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Yanti Subianto Zorlu as Co-founder and CMO of Turkuaz Group – Turkuaz, Warung Turki and Abang Turki

Yanti Subianto Zorlu as Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Turkuaz Group – Turkuaz, Warung Turki and Abang Turki

Yanti Subianto Zorlu is an accomplished professional with decades of experience in public relations and marketing. Presently, she continues to leverage her extensive experience in public relations and marketing to drive the success of her ventures in the F&B industry. As a Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer for Turkuaz Group - Turkuaz, Warung Turki, and Abang Turki, she remains actively involved in the strategic growth and promotion of these businesses.

Yanti Subianto Zorlu as Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Turkuaz Group – Turkuaz, Warung Turki and Abang Turki

We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Yanti Subianto Zorlu. She is an inspiring entrepreneur who has made significant strides in Jakarta's fast-evolving culinary scene to discuss her motivations and background for breaking boundaries by entering the F&B industry. She shares her motivations, background, and insights into how she manages her successful restaurants.

You started your career as a skilful PR practitioner. Where and how did you determine to become a restaurant business owner? 

We opened Turkuaz in 2011 because initially Sezai and I, we were not too fond with our previous jobs. We wanted to become our own bosses where we can have flexible time, and financial management, that's why we decided to have our own business. 

That year, we thought it was the right time. We both have extensive experience and knowledge in marketing and F&B fields, and we are both very passionate about food, so we know what good quality food is like. So it's time for us to leave our careers and become our own bosses. 

We think that we are a fantastic team. I handle the front areas such as services, marketing, legal stuff, and promotion, and then Sezai handles the back areas more like kitchen development and projects. We are a good yin and yang team.

What’s something you’d like guests to know about Turkuaz Restaurant, Warung Turki - Shisha Lounge, and Abang Turki?

Turkuaz Restaurant is very well known for its authenticity not only in Turkish food but also in Ottoman cuisine. The name Turkuaz is taken from the color of the Mediterranean Sea where Chef Sezai lived as a child in the city of Hatay. So for Chef Sezai, the color Turkuaz brings such a beautiful nostalgia from when he was little. 

As a friendly fine food restaurant, Turkuaz is renowned for the Ottoman cuisine that comes from the Ottoman Empire era, from the Ozman Sultanate. This sultanate was founded in 1299 AD, and then,  this sultanate was very large, conquering from Vienna, Armenia, Egypt, Kazakhstan Uzbekistan, and several parts of Ukraine and Russia, very extensive. Because it was so big, they used to often trade spices and ingredients, making Turkish food that we know today is very influenced by the Ottoman era.
Turkuaz exudes a more formal ambiance. Every corner embodies stately majestic atmosphere that it looks grandeur, so when guests come, they will have a wow feeling. Moreover, each corner of Turkuaz has a story from the chandeliers to the ornaments. We also have private rooms to accommodate more private dining events. Different from other places, we have a signal jammer that can be used for very confidential meetings in every meeting room.

The name is Warung Turki Shisha Lounge, and we are known as the best shisha place. The place is also chilly and relaxed, we also offer many bars with cocktail menus. Warung Turki offers home-cooked Turkish food, such as the cooking Sezai's mother brought to Jakarta. Warung Turki is more fun, more trendy, and more easygoing, because Warung Turki is known as a place for entertainment. Later, there will be belly dancers in the near future, so stay tuned. We will hold lots of fun events such as watch party for tennis and football tournaments and others. We want to be known as a place where people gather together.

Our new baby Abang Turki, the concept is to make our nation healthy by selling meat protein at affordable prices so that people can get good nutrition. There are also concepts that we are slowly developing, such as food trucks and bajaj which can be available at certain spots when there are events. For now, we have 1 bajaj and 1 truck. Usually, we participate in certain events such as pop-up markets and bazaars, like a few months ago, we opened for 1 month at the Istiqlal Mosque. If there is no event, this bajaj will stand by in front of Warung Turki, so affordable, with a price of around IDR 25,000 but I guarantee, it's really delicious because we have high-quality meat. The meat is really tender and juicy, the bread and sauce are delectable. This can be made into a franchise either by Abang Turki or in a food truck or bajaj, this is currently being worked on.

Yanti Subianto Zorlu as Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Turkuaz Group – Turkuaz, Warung Turki and Abang Turki

What would you say the biggest lessons were in that first go around?

