INTERVIEW | Keith Seychell: The joy of closing a deal, food quality and karma

Real estate entrepreneur and restaurateur Keith Seychell, owner of Capo Crudo, tells BUSINESS TODAY it’s time to up the quality of service in Malta


You are known as a businessman in the property sector. What led you to open your restaurant Capo Crudo?

My main business is in the property sector but I am also a food lover. For this reason, I eventually decided to open my own restaurant. Capo Crudo strives to be a restaurant which is at a higher level than the typical eatery in Malta, offering food and service which are of very good quality. In this way, the restaurant serves as the public image of my main business.

How is business going in the restaurant sector in Malta?

It’s doing very well.  When it comes to Capo Crudo, we have many regular clients, both locals and foreigners. I’m happy to say that we’ve had the pleasure of welcoming a number of celebrities since we opened in 2017, including The Chainsmokers, Jason Derulo, Il Volo, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, the South Korean boyband BTS, and, just a few days ago, Gianni Morandi.

What would you say is the main factor behind the positive situation in the restaurant sector? And do you believe standards are high?

The economy is doing well, and this has undoubtedly helped the restaurant business. There are many restaurants on the island, and new ones open all the time. But the quality level overall is not so high, although it has definitely improved over the years. The sector needs to continue upgrading, and I hope that new restaurants see Capo Crudo as a model for quality.

Is there anything which inspires you when it comes to fine dining?

One of my biggest inspirations is Pino Cuttaia, chef-patron of Ristorante La Madia in Licata, Sicily, which I think is the best restaurant in the world. Cuttaia is ranked as one of the top chefs globally, and has two Michelin stars to his name. I believe in the potential Sicily has, and Sicilians are the best cooks in my opinion. I visit the island very often, mostly for the food, and I know it inside out.

Would you say it is easy to set up business in Malta?

The situation when it comes to setting up a business could be simplified. The process needs to be facilitated. We should have a more straightforward process to follow, instead of an excessively bureaucratic one. Although, even here, things have improved.

Is it easy to find staff in the catering sector?
It’s very hard to find and keep staff in this sector. I must say, however, that I am now very happy with the current staff I have. In fact, our restaurant and its staff received a raft of rewards in 2018 and 2019 – we won practically all the rewards available in the restaurant sector. Moreover, one of our chefs, Jonathan Vassallo, won the Best Chef award last year, while our restaurant manager Janica Schembri won Best Manager.

What challenges does the sector face?
There are now a large number of restaurants in Malta. If you take Valletta, for instance, there are over 200 restaurants in the capital city. Some small restaurants find it hard to make it and have to close down shortly after they open.

Regarding your wider business ventures – how did you get started in the property sector?

I started out on my own, from nothing. I bought my first property, in terms of business, when I was 17. Subsequently, I started progressing in the sector, going from strength to strength.

Are you still involved in the Metropolis project in Gzira with Jalal Husni Bey? Is it still on?

It is still on. But I should make it clear that this is my business partner Jalal Husni Bey’s project. The project is still in Mr Husni Bey’s mind, but we are waiting to find the right contractor to carry it out. There is so much development work going on that it can be hard to find the contractor which is best suited to deliver your project.

What other business ventures or projects are you involved in?

My core business remains property – the restaurants venture came later. I buy and sell a number of properties, and I’ve recently also become one of the partners for RE/MAX South. Eventually, I plan to expand my role as a landlord. I’ve arrived at a stage where I’m an all-rounder now – I am interested in all types of businesses.

What advice would you give to a person who might just be starting out?

The most important thing is to never give up, and to dream. If I had to look at what drives me; I enjoy setting up and closing a deal, I am positive, and I think being honest and a gentleman are key. Most of all, I strongly believe that what you do unto others will come back to you. I have no hate in me, and this is why I have achieved things. I’m a great believer in karma – I really stick to the concept, and have done so since I was a young boy. I’m also very grateful to my partner Celaine and my children Shana, Sky and Tishai – they give me the courage to keep striving forward, and making sure I provide a good life for them. Moreover, my dad, Nicholas, is someone I trust and can depend on, and he helps take care of different aspects of my businesses.

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