Top restauranteur and gastronomy innovator Daria Zhukova was born on May 01, 1990 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. An only child, Daria’s desire for communication was so strong that at age 5 she learned English and German. Her first artistic expression began as a professional dancer; it took her to compete across Europe. She attended Saint Petersburg State University for engineering and economics, studying marketing and brand management, she graduated in 2012.
Two years later, Daria opened her successful, trendy restaurant, WAVE, which hit the St. Petersburg restaurant scene like a hammer, garnering X stars, top reviews in the competitive St. Petersburg market.
She has been able to maintain her noteworthy service and quality in a town where that is considered highly unusual. Sought after for her expert advice and embraced by the local restaurant community, Daria held fast to her business principles of treating both customers and her staff well, and this consistency has brought her the rewards of success and positive press. Who could have predicted this? Not even Daria herself. Her main goal when graduating was to be “an independent self-made woman.” Her preparation for this event was a mix of marketing and management jobs that she took on while still in school, including sales for Russia’s largest bread factory “Hlebniy Dom” [a part of the largest corporation in the Finish food industry, “Fazer”] and as a Marketing Specialist for Bentley Saint Petersburg (the official Bentley Motors Dealership in Saint Petersburg, Russia). Independence was calling Daria, who laid the foundation for her hospitality career with event-management courses before opening D.Event Company in 2013 providing service for unique private and corporate events. With that enthusiasm for service and creating a unique environment, in 2014 Daria and her husband Alex Zhukov opened WAVE Burgers and More.
The goal was to bring a fresh approach to the ‘stuffy’ Russian food scene. Daria created a new niche of organic craft (gourmet) burgers and other organic dishes. With her husband, she personally created every recipe. They made sure they were original. Daria’s WAVE Burgers offered “Black Burgers” grilled organic beef with homemade black buns [made with squid ink, black cheese, and black sauce], burgers of exclusive Wagyu Beef, WAVE’S famous, cake-sized “Biggest Burger in the City”, Poke and other interesting food experiences came from their extensive travels. It was an instant hit. Beginning in 2014, WAVE continues to be one of the most successful and best burger restaurant in Russia. The service is just as often noted as the delicious food, and that is what keeps customers returning.
In 2014 WAVE was voted the” best burger restaurant” by Time Out, in 2015 WAVE got the Certificate of Quality by Yell, in 2016 – 2018 WAVE received the Certificate of Excellence by TripAdvisor. WAVE has a high rating on Google, Foursquare, etc. Travelers from around the world have put WAVE on their “must visit” list for St. Petersburg.
The natural expansion for a first US location of WAVE is California. The casual lifestyle, high net income, and noted desirability for, and appreciation of organic and novelty food is a perfect equation for WAVE. Daria is an expert in the creation of building restaurants. Through her ongoing participation in the Federation of Restaurateurs and Hoteliers in Russia, she has become an expert who helps new entrepreneurs find their way and create interesting projects in the restaurant business. She makes LIVE video chats and shares her experiences on social nets including Instagram, Facebook and recently started a YouTube channel to inspire people to follow their dreams and never give up. Daria Zhukova is the new breed of restaurateur /entrepreneur that believes fairness for employees results in awesome food and service for customers.
Hey Daria, can you introduce yourselves to us?
My name is Daria. I’m entrepreneur and restauranteur, I was born in Saint P, Russia where I lived and last 5 years built business together with my husband Alex but a little bit less than 2 years ago we moved to Southern California to develop our company Wave here as well. It was one of our biggest dreams.
As a restauranteur, can you take us through your journey to where you are now with Wave Burgers?
I’ll say so “we’re not struggling, we’re simply mid conquer” because of the downhill economic situation in Russia. Wave is a gourmet burger restaurant, it’s a niche product. We use all-natural high-quality ingredients and always try to keep a decent price but, unfortunately, people go out rarely. So now we’re trying to figure out what to do. Moreover, we’re in process of opening our place in Southern California.
What is a day in the life of you like?
I make a to-do list for every week. I control business in Saint Petersburg and SoCal so I’m lucky that there is a time difference (it’s +10 hours in Saint P). My day is like:
wake up at 7 am, workout, breakfast, checking emails and making calls to Russia, respond to guests reviews, around 12 pm we start to do all the things about our project in California so it’s meetings, creating strategies and etc., I usually try to take a good shots for my Instagram and prepare a post, not long time ago Alex and me started our Wave-YouTube channel so we take a video. For now, it’s just in Russian but soon we’ll start one more in English to show our way to a restaurant in SoCal. To be honest, I always think or speak about business and me always with my phone. Usually, I go to bed before 12 am but last time I’m struggling with anxiety and insomnia. Alex and I do 1 day-off in a week when we don’t speak about business stuff and just try to relax.
How did you launch Wave Burgers?
Alex and I wished to have a common project since we married on August 8, 2011. We discussed a lot about what it can be. Moreover, we traveled to other countries where we learned how to surf, saw other culture, traditions, cuisines. Every time we came back home we wanted to find a place which would remind us about our travels, where would be a cozy and friendly atmosphere, tasty food and etc. Alex tried to find his own perfect burger and I tried to find a joint for vegans***. One day we just decided to create a place where we would be able to share with people our own recipes, the point of view, where we would be able to show what means a “perfect joint” for us. On May 23, 2014, we opened Wave using our own funds. We made and still making every recipe ourselves – buns, sauces, patties, everything. The first location was small (about 30 seats), it was in surf style. We served just 4 burgers – Classic Wagyu Burger, Chicken Burger, Kamchatka Burger (with crab cake and mango based sauce on a special black bun), Vegan Burger; couple salads; desserts; homemade lemonades; coffee/tea. Our team was just 2 of us, accountant, 1 cook and 1 dishwasher/cleaner. Gradually Wave grew up – we added beer and hard cider, more unique burgers (Black Wagyu Burger with homemade black cheese and black sauce on an artisan black bun; our famous 3 kg / 6.6 lb Killer Size Burger and others. Check-in Instagram #wave_burgers #wave_poke #killersizeburgerbywave ) and other dishes, we hired more employees. So in August 2017, we moved into a bigger space.
