Monday, 13 July 2020

Can Good Communication Save The Season? Boškinac on Pag Busier Than In 2019

July 13, 2020 - Marc Rowlands interviews Boris Šuljić, owner of Boškinac on Pag, a Michelin-starred restaurant, to try and discover the secret to success in the challenging summer of 2020

Among the neverending doom and gloom of this year, a ray of sunshine through the clouds. At Boškinac on Pag, the restaurant, hotel and winery, business is booming. With better numbers than at this point in 2019, is it possible the luxury sector is suffering less this season from COVID-19? And what is the secret to Boškinac's success so far in 2020?

“I am very satisfied with this year's business,” Boškinac owner Boris Šuljić told TCN with a smile and a carefree tone to his voice. “It's definitely busier than last year. Some days are better than others but, generally, more people are coming.”

An island within an island. Pag's Boškinac is located within a lush green and neighbourless section of the island's interior © Boškinac

In a year where, depending on who you believe and how you extrapolate the info, tourism in Croatia is down by at least 50%, people sit comfortably isolated on Boškinac's large terrace. There, they take in the view of the olive trees and Boškinac's vineyards, with not a neighbour in sight. With special measures in place, seats in their Michelin-starred fine dining restaurant are similarly full. But just where are these guests coming from?

“Most of them this year have been from Croatia and Slovenia,” says Šuljić, not unsurprised. “I'd say the next largest group is foreign nationals, ex-pats, who now live in Croatia. But, also we've had quite a few from Germany, Austria, and Belgium. It's not so difficult for us to get busy. We are a relatively small hotel - 11 rooms, 55 seats in the fine dining restaurant, and 40 seats in our more informal tavern.”

Boris Šuljić welcoming guests to Boškinac with a glass of their own-made wine in summer 2019 © Fabio Šimićev

Šuljić estimates that in total around 60% of 2020's guests have come from Croatia, 40% from other countries, a distinct change in the usual demographic they receive. Awarded a Michelin star in February of 2020, the hotel and restaurant have earned a reputation internationally for high-quality food, wines, service, and an experience much more unhurried and relaxing than that found in many places on the popular island. So, has he dropped his prices to encourage this year's draw?

“No, not at all” Šuljić tells us, “our prices remained normal. We are not so expensive like some other 4 or 5-star hotels in Dubrovnik, Rovinj, or Split. The average room price is around €200. Until 15 July, we arranged some special packages with the room and fine dining. We kept the food at the same price but offered the rooms a little cheaper in combination. It was successful. It seemed to attract people who'd heard of the hotel and restaurant, who maybe decided that right now was the best time to come and look. It's not so far to come here to check us out when you only have to travel from Split or Istria, even Zagreb, which is where many of these guests have been coming from. They stayed for one or two nights and enjoyed our Michelin-starred restaurant.”

The flair with which Boškinac on Pag use their fresh, locally-sourced and premium ingredients earned them a Michelin star earlier in 2020 © Boškinac

Always keeping on top of developments in Croatia's gastro scene (you can stay updated on our Gourmet pages), one of TCN's most recent reports from Boškinac noted the venue's fluctuating success of the 2019 season. The summer's unusually variable weather was considered as perhaps one factor in the lack of footfall. With the sun shining reliably on Pag this summer, could it be that visitors care more about the weather than they do about Coronavirus? Is sun-seeking really a greater deciding factor for those looking at Croatia holidays than the ever-updating COVID-19 situation? Šuljić thinks not.

“I definitely think we're busier this year because of the Michelin star,” he says. “People seem to really recognise this international sign of quality. We got a lot of attention because of this. I think it is also because of our communication. We capitalised on the attention and we have been sending out very positive messages. We have every reason to be optimistic and it is this optimistic message we have been sending out; we are here, we are a small place, isolated, we have no neighbours, with allocations for relatively few people, but with lots of room and air and enough terrace for everyone. This is not the usual kind of busy hotel that's packed with people. We are very passionate about our food and our hotel experience. Ours is a business that concentrates on quality, not quantity.”

A platter of distinctly Dalmatian delights, an example of the food on offer at Boškinac on Pag's less-formal tavern restaurant © Boškinac on Pag

Though Šuljić's international recognition, unique premises and isolated location undoubtedly offer an advantage in attracting high-end clientele, could other Croatian businesses learn something from the clear and optimistic communication Boškinac has been sending out since the season's start? Well, it's an option to all but, since opening in 200, Boškinac's message and communications have been of premium importance to the business.

“We were very ambitious as soon as we opened, especially with our food,” remembers Šuljić. “But, at that time, this kind of fine dining experience was not so much recognised in Croatia. It was a very high cuisine for the time. People didn't understand what we were trying to do. Slowly we grew with our guests. It was a journey we made together. It was a gradual process. On our part, a mixture of good social media communication, some PR and word-of-mouth recommendations from previous guests was what worked best.”

