Interview with Alex van Damme, owner of Tablefree Kft.
A strategic visionary businessman, living in Budapest for more than 10 years now, working now on changing an important industry segment. Namely: how to choose and connect restaurants. Who is Alex van Damme?
Alex van Damme is the owner of Tablefree Kft., a leading multilingual platform for restaurants. In this platform automated reservation for local and international users are integrated. He was travelling and living in several countries – however now lives in Hungary. Alex is married and has 2 sons. He was telling about his experiences and about “what is why” in his activities.
- Where are you from?
I was born in Antwerp, Belgium.
- When did you arrive to Hungary and what brought you here?
I came for the first time to Hungary in 1998, while I was living in Vienna. The reason was work related.
- Have you ever been an expatriate elsewhere?
Yes, I’ve lived in several countries like Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Poland and now Hungary.
- Have you arrived originally to be an expatreneur or this was not your No. 1 priority?
I came here while working for a firm, so the original set up was not to start my own company. That evolved as I was spending time here and saw opportunities.
- As of business: what is your business field? Why did you choose this business?
The scope of our activities can be described as a consulting activity. We provide tools on all levels of business activities be it sales, marketing, software, management, event organizing and training for the horeca industry with the main focus on restaurants.
- What was the most difficult to solve when you started your company in Hungary?
The unbelievable amount of paper work, and the lack of automated services!
- How did you find a solution?
Have an experienced person in that field assist you, and in the course learn a lot about these procedures myself.
- What are today’s challenges?
The same as at any moment when you are responsible for your own business. Be on top of your game, look at the market behaviour, the trends, and anticipate on what the future can/will bring and be ready for it.
- How many employees do you work with?
I currently have 4 full time employees, and we’ll expand in the next months. We also have contracts with freelancers.
- What surprised you the most about Hungary?
The natural scepticism that people have towards their own, but also a high level of loyalty once a relation is established.
- What is your favourite Hungarian food?
- What about Hungarian wines? Do you have a favourite?
Hungary has fantastic wines, and it is a pitty that this is not commercialized more internationally. I am a big fan of Merlot wines, as well as Cabernet Sauvignon.
- What is your favourite Hungarian word?
There are so many bizarr, but nice sounding words,… but one I like because of the sound is ‘egyenese’, which means ‘straight ahead’, no? I am sure I didn’t write it correctly!
- What do you miss most from home?
Friends and family (but thank God for modern technology) and some specific food items.
- What’s your favourite thing about being an expat in Hungary?
The diversity that you encounter every day, the people you meet and the life experiences that come automatically with being an expat. There is a big difference in being an expat working for a multinational and go to a country for a set period of time, or running your own business.
- What would you do different now than in the beginning regarding your business or career?
Maybe look differently at the risks that come with being an expat entrepreneur.
- What are your hobbies?
Being with friends, wining and dining, and of course act as a taxi driver for the kids during the weekends!
- Buda or Pest?
Buda for living, Pest for working. As usually is said.
- What is your personal credo, motto or quote?
Try to be nice to each other!
- Do you have or plan to start any CSR activities?
Some of the solutions we provide for our partners are CSR related, and next to that I also try and be not only Social and Environmentally responsible but also be active in some charitable causes.
- If you could go back in time to start your business in Hungary from the beginning, do you see the sense to work with a business management agency like Business Management Hungary?
Back in the day those services or activities were non existing here in Hungary, so that’s hard to say, but it is clear that it could have made certain things easier.
Business Management Hungary