I started my vegetarian diet in 2012. It was vegetarian because I thought that I couldn’t live without cheese, especially brie. Later I stopped to eat cheese as well. I’m vegan also I don’t eat sugar, salt, gluten, oils. For my body and health, it’s perfect. But I love to cook for people and feed people. I believe that everybody should listen to own body. Remember that neither “being vegan” nor “being omnivorous” not equal “being healthy”. Choose organic, all-natural, high-quality ingredients. Never compare yourself to others. Love yourself! Be active, healthy and positive.
Can you tell us what is the concept behind Wave Burgers?
It’s a very controversial concept but in a good way. Let me explain myself. I said controversial because the original idea behind Wave was grounded simplicity in the interior and in basic (classic) combination of ingredients in dishes but with super high quality.
Can you tell us how you are aiming to bring in the food industry?
I didn’t quite get a question but if you mean “what” then we’re aiming to bring fine casual format for burgers.
Who does the team involve behind you at Wave Burgers?
Me and Alex, our accountant, cooks, bartenders/waiters.
As you continue to grow, what important factors did you consider when looking at the scalability of your business model?
So since we’re in a transitional moment for our business we’re trying to adjust our model for a new and global market.
Where can you see your self within the next 3-5 years?
I have goals and plan how to achieve them but sometimes everything can change after 2 steps. Life is unpredictable and it’s great. I prefer to live here and now, enjoy the moment.
How are you planning to expand Wave Burgers?
For now, we’re concentrating on the Californian market. Here we’ll introduce the same recipes but another concept.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally?
Sometimes it’s hard for me to delegate something to other people especially when I know that they’ll make it not in a perfect way. I’m like a control freak, always try to do everything myself. But I have to trust people. Moreover, I’m responsible for other people and the decisions which they make.
Have you ever had any other mentor? If so how has this benefitted you to grow?
No. Sometimes we wished to have one. But I’m happy that we were fully responsible for every decision, every failure and etc. We learned and still learning from our own experience.
What outlets do use to market Wave Burgers?
Which methods are you using to build your own support network?
It’s natural. I don’t have any special methods, to be honest.
What do you believe are the common misconceptions about being an entrepreneur?
I guess many people think that entrepreneurs have a lot of spare time and belong to themselves. But in reality, especially in small business entrepreneurs are got owned by their business. And I suggest to people that think about starting their own project to try their best not to become a mental slave of your own business.
What would you like to see changed for millennials in business?
I want that millennials business has meaning and purpose, that people want to learn and develop. And that millennials business fits their life.
What is the best piece of advice you have received to date?
You always should make things easier. No matter how enormous and unsolvable your problems seem to be it’s only your perception on it. Every drama in your life is a unique experience that helps your growing.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
No matter how good your team is, your business is a reflection of yours. You should trust people but you have to be always ready that someone can let you down at the most challenging time.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
We work together with my husband Alex. Wave isn’t just a business for us, it’s our lifestyle. Fortunately, we don’t have any serious problems in balance of work and personal life.
The highlight of your career so far?
It’s hard to say, I think I’m still working hard to achieve the highlight of my career in my eyes.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
Guests positive feedbacks because it’s the mark of my work. Also, I like the moment when you understand that your dream is your reality now.
What barriers have you faced whilst building Wave Burgers?
I can’t say that we faced any barriers. Every hard situation we considered as an inalienable part of the business process or as a challenge that we should go through. It was and still like an adventure.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
I don’t have any idols. There are a lot of great persons whose stories are inspiring. But I prefer to create my own story and compare “me today” with “me yesterday”.
How would you say you are intending to use your voice to educate others in the world of the food industry?
I think everybody should create own story and shouldn’t compare yourself with others but I’m pretty open about my way on Instagram/Facebook also I’m planning to start YouTube channel in English to show the process of an opening restaurant in California. I’m still building Wave and achieving my goals. I never hide my as ups as downs.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
I like to read books by other entrepreneurs where they share their way to success. For example, Richard Branson is very inspiring. Also, I recommend reading ‘Follow Your Heart’ by Australian psychologist and illustrator Andrew Matthews. Now I’m listening to a book by John Robbins ‘The Food Revolution: how your diet can save your life and our world.’ After it, I’m planning to read or to listen to Peter Thiel ‘Zero To One.’
What does your Podcast playlist look like?
I don’t have any.
How do you measure your own terms of success?
Success is a moment of pure happiness, a moment of your dreams come true, a moment of feeling proud of yourself, a moment of seeing that every drama in your journey was helpful for your personal growth.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
It means always choose your own way, do what makes you happy, follow your dreams taking all the custody, don’t compare yourself with others, never give up, work hard to be the best version of yourself.
Lastly, what is next for you and Wave Burgers?
Conquer the market of California and other States. Fingers Crossed.
Instagram: @dariazhukovaofficial @wave_burgers