Spectacular presentation, one of the many wow factors attracting curious visitors to Boškinac on Pag © Boškinac on Pag

Of course, it's too early to tell if Boškinac will maintain its story of success through summer 2020. Šuljić is aware of this. And, even though it is even more difficult to predict the rest of the season than in any other year, he remains decidedly unworried because of their experiences so far.

“It is really interesting,” he says, when asked about future bookings for this summer, “I've never known anything like it. We have so far not had any bookings further than three or four weeks in advance. It's much more week to week. For instance, right now we have zero bookings for August. Usually, I would be concerned. But, it was the same one month ago and now we are almost full. All of the bookings are last minute. People are making their decisions based on the status and the quality of the information available. They check the news and the websites for advice, make a decision and then off they go.”

© Boškinac on Pag

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Saturday, 20 June 2020

Six Split-Dalmatia County Restaurants Receive Michelin Recommendation

June 20, 2020 - Split restaurants Kadena, Zoi, Zrno Soli, Dvor, Konoba Trs in Trogir and Konoba Jeny in Tucepi have received a Michelin recommendation, while Konoba Trs and Solta Island's Konoba Škoj received the Michelin label Bib Gourmand. 

Slobodna Dalmacija reports that a total of 70 restaurants from all over Croatia are included in the Michelin guide for 2020, which has enriched the Croatian gastro scene with seven new local restaurants bearing the Michelin recommendation.

"Congratulations to all the restaurants from Split-Dalmatia County that deserved the prestigious Michelin awards. We are proud that top Croatian restaurants are our long-term partners and that with their skills and dedication to the top experience of their visitors, they have earned a place in the Michelin guide.

The quality of Croatian restaurants is confirmed year by year by Michelin awards, and we at METRO are extremely glad that the cooperation with the Michelin guide allows us to be a part of the success of top Croatian restaurants in this way as well.

In the current circumstances, when caterers face business challenges, Michelin awards can contribute to positioning Croatian restaurants on the gastronomic map of excellence and that is why I am glad that METRO can further support the promotion of Croatian gastronomy in this way," said Ivana Verunica, director of METRO center in Split.

METRO is a longtime partner of the Michelin guide, which is an international reference for fine-dining and recommends more than 30,000 restaurants in 30 countries.

Split's Konoba Fetivi is also included in the Michelin Guide for 2020, and was first included in the list back in 2018. 

You can see the list of all Croatian restaurants included in the Michelin guide for 2020 HERE.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Croatian Restaurants Receive Michelin Awards in Zagreb

METRO Cash & Carry and the Croatian National Tourist Board, partners of Michelin Croatia, awarded Michelin awards to Croatian restaurants within the R'n'B Weekend festival in Zagreb. This was the first time Zagreb hosted this festival, reports Novi List on May 25, 2019. 

Croatia’s Michelin-starred restaurants this year include Monte from Rovinj, Pelegrini from Šibenik, 360º from Dubrovnik, and Draga di Lovrana from Lovran and Noel from Zagreb, who for the first time was awarded this prestigious recognition.

The Michelin Guide for 2019 includes 63 restaurants from all over Croatia, and the award ceremony brought together the best Croatian restaurants and their chefs who celebrated their success with METRO.

"We are delighted that Zagreb is the host of the Michelin awards for the first time, one of the most prestigious culinary awards in the world. METRO is a long-time global partner of the Michelin Guide and a partner of Michelin Croatia since 2017. With more than 100 years of experience selecting restaurants, the Michelin Guide today is an international reference for fine dining. This partnership confirms our desire to be the preferred partner of the HoReCa sector through the professional support it deserves. We will continue to work with our HoReCa partners to develop together and further enhance the quality of Croatian gastronomy through the offer of international and local foods. As restaurants want to create their menus using locally produced ingredients, we focus on developing our offer in cooperation with Croatian producers,” said Thierry Guillon-Verne, Chairman of the Board of METRO Cash & Carry in Croatia.

Through continuous development of innovative product assortment and services, METRO wants to support the hospitality sector so that restaurants can offer their guests high-quality products, strengthen their competitiveness, and develop a top gastronomic offer in Croatia.

The list of all Croatian restaurants listed in the Michelin Guide for 2019 can be found here.

To read more about lifestyle in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Croatia Receives Two New Michelin Stars!

Croatia now boasts five restaurants with Michelin stars!

Monday, 4 February 2019

Zagreb and Dubrovnik Added to Michelin Guide Main Cities of Europe 2019

Zagreb and Dubrovnik, Croatia's foodie hubs, have been added to the Michelin Guide Main Cities of Europe for 2019. 

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Sailing in Croatia: Michelin Guide to Croatia’s Coastal Restaurants

On March 1st 2018, the Michelin Guide released their 2018 edition and the Croatian gastronomy scene has a lot to be excited about. Michelin awarded three restaurants a star and recommended 59 others; unsurprisingly, a lot of these restaurants are along the coast, so we have created a ‘Michelin Guide to Croatia’s Coastal Restaurants.’