There are lots of life lessons, not just how you do the operations, that's all technical, that's the easiest part. The lesson most taken is self-awareness, that I can do this and that. When we were in corporate, we carried out according to the company's desk job and SOP, and at the end of the month, we definitely got a salary. Now, we can't do that, instead, we have to pay our staff, but the biggest lesson for me, we are able to push ourselves, we have to have independence and the willingness to learn something that we didn't understand until now. There are so many things we can learn, we never stop learning. So you understand about kitchens, calculate costs, selling prices, legal, and many more.

What do you consider the biggest accomplishment of your career?

Today, many restaurants open and close quickly. My achievement as Chief Marketing Officer is that I can still put Turkuaz up there after 13 years. Turkuaz is a single local brand that we created and nurtured. We have succeeded in putting Turkuaz at the top there by maintaining quality and service. That's what makes me proud, people always believe that when they come to Turkuaz they will definitely get the best quality. Consistency of product and service.

What was the most challenging moment of your career?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to get out of our box. How should we continue to sell products even though we were very limited, starting from home delivery. What we could make in the kitchen we sold online from food to beverages. We had to be more creative in making promotions, so we automatically ran survival mode. Our restaurants were only 25% active, the restaurant only had one section on and it was for cost efficiency. Unfortunately, there were staff that we had to temporarily lay off. 

During that time, we also knew more about hygiene, there were hundreds of pages of protocols that we had to follow and heed. It was very challenging time, especially during the new normal. How did we convince guests to come back to our restaurants? Thank God we passed that.

What were your strategies for keeping up with the work of both running and growing the business?

Number one there must be consistency in food and service. If you want to do big marketing but turns out the guests come here and are not satisfied, it will definitely be difficult. What we want to grab is repeat guests, they come here and they will come again and again. If they only come once, there must be something wrong. We want guests to crave our food and be satisfied with the hospitality we provide. 
On top of that, in marketing, we have to be active on social media, as much as I love conventional marketing, with social media we have to follow developments. That's why we create each way to approach guests. There are not many gimmicks for Turkuaz, just branding. Warung Turki can create interesting promotions such as bundles, happy hours, etc. Moreover, Abang Turki can have more fun, we could make a quiz to attract various groups. 

Overall, we need to keep up with the marketing trends, and of course, a website must also exist, it's like our postal code on the internet.

What would you recommend to restaurant business entrepreneurs or advise them to think about as they’re starting the F&B business?

My piece of advice is to make sure the concept is clear. The restaurant business is so dynamic, any business basically. The business plan must be clear, before starting you have to do your homework first. Nowadays, doing your homework is really easy, the concept and commitment must be clear. Like Turkuaz, which has a clear and strong concept that is still standing today. What is your uniqueness in selling so you can stand up in the crowd, what makes you unique? Having said that, the business plan can develop.

Yanti Subianto Zorlu as Co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Turkuaz Group – Turkuaz, Warung Turki and Abang Turki

What are your top priorities when it comes to managing your restaurant’s day-to-day operations?

The top priority number one you need is to train your staff, your staff is your biggest asset, meaning that humans have the highest assets so we have to be sure of how they serve, cook, and behave properly. Apart from that, make sure you control the quality of the food, such as ingredients, looking for good quality suppliers and purchasing, so that the kitchen team can produce the best quality of food.

How do you keep it professional when you communicating with your husband Chef Owner Sezai Zorlu?

Don't take it to the feelings. Because after all, we can't take things personally. At first, it could be a bit annoying, we are both alphas, but now we both understand. Anyway, take it professionally.

What are your hobbies you do during free time?

I like traveling, especially ancient history such as ancient rocks and historical sites. Don't take me to modern cities, I'd rather study history. That's why when I'm relaxing at home I prefer to watch the History Channel, especially when the programs show about ancient stones and historical sites. We usually have to look for information on the internet and books before we go on a road trip so we can know more before we reach that place.

According to your experience, what are the Middle Eastern restaurant trends to look forward to in future in Jakarta?

In my opinion, not just Middle Eastern restaurants, but restaurants in general. Many people appreciate food and beverages more and are more open to culinary experiences. So there is a market for people looking for and exploring food. That's why, now there are so many restaurants that are booming. There is also influence from abroad, they show something new concepts in Jakarta, whether as entrepreneurs or customers. In the end, restaurants in general will definitely boom even more.

What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?

We want to develop Abang Turki franchise, apart from that we want to focus more on Abang Turki Foundation. We help our staff with their school fees. We also have 10 foster children to help them finish school. Because I'm more focused on marketing now, I will focus on this foundation more. We hope that we can send lots of children to school. Life must be balanced.