6 years ago, Wim Ballieu opened the first Balls & Glory store in Ghent.
The award-winning concept is as simple as it is clever: a restaurant & shop concept based on the pearl of Belgian slow food: filled meatballs. These fast-casual restaurants go back to the basics of delicious and healthy cooking and only use meat they farm themselves. The oven-baked balls, which are pork, beef, chicken or vegetarian, are rolled by hand, filled with a liquid filling and served with the classic stoemp (mash) or an “Ottolenghi-style salad”. In each of our 5 beautiful stores, the urban atmosphere with free water and fruit on the tables makes the mouths of young and old water.
An independent operator in each one of our stores can help us to realise our dream: a Belgian restaurant in New York by 2025. Sustainable growth is teamwork, and that is one of our strengths ….
GHENT – The hospital & food world is quickly changing: stricter regulations, conscious customers and large competition. Balls & Glory is ready for the future: we are a dish-of-the-day restaurant 2.0, a proud winner of the golden palm for the Europe’s most innovative restaurant concept.
The future is one of co-creation, and creating win-win situations together. It is also how Balls & Glory wants to grow, with an independent entrepreneur in each location. At the moment, the stores in Ghent and Leuven are operated by independent owners. But in the long term, founder Wim Baillieu is looking for strong partnerships for all Balls & Glory stores, in particular in Brussels, Antwerp and Liege.
We recently went to Leuven and to Ghent to ask the owners some questions. The most important subjects were: why did they select Balls & Glory as a food concept, and what are its advantages? LET’S FIND OUT!
Ruben, the man from Gent, has known Wim since they went out drinking together in Ghent’s bars and clubs. He was there when Wim launched his first ideas about a filled meatball (What’s in a name). So it is someone he knows like the back of his hand … 2 years ago, Lieven was involved in opening our store in Leuven. The city has a specific target group with associated challenges.
Hi Ruben and Lieven, let’s cut straight to the chase: your own Balls & Glory! What made you do this?
Ruben: “I have known Wim for years and was immediately grabbed by this story … As someone born and raised in Ghent, he asked me to take the reins here. We have been working on this for five years now!
Lieven: “I have had a passion for the hospitality industry since I was very young. But then after working really hard in a restaurant for a few years I felt a little lost, so decided to slow down a bit. I started working at Balls & Glory Leuven and it suited me down to the ground. After a year I bought myself it, and I haven’t regretted doing that since.”
If I am not wrong, you are both from the places where the Balls & Glory stores are located?
Lieven: “I’m actually from Hasselt but my business partner Vincent is Leuven through and through.”
Ruben: “I would label myself as a genuine Ghent man, yes. I love my city and I think that that’s important if you want to run a Balls & Glory. You must know the city, know what potential locations there are, and can mobilise people for your business. You’re also familiar with what events take place in the city.”
Lieven: “Indeed, local entrepreneurship is very important I think!”
You said it yourself Lieven: local entrepreneurship is very important. What else?
Lieven: “I believe that everything hinges on your passion for hospitality…wanting to make people happy every day with what you do”.
Ruben: “Every day… exactly! You need to have the type of character that can demand the best of yourself and your team.”
Lieven: “You are a real entrepreneur, and that includes dealing with figures. So besides excellence in the store you need to have you back office in order. I am meticulous when it comes to doing orders, staff timetabling, etc.”
So running a business requires a focus on many different things. How do you feel supported?
Ruben: “I think it’s first and foremost in word and deed. We work with a sort of Balls & Glory service centre. When I have questions I can give Wim or Stephanie a call. This can be about finance, organisational matters or even food and drink. Basically everything to do with restaurants!”
Lieven: “I’m perhaps one of the few young people who’s not very interested in social media (laughs). At Balls & Glory all marketing is done for us. Managing social media, instore and external communication, PR and so on. It goes without saying that a new book about balls does wonders for your business’ name recognition!”
Ruben: ”For me, it’s very important that we can focus on what we do best: making people happy. We are supported in everything to do with products and food. So Wim, besides working on a long-term vision and on innovation, is always looking to improve our meatballs and fillings. In addition, for each dish there are technical factsheets available on our central platform, which is handy! All of this ensures a better and uniform quality so we can really make a difference…”
Lieven: ”I said earlier how important everything about figures and orders is for me. By working with Balls & Glory, you can benefit from group deals with partners such as our farmer and designers…. We form a tight-knit group with the other shops. Every month, we meet to discuss problems and to come up with the best solutions together.”
Lieven, you’ve already mentioned about Vincent in your team. How important is a good team in a Balls & Glory restaurant?
Lieven: ”Exceptionally important … At Balls we always say that the GLORY must come from the team! So we are supported in coaching. Someone can only really be trusted if they are fully immersed in the story. And that is Balls & Glory, no regular restaurant concept but a real story…”
Ruben: ”It’s often very busy in Ghent, so I can’t manage without a strong, established team. I’ve learned that a Balls & Glory is an ideal place to run as a couple. Enough work to share but also enough time for your private lives!” (laughs).
An innovative hospitality business in a safe climate and with the necessary support: we have the balls, you make the glory.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you think you’ve got the balls to work with us to make a difference.