University of Guelph Graduates Open Innovative Restaurant
Just 4 months ago, Lirom Shimonov, Mirelle Shimonov and Corey Paris opened Who Gives a Schnitz in downtown Guelph. These University of Guelph graduates saw an opportunity in Guelph’s late-night food market and made it their mission to introduce an innovative new restaurant offering the best Schnitzel sandwich in town. I had the pleasure of visiting with them at their downtown location and trying one of their mouth-watering schnitzel sandwiches. If I didn’t give a schnitz before, I definitely give a schnitz now!
After graduating from the University of Guelph 4 years ago, these hungry entrepreneurs returned to Guelph to open Who Gives a Schnitz. Mirelle says they have taken a traditional Austrian dish, some say German, and have put their own twist on it. However, they do not just offer schnitzel, they have gluten-free options, such as the Grilled Portobello Mushroom Sammy, Meat Poutine’s and they are in the process of rolling out new menu items and altering the current menu. The three were all friends in University and came together to open the business after gaining experience in their chosen fields.
The vivacious business is located at 27 Macdonnel Street, making it accessible to locals and visitors alike. Mirelle and the team said they love the downtown culture. “It’s inclusive, welcoming and very nice! We are meeting people left, right, and centre. We are going to other businesses and eating their food and they are coming to ours. We don’t see our next-door neighbours as competitors, we see them as friends. It’s a great community to be a part of".
4 months after opening, Mirelle says it’s going fabulous. “We love our customers, we love what we’re doing and our staff are beyond fantastic”. Customers often mistake them for a franchise, which Corey says, really speaks to how clean and fresh the brand is. Mirelle herself designed the website, menus and overall restaurant design. She said she loves interior design and marketing where as Corey and Lirom are the manpower behind everything else. They run the day to day operations and hire and train the amazing staff of locals and University of Guelph students.
Corey says working nights at the establishment is an absolute pleasure. Late at night, customers are requesting music and having an awesome time. They highly suggest coming in to experience it! They have also added a popular photo booth to their location called the ‘Schnitz Selfie Cam’ so customers can take a #SchnitzSelfie, adding to their unique dining experience.
When asked about expanding to Toronto, they said they came to Guelph for a reason. “We like Guelph because it's a community, it's small and we love the people". Although Toronto may be in their future plans, it doesn’t fit the business model of helping local communities. They try and stay within the hundred-mile rule while keeping it at a reasonable price point for all. Most of their food comes from local suppliers.
Mirelle says the most helpful tool during their growth has been social media. Although it is tough to get the word out to locals, students are receptive to social media when they are around. She said it’s not just about increasing the number of likes; they post tons of awesome stuff like coupons and opportunities to win free meals and highly recommend people follow. During Easter, they ran an Easter Schnitz hunt campaign. They hid envelopes all around Guelph and the lucky people who found them could come in and redeem a prize. Most if not all of their campaigns only go on social media, so it is important for customers to be following them on their social media platforms so they don’t miss out.
Although they were often discouraged from people they look up to, they took it as motivation to succeed. The entrepreneurs were fortunate to have resources from their family to fund the business but they also took out a loan. Mirelle said she really thinks failure is the biggest success. “We are all very young, we put ourselves through school, we took a big risk, but no risk no reward!”
Their greatest advice to young entrepreneurs is it’s okay to fail. You are still young; now is the time to go out and do it. But on that note, Mirelle also said you still need to be 100 percent prepared. “A lot of people like to rush things and you need to do your research. Every problem that you can think of, have a solution for it.” They also suggest going in with an open mind and knowing that there will be criticism.
The biggest obstacle the team had to overcome was construction. “A lot of people saw us under construction -it was a very long process- there was some major hurdles”. Corey said for an entrepreneur, every problem, every negative is an opportunity to do better. The team had to completely renovate the whole place and start from fresh. It took longer than anticipated but they are finally open. “We are really excited about being open and we want to thank everyone for their business and continued support. It’s all about continuing to grow!”