The dining scene in Cyprus has evolved considerably over the past 3 decades. When PHC Restaurants was formed in the early 90s CEO Lysandros Ioannou observed that there was no real tradition of culinary arts in the country. He explains this was due to 3 reasons. Firstly, the prevalence and customary act of cooking at home. Secondly, the fact that—historically—most people could not afford to eat out at a café or a restaurant on a regular basis. And thirdly, the constraints placed on the importation of raw materials prior to Cyprus’s association with the European Union which occurred in 2004.
“The restaurant, catering, and culinary arts offerings in the Cyprus market were very, very basic,” Lysandros explains.
“The first stepping stone for us at PHC Restaurants was to come in with an organised brand like Pizza Hut which had experienced great success in its home country and abroad. This was the very first food chain-style restaurant to enter the country.
“It opened up a host of new opportunities, allowing other brands to follow suit. For example McDonald’s came in 5 years later and we have now brought in Taco Bell, KFC, Burger King, Caffè Nero, and Catercom, just to name a few.
“So the first turning point for the industry in Cyprus was really when Pizza Hut came into the country in 1991. It was kind of a case of execution-driven strategy and having the right idea at the right time. In retrospect I have to say it was a good idea because that was the first international brand to be launched in Cyprus. It heralded a completely new era in the restaurant business. From there I made it very clear that the motto for PHC Restaurants would be to lead the way in this food revolution.”
Following on from that, the business started to introduce more firsts to the Cypriot community. Food delivery services were brought in, a national customer service centre was launched, and the Wagamama chain—which serves Asian-style cuisine—was opened.
Lysandros believes that the next milestone for PHC Restaurants will be its move outside of the casual restaurant sector and into more sophisticated dining options. “Historically, we evolved from fast food to cafés and casual restaurants,” he explains further. “Now we’re making the next step into what we call the ‘casual plus’ offering, by bringing in Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver.”