Meet Kyriakos Baxevanis

Occupation Owner of Nostos

What does the Greek word ‘Nostos’ mean?

There is a dual meaning to the word Nostos.

The most ancient and relevant to our business is ‘The Return of the Hero’.

We thought that the return of good Greek food in Brighton, and what Greek cuisine has accomplished over the last 15 years is very relevant to the current food scene.
Yes, there are other restaurants in the area but they are more traditional, more business as usual, more taverna style. And we wanted to do something else, to push the envelope, and evolve the Greek food. The second meaning of the word for us is the vision itself.

Nostos is more than just food, Nostos is about community building, community empowerment, community involvement, and community evolution as well.

Image ©Licensed to Ben Stevens Photography

Please can you share a whistle-stop tour of your career?

After earning my Business Economics degree in 1999, I ventured into various jobs in Greece without much success. My return to the UK in 2004 marked a turning point. I secured a managerial role in Brighton, pursued an MBA, and then joined American Express, fulfilling my aspiration to work in a challenging corporate environment.

However, my entrepreneurial spirit led me to establish Little Jasmine Therapies and Spa with my wife, growing it significantly over 15 years.

Our ventures expanded with Simply Urban and Nostos in 2019, a recruiting agency, and property investments to support our staff. Recently, we’ve diversified into catering and I engage in mentoring and public speaking, fostering a business community through initiatives like the Big Fat Greek Club.

What are your plans or aims with Nostos currently?

Amidst hospitality challenges, we’re striving to constantly think out of the box, innovate and embrace disruption. By expanding into catering and taking community initiatives, we’re not only growing but also embodying our core values as a purpose-led business. Our vision includes evolving Nostos into a multi-location entity in Brighton and London, grounded in meaningful community impact.

From a vision to an award-winning restaurant, how did this happen and which accolades has Nostos achieved?

We saw a market gap and an opportunity within the market to create a restaurant. Driven by a deep-rooted passion for culinary traditions and a sense of community, we launched Nostos.

The journey, altered by COVID, shifted from just a physical restaurant to an online presence, delivery, and a Mediterranean mini-market. This adaptation deepened our community ties, especially evident during lockdown’s isolation. Our response, blending business survival with community initiatives, earned recognition: “Best for Family” at Bravo awards, “Best International Cuisine,” and praise from critics like Louise Roddon. Local platforms like the Argus consistently regard us as a top Brighton restaurant.

Is there a moment in your career that stands out above the rest?

Yes, a pivotal moment was deciding to abandon my initial vision of a corporate career with American Express. Until then, everything, including my MBA, mindset, and aspirations, had been steering me toward becoming an influential executive in a global company. However, I relinquished this path when I recognised that my creative needs were better fulfilled by establishing my own businesses and working for myself. Thus, transitioning from a corporate professional to an entrepreneur was undoubtedly one of the key moments in my career.

Image ©Licensed to Ben Stevens Photography

Who has inspired you along the way?

Obviously many people, but my main inspiration has been my mom. Especially following my parents’ divorce. Her support helped us focus on education and personal growth, instilling a mindset of resilience and creativity within me and my siblings, enabling us to meet life’s challenges head-on.

What has been your biggest challenge?

I believe the greatest challenge is maintaining positivity throughout life.

It involves being creative, assisting others, and consistently being a source of positivity within your community. This effort requires daily dedication. Specific events, like COVID or personal illnesses, are transient—we eventually move past them, though their lessons linger. However, cultivating and preserving a positive mindset in the face of adversity is the true challenge, one that is continuous and ever-present.

Tell us about the challenges facing hospitality today?

The hospitality industry faces tough challenges today. First, consumer spending is down. Many households, especially those earning between £1500 and £2500, feel the economic pinch. They’re going out less and spending less when they do. This behaviour hits hospitality hard, considering the already thin profit margins of 5%-7%.

Another issue is the post-Brexit labour market. Finding and keeping staff in the hospitality sector has become a steep challenge.

There’s also food inflation to contend with. Rising costs can’t be fully transferred to customer prices without risking lower trade. Each of these factors creates a complex, demanding situation for the industry.

What needs to change to help restaurants thrive?

Restaurant owners must become more business-savvy, understanding costs, profitability, and operational dynamics to adapt during tough times. While government measures like VAT reductions help, real change requires internal business shifts, starting with ongoing education and strategic adaptation at the ownership level. Many business owners, especially in hospitality, lack essential business knowledge, leading to inflexible operating models. They manage to operate successfully during favourable times but struggle to adapt when challenges arise. Continuous education and learning are crucial for sustainable success.

What are you doing at Nostos to adapt to current conditions?

At Nostos, we’re adapting by emphasizing continuous learning, participating in programs like Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, and implementing new strategies. We prioritise financial scrutiny, innovative marketing, and compelling storytelling. Supporting our staff is vital for preserving know-how and loyalty, even during off-peak seasons. Community initiatives, such as Yiayia’s Corner, enhance cultural and environmental awareness, reinforcing our brand’s community commitment. We’ve expanded into catering, capitalising on our culinary reputation, and launched “The Big Fat Greek Club” for deeper community engagement, both moves distinguishing us in the marketplace.

How important is the team at Nostos?

The team at Nostos is crucial to its ongoing success. It’s all about identifying, retaining, and developing the team. Empowering individuals to grow is key, as their evolution helps the business maintain its market position. Ultimately, it’s all about the people.

The most important piece of advice you would give to an aspiring restaurateur?

The key piece of advice for aspiring restaurateurs is to embrace the business only if you’re ready for a serious challenge. It must be a labour of love, driven by genuine passion, not just the prospect of profit. Success requires dedication and the readiness to handle constant challenges, as the industry demands relentless effort and offers no room for rest.

Which are your top three venues across Brighton and Hove and why?

Furna is one of my favourite restaurants, Dave Mothersill is one of my favourite chefs at this point in time.
The Little Fish Market and Chef Duncan Ray. They deliver every time.

The Little Fish Market front shot
And I’m going to be a bit controversial here, the Moyo’s brothers, by far the best burger in Brighton, especially the Jerk Chicken Burger!

You have time to relax, how do you spend your spare time?

I love going to the gym in the morning, cooking at home, and spending quality time with my family.

Give us a taster of your involvement Brighton and Hove business community.

Next year marks my 20th in Brighton, and despite running a business here for 15 years, I initially hesitated to engage with other local businesses due to feelings of alienation as an immigrant. However, embracing a growth mindset, I began connecting with the community about a year ago, a move that proved transformative. I received a warm welcome, valued for my unique perspective.

My most significant success has been personal growth, leading to positive impacts in my surrounding environment, starting with my family and extending to colleagues and the broader business community.

This personal evolution has positioned me as a role model for others with diverse backgrounds, showing that success is attainable for everyone. My journey emphasizes the importance of building, empowering, and evolving within our community, principles that guide everything I do.

Nostos won the BRAVO Best For The Family category in 2023, how did this feel and what impact did it have on your business?

Winning the BRAVO Best For The Family category in 2023 was a proud moment for us at Nostos, affirming our commitment to a family-friendly dining experience.
This accolade has significantly expanded our reach and reputation, not only as a family hub but also as a prime location for business meetings and events.
Building on this success, we’re now aiming for the Best International category in the next year, showcasing our authentic Greek cuisine and international appeal.
Nostos team celebrating the 2023 BRAVO win for best family restaurant.

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