In 2010, tapas bar and restaurant Viva opened as a small stall outlet in the now sadly closed Epicurean centre on Middle Abbey Street. Offering a wide range of authentic Spanish tapas and a relaxed and friendly and leisurely dining experience, Viva continued to grow and develop.
Since its beginnings as a stall, it has gone from strength to strength, having moved two years later to the bohemian Portobello area to a building that seats 120 people at capacity.
I spoke to one of the owners, Gareth Kelly, about the challenges that they faced in bringing the business to where it is today and to see if he had any advice for anybody looking to start out in the industry.
“If you want an easy life, don’t set up your own company!” Gareth warned laughing. Prior to deciding to set up Viva, Gareth had worked in retail. He also had a “Very coloured and varied” background in arts and theatre and was heavily involved in the organisation of many events for Dublin Pride.
However, “Working for yourself is completely different than working for someone else,” he stated, citing the fact that both he and his partner Ramiro have to work six day weeks to maintain the business and “Stay on top of everything”.
When asked what advice he would have for someone starting out for themselves, he said: “Before you start, you should study very carefully about whether you want to be a sole trader or a company” – the implications for each are very different and require different paperwork.
“We hadn’t any experience running a business,” he said, and remembered that there was an awful lot of paperwork involved and that everything needed to be perfect. Gareth considers the various paperwork elements a challenge as part of the job – a part that is required to be done each and every day. He feels that this is such a big part of the job that perhaps a mentoring system for new businesses, with help from the HSE or the Restaurant Association of Ireland, would be of great benefit for newcomers helping them to deal with the sheer volume of paperwork involved in setting up and maintaining a restaurant in Ireland.
Change seems to be another factor that keeps the business busy as the menu changes twice a year and every January, when the restaurant is closed for two weeks, they paint and decorate the interior of the large protected building on Richmond Street. The business is currently also in the middle of a large recruitment drive.
Despite all the hectic lifestyle that seems to go hand-in-hand with running your own business, it is clear that both Gareth and Ramiro, as well as the staff, are passionate about their work and seek to attain perfection in a friendly and caring environment.
For more information on Viva, visit www.vivaespanatapas.com.