’s thinking of starting their own food business.
- Be prepared to work harder than you could imagine and then add 10% but it’s wholly rewarding when you find your place.
- Be adaptable but stick to your principles.
- Don’t fall into the trap of a quick buck, that’s when it will start to unravel.
Tasteful Thinking recommends that you – GO HUNGARY and get some goulash!
Hungary Bites: Markets & Online
PLEASE NOTE: Since 2023, this food offering may no longer be available so please contact them directly through their social platforms for locations.
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