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Part 2: Who are we? Meet our founders, Meagan & Simon

ALBA's founders, Meagan & Simon, blend product management backgrounds with gastronomy, offering a fresh perspective. They prioritize adaptability, iteration, and alignment with a broader vision, akin

With backgrounds in product and software management, on first glance, Alba’s founders Meagan & Simon might not be the most obvious restaurateurs. But it’s for this reason that they have the ability to offer something a little different. So who are they, and what do they stand for?

In the second of this two-part series, we catch up with Meagen and Simon to learn more about them as people, hear their advice for young entrepreneurs, and if they ever get sick of pizza. 

How did you meet?

Simon: We’re both from Basel, and went to the same Hospitality Management School. We both had restaurant experience too; Meagen in more fast-paced environments, while I worked more in fine dining restaurants. At the beginning we didn't really like each other! [laughing], but we were forced to work together because we were hired by the same company. During our corporate adventure in product design we realized we were actually on the same page about many things, especially what makes a great food concept.

Having worked with so many different brands and venues, what have you learned about the way restaurants are run?

Meagen: We saw so many restaurateurs that were chaotic; they're the kind that give the hospitality industry this bad burnout reputation. It’s something we both wanted to challenge – to say no, it's possible to be different, if you have a clear strategy and goals, and you don't get dragged down in the day-to-day business. One thing we decided to do was bridge our product mindset from working at Metro with hospitality: to always be adapting, iterating, and really measuring what's working and what isn’t.

Simon: It’s also part of what it means to be working within a sustainable food ecosystem. It means you're taking care of your employees, and of yourself. To agree with Meagan, you don't have to be burned out to run a hospitality venue.

What advantages do your backgrounds in product management bring to gastronomy?

Meagan: We decided to treat our restaurant as a product itself, in that the product is never ‘finished’. Compared to the philosophy of many restaurants, where they’ve had the same classic menu and management style for years. They often think, why change? Why would we adapt? But we’re the opposite; we like to work agile and in cycles. We’re always thinking, what do we want to create next? How can we improve? Then we’ll have a mini retrospective with the team, and look at what brought positive change (or didn’t), and look at what we need to keep iterating.

Experimentation in product management and pizza making both involve iterative testing and refinement to achieve desired outcomes. Whether adjusting variables in product features or dough recipes, aligning with a broader vision or goal is essential. Incorporating feedback and regularly reviewing outcomes are integral parts of the process. Ultimately, through experimentation, both disciplines strive for continuous improvement and innovation in pursuit of excellence.

How would you describe each other in three words?

Meagen: I would describe Simon as passionate, empathetic, and helping.

Simon: Meagen is incredibly resilient, driven, and I would also say empathetic, but she shows it in a different way [both laughing].

Which is your favorite alba pizza?

Simon: That’s so difficult because it changes. I had this phase where I was drawn to more experimental and seasonal pizzas. But at the moment I’m into classic ones; a good margarita in its purest form. The sweetness of the tomato, the fattiness of the raw milk mozzarella, and the sourdough…it’s super nice.

Meagen: I'll say Marinara. Again, you have the quality of the tomato sauce that shines through the sourdough. We eat a lot of pizza, right? So at the end of the day, I'm very grateful that we have a marinara that is so light.

Do you ever get sick of pizza? 

Meagen: No, never! We still enjoy every bite we take, you can’t get tired of it. But that's only because of the balance our sourdough pizza has, you don't feel heavy and full afterwards. 

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

Meagen: It’s a summer day. I would grab a coffee and some fruit from the market, and walk to one of the beautiful lake or river spots and sit reading and enjoy the sun. Then on the way home, I’d grab an ice cream.

Simon: I’d say probably the same. I really enjoy the rich bathing culture we have in Switzerland, it’s very cool. Especially in Zurich. There’d be ice cream and wine involved. I’m also really into nice cocktails at the moment, like a nice americano with really good quality vermouth.

You’re at home and friends are coming over, what are you cooking?

Meagen: Depends on the seasons. In the summer, it would probably be pasta alla Norma. And then in the winter, I lean more towards rice dishes, soups, and stews, like a Korean stew.

Simon: Spaghetti puttanesca for sure. Also, one of my favorites at the moment is Meatballs; it gives you a lot of flexibility on the ingredients. If I would do something seasonal I would always do a risotto, but if it’s a quick bite, I’d go for puttanesca or meatballs.

One piece of advice for young eager entrepreneurs?

Simon: Maximize the likelihood that you're going to be successful. Hospitality doesn’t have the biggest margins, and if you do something which is too complex, eventually you’ll burn out: either you or the business. People put too much pressure on finding something that reinvents the wheel, but this gets really tough. Choose one dish or one direction, and really focus on that.

Meagan: It's a mix of staying resilient and not giving up, but then also, never assume you know better. Just because it's your product and your baby, in the end it's for your guests, right?

Simon: Totally. Also, definitely put an equal amount of effort into the employee experience as well as the customer experience. Sometimes that can be forgotten, but at the end of the day, your employees are everything.