The Sint Nicolaaskerk in Appingedam is the special setting of restaurant De Basiliek. A top restaurant according to culinary critics. Guests come from far and wide. Hans Beukema emphasizes that he owes his successful entrepreneurship is mainly due to the cooperation with good employees. People who love their job and whom you can trust. Hans is very proud.
It was in 2017 that the Beukema brothers had the opportunity to buy the Sint Nicolaaskerk and adjacent rectory in Appingedam. After almost a quarter century of successfully running their cafeteria and ever-growing catering company De Vesting in Appingedam, the next logical step was a restaurant Hans thought. 'I like to build a business together with many people. Our catering business was going so well that I wanted something more. When we first walked in here I saw it right away: wow, this is a very nice location for a restaurant.'
Hans and his brother are down-to-earth types who well understand that this ambitious project can only succeed with the right man on board. In Willem Bos, former chef of Groningen restaurant Tijdloos, they found the right person to realize their ambitions with. We certainly wouldn't have done it without him, reports Hans. 'We knew how to bring him along in our enthusiasm. Willem has exactly the same ideas about the experience we want to pursue, has a lot of experience and, like us, is nice and down-to-earth.' The team is then complete. Willem runs the restaurant, Hans deals with catering and is in the cafeteria during the day, Adolf also runs the cafeteria.
An intense time came when, just in the early days, Hans' wife became seriously ill and died after a year of illness. Everyone sympathized tremendously. I experienced how that situation made us all strong and what it is really about: being there for each other, working together in good times and in less good times and trusting each other. I continued with the project because my wife felt I should. It was intense, but I am very grateful to her for that.
With support from the bank, the entrepreneurs were able to buy the church and adjoining rectory, and they knocked on the door of the GROEI Fund for the furnishings, which of course had to contribute to the wow effect. It was fortunate that the renovation immediately attracted national attention in RTL 4's reality series Serving or Serving, says Hans, "therefore we could count on a lot of interest from the start.
'GOOD EMPLOYEES WILL GET YOU VERY FAR'
A veritable dining temple has risen inside the church: The Basilica. The church hall has been restored as much as possible to its original state, with a black painted ceiling, chandeliers and a wooden floor, and serves as a restaurant with seating for 80 to 100 diners. Seating is modern and comfortable, and surprisingly good acoustics have been provided. The kitchen is newly decorated. In the redecorated rectory, dining can be done in a more intimate setting. Upstairs there is room for meetings.
With an extensive menu, The Basilica is accessible to everyone, young, old, foodies, people who just want to come and have a nice dinner or, on the contrary, gastronomic elaborate dining. The menu includes a satay, a Stroganov, but also the roe brought in by the forester. In this day and age, actually quite special. After his work in the cafeteria, Hans often makes a tour of the tables in the evening. He then meets fellow townspeople, people from far away who have come to hear the stories, directors and sometimes mayors. 'I like to have a chat. When the place is full it's hearty.' Hans wasn't there when culinary critic Jacques Hermus paid the restaurant a surprise visit. Hermus wrote a laudatory review in Dagblad van het Noorden and placed De Basiliek at the top of the list of most beautiful and best restaurants in Groningen (2019).Hans: 'I was already walking with my chest out a bit, but after that all natural.'
Setting a good example yourself, delivering what you promise and working with people who love their craft and are enthusiastic, therein lies the secret of Hans' entrepreneurship. "Most important to me is how our people interact with guests. Hans says his employee Rick has emerged as a top sommelier. 'Rick was with me behind the cash register in the cafeteria and wanted to come along to De Basiliek. I really had no idea, but that Rick can talk so beautifully about wines and dishes is now widely known. When people want to make reservations they already inquire if he is working that night.'
Our current role in this, of course, is limited. We provided funding at the start and the entrepreneurs themselves made it a success. As a GROEI Fund, we are glad that we were able to contribute that little bit.
Christian Bout, Investment Manager GROEIfonds
Anyway, when corona came, all activities were suddenly at a standstill. 'That was quite a shock,' says Hans. Early this year, the entrepreneurs had also started a new challenge, running B&B De Vijgenhof in the synagogue in Appingedam. All lunches, dinners, meetings, parties and reservations were cancelled overnight. The entrepreneurs immediately sat down together and decided to use their years of experience in catering to stock up the restaurant. From Appingedam, lunches and course menus were delivered to homes throughout the province. 'With a bottle of wine from us included, we provided people with a culinary evening out at their own dining table. We delivered about 300 meals a week. I did realize then that we had a high favorability factor.'
Since June, The Basilica had cautiously reopened, only to have to close completely again after the October 13 press conference. 'Corona worries me, I find it frightening, but even here we are coming back from this,' reports Hans, wonderfully optimistic as always. 'We saw it coming and immediately restarted our takeout and delivery service. And we have to. Because we do it all together. All our 25 employees have heart for the business. Keeping them involved and remaining enthusiastic together is very important to me.
Still new plans
Catering activities are still completely at a standstill. And yet, yet there are already new plans. The nunnery that belongs to the church may become vacant. Hans already envisions turning it into a long-stay bed & breakfast. "It always gets better.