Michelle Hespe catches up with one of the five 2017 gia global honorees, Pavel Staněk—Co-founder and President of the highly innovative Potten & Pannen – Staněk in the Czech Republic.
The gia Global Honoree award-winning Potten & Pannen store is a KitchenAid concept store and a gourmet cooking academy based in the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague. “Our grounding philosophy is simple,” says Pavel Staněk. “Our company is all about creating harmony between quality, design and excellent service. Since opening our doors in 1992, we have been enabling customers to elevate cooking, dining and everything related to the kitchen, to a state of art.”
The judges and jury at this year’s gia awards in Chicago acknowledged this when they chose Potten & Pannen – Staněk KitchenAid Concept Store & Gourmet Academy as one of five gia Global Honorees. All of the judges commented on the refined professionalism that is applied to every element of the store and the cooking academy.
“They do an exceptional job of entertaining their customers at in-store events, including culinary classes and product training,” one judge commented, also noting that the team is excellent at merging the website with the brick-and-mortar store. “There is truly inspiring content available online, bringing the experience to life for the customer.”
Potten & Pannen – Staněk was established as a leading, exclusive importer, distributor and direct seller of kitchenware and household brands, and today it runs 12 representative stores in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and a successful e-shop. Then, in 2014, Pavel’s team launched the world ́s first and only KitchenAid concept store.
However, even with the expansion of the business, the company’s core ethos remains the same: “We are simply doing our best to inspire our customers in everything we do—from the selection of products to our creative visual merchandising, the service from our experienced and well-trained, passionate staff, and most importantly, the unique shopping experience that we give to each and every customer,” says Pavel.
The global phenomenon that has seen people everywhere falling in love with the art of cooking and using great healthy produce instead of eating processed food has certainly helped to propel the cooking academy part of the business to new heights. And this focus on healthy eating, and learning about cooking products and food, is something that Pavel and his team are incredibly passionate about.
“All of our stores are equipped with state-of-the-art kitchens so that our clients can test and use every product before they decide upon a purchase,” explains Pavel. “And most of our customers are members of our exclusive Gourmet & Design Club, where they enjoy the many rewards that their loyalty brings, such as free cooking lessons, workshops and countless benefits from our participating product partners.”
Leading local and international chefs run cooking classes at Potten & Pannen, and there are always food bloggers in attendance. The classes are not just for adults, as they also cater for Generation Z (aged 7 – 20) with their Le Petit Chef program. Only high-quality ingredients are used, mainly from local suppliers or farmer’s markets, and there are special classes such as raw food classes or cooking without gluten, to accommodate their varied customer base.
Gourmet classes aside, the company also organizes more simple cooking workshops where customers can test the functionality of products while learning quick recipes related to the latest trends, such as how to prepare home-made bread, butter, marmalades, pasta or cookies.
In the Gourmet Academy area, the countertops are not only used for demonstrations, but as a ‘try-me’ area for customers. “The fully-equipped kitchen enables customers to experience products in their natural context, rather than as products on a shelf,” explains Pavel.
To further spread the word on the business, the culinary school area is also used for press conferences and cooking events, such as the presentation of Mauviel products by three-Michelin-star chef, Yannic Alléno. And in 2015, Pavel and his team launched a brand collection called ‘Pohlreich Selection’ in collaboration with the most famous Czech chef Zdeněk Pohlreich, who is also a lecturer in the Gourmet Academy.
The promotion of the business, and the embracing of technology to do so, is something that Pavel is very excited about. “The retail world is rapidly changing,” says Pavel. “We have always tried to be visionaries, and be well prepared for the future. Therefore, we invest heavily in new technologies, creative merchandising, and ongoing improvements in customer service and experience. We’ve also invested in an online marketing team, responsible not only for e-commerce, but for our online communication, and we work with the best agencies in digital technology to ensure that our systems and online tools are always a step ahead. I’ve always been fascinated by the magic of selling, and the different ways you can approach clients. And now, with all of these new technologies, it’s even more exciting to see where the world of retail is heading,” Pavel says.
In line with this, the culinary school is promoted through more traditional TV advertisements, but in keeping with this new era in which there is an ever-growing public obsession with celebrity chefs, the company also sponsors culinary programs and has product placements in the most popular cooking-related TV shows.
Despite this passion for technology and its implementation in the retail business, Pavel advises anyone in business to remember that pleasing the customer and taking care of your staff are the most important factors of a successful business.
“Two of the most important factors in our business are our well-trained employees and their in-depth knowledge of our products,” says Pavel. “They serve each of our clients with a smile, armed with complimentary tea and coffee. There is regular specialized product training by brand managers and representatives from manufacturers, and often employees travel to the product manufacturers’ bases to learn about the product production process. It gives them more detail in terms of unique selling points.”
“Many of our most loyal customers were originally mainly price oriented, but with our passionate staff, Potten & Pannen – Staněk has succeeded in creating a quality loving community.”
“Our gia nomination is a great honor for me, and we wouldn’t have achieved that accolade without our staff,” Pavel says. “The evaluation process helped us all to take an in-depth look at the business, and to scrutinize the details of how we operate, day-to-day. A good retail concept is built upon many small details that have to work in perfect harmony.”
Being a gia Global Honoree, other retailers now ask Pavel for his advice, and he’s more than happy to share. “If you want to succeed in retail, you have to understand that traditional retail stores are not enough anymore,” he says. “You have to adapt in order to attract new generations of customers, by providing not only great service, but new technologies and ideas. At the same time, you should never forget that the personal contact between you and the customer will always be crucial to your success.”
New ideas are what Pavel and his team thrive on. And word on the street is that they’re soon to launch a new concept in the Czech Republic. “We’ll never stop making plans for the future, and working on making our company stronger, more innovative, and an even nicer and more fun place for all of our team members to work,” he says. “I’m very pleased and humbled to own a company that allows me to choose my business partners, colleagues and our next projects. This is the biggest privilege in my life.”
For more information about the gia (IHA Global Innovation Awards) program, the co-sponsors, or participating in 2017-2018, contact Piritta Törrö. For more information about the International Home + Housewares Show and to pre-register for the 2018 Show, taking place in Chicago on March 10-13, 2018, please visit www.housewares.org.