Food and Tourism Entrepreneurs in North Carolina
A Program of the Center for Sustainable Tourism and the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, East Carolina University
Entrepreneur Profile: Angelina Koulizakis and John Battiste
Entrepreneur Organization: Angelina’s Kitchen, Owner
Angelina’s Kitchen is a restaurant in Pittsboro, North Carolina, that serves healthy, affordable, in season, and local food to residents and visitors in Chatham County. Owners Angelina Koulizakis and John Battiste, known to friends as Angelina K and Chile Shack John, also cater weddings, family occasions, corporate events, and other functions in the Research Triangle Region.
Angelina and John’s Entrepreneurial Traits
Angelina and John are independent thinkers and calculated risk takers; their faith and confidence in the passion and drive they have in their work support their enterprising qualities. They are also dedicated team players within their industry. Angelina and John are insightful and can understand people just as well as they can read financial reports.
Entrepreneurial Aspects of Angelina’s Kitchen
Angelina and John relocated to North Carolina to be near family on the East Coast. One reason they started the business was that the economic climate within their previous careers in construction had shifted and relocating provided a different landscape. Once, at a town meeting, Angelina shared some of her cooking in the spirit of community and friendship. This led to community members calling on her for catering jobs and as more people tasted her products and appreciated the quality and flavors, she decided to open a restaurant.
Angelina and John employ a variety of programs and principles that serve their business well,
while also maintaining their
vision. In order to get bulk pricing and save on transportation costs, they pool shopping for
restaurant supplies, products, and food with other local eateries. This smart
collaboration works because they do
not consider themselves
competitors in the conventional sense. Serving their customer base is part of the overall plan—meeting the community’s needs is a
priority, whether at the restaurant or off-site. Angelina and John experiment with their menu, offering
lunch specials and kids’ meals, providing diverse catering services such as
cabana specials for the pool resident club in a local neighborhood community
and sharing a piece of the business with local competitors. Angelina and John rely on their unique
forecasting skills by making plans for the future based on what they envision will be popular
in the long term, or just a worthwhile trend. They are aware that people are turning to local food and farmers’ markets.
As a result, they have
combined this knowledge with their
personal belief in eating local and have
incorporated these ideas into their
work. Angelina and John’s success is
fueled by their passion; they don’t allow politics,
the economy, or the bottom line to control their vision.
The current economy presents challenges unique to a restaurant with a mission to serve food that is as local as possible, a perception that “Local Food” is too expensive and that is a hard view to crack.
Another challenge is purchasing in small quantities from several farmers, which is more time consuming than a blanket order from a “big box wholesaler”. Even though the farmers provide Angelina’s with a fair wholesale price on their meat and vegetables and fruits, the prices are still significantly higher than “big box.” Their answer to this dilemma is small, more reasonable portions and almost no waste.
Lastly, building a flexible menu that affords the ups and downs and variations of the farmer produce and meats is critical to purchasing from small local farms. It’s not like shopping at a grocery store where they seem to always have everything you want, with local food a bad storm today can hurt vegetables next month and flexibility in cooking and the menu is the answer.
Angelina's and John’s Inspiration
Angelina and John find joy in sharing good local food, interacting with guests, and seeing people make changes to their diets through the incorporation of local food. They also enjoy sharing unique vegetables and dishes with patrons. Giving back on many levels through the business—socially, financially, and environmentally—makes them happy and fulfilled, both personally and professionally.
Positive Aspects of the Entrepreneurial Climate
Angelina and John know that people still need to eat in any economic climate and they believe that good planning and fair price points will continue to reach customers. Quality and consistency in their food has generated multiple successes for their business. The Pittsboro area has a unique personality that strongly supports sustainable living practices and that fits with their mission of supporting local farmers and businesses. The business is in a good location near a high traffic area in the town.
Angelina and John are restaurateurs who are continuously networking. They utilize social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and have also been featured in various news outlets and awarded state accolades including the book, Farm Fresh North Carolina by Diane Daniel and second place in Best Dish NC’s East Piedmont / Coastal casual dining category. Many customers also discover and become a fan of the restaurant through tasting the food at catering events.
John and Angelina’s team spirit flows into all aspects of their life. They collaborate with local businesses, other restaurateurs, non-profit organizations, farm associations, Cooperative Extension, the county Visitors Bureau, farmers, farmers’ market coordinators, and Slow Money NC.
Sustainability Factors of Organization
Angelina and John support paying extra for environmentally responsible products and the restaurant composts and recycles as much as possible. John and Angelina believe that buying local vegetables, meats, and dairy is worth it because the products result in less waste overall.The fresh products last longer in both raw and cooked form without the added chemicals commercial producers sometimes use. There is less shrinkage with the meat and the dairy products taste better than any commercially produced products. All the customer utensils used at Angelina’s Kitchen are from Eco-Products, Inc., and are made from plant starch. They avoid traditional plastic and prohibit Styrofoam as it adds to the waste stream. John and Angelina plan to continue to strengthen efforts, as better options are made more affordable. They recycle at the restaurant and compost all food material, which is eventually used to feed local pigs and goats.
Another sustainable factor of the business is the positive nature of John and Angelina’s working and networking relationships with fellow restaurateurs, through which they maintain neutrality, stay relevant, and adhere to their mission. They are committed to buying locally sourced food, supporting local farms, and partnering with other businesses to continually invest in local community programs.
Focuses for the Future
Angelina and John hope to continue their dedication to sharing knowledge by offering catering and cooking classes. Their experience continues to guide them into the future and they wholeheartedly believe that their passion for local food will continue to spread.