How I Got Here: Tim Vasilakis

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

How I Got Here with Tim Vasilakis founder and CEO of Greek street food player The Athenian

Related tags The Athenian Greek cuisine Street food restaurant

The founder and CEO of Greek street food player The Athenian on building his business, his love of Leon, and why delivery kitchens need to have collection hubs for customers.

Why restaurants?
I never thought I would own restaurants. Around 2013 I had an epiphany. I wanted to bring Greek food as it’s made back home in Athens to the UK. Living in London and going around street food markets every weekend, Greek food and especially gyros was nowhere to be found. No representation at all. So I thought I’d give it a go. And here we are seven years later, multiple sites around the UK, two awards and a plan to launch in two new territories outside of the UK later this year.

Tell us something you wish you had been told at the start of your career?
How much work it would have been. And I think if I had truly known, maybe I wouldn’t have done it. But that is the beauty of being completely unaware when you throw yourself 300% at something new. And when you’re in it you just go with it. You only realise how much you worked when you pause for a minute, which for me it took three years to do that.

What’s your favourite restaurant or group of restaurants (besides your own)?
Leon have done an excellent job at making healthy, tasty food accessible to everyone. 

What motivates you?
Complete freedom to be creative. 

What keeps you up at night?
After a year and a half of a global pandemic that’s turned everyone’s lives upside down, not much.

Which colleague, mentor or employer has had the biggest influence on your approach to the restaurant business?
My business coach and advisor, who I’ve learned a lot from.

Coffee or tea?
Iced coffee on a hot summer’s day. 

How do you let off steam?
By doing calisthenics with my rings hanging off a tree.

What’s your signature dish to cook at home?
Greek lentil soup. Healthy, plant-based and rich in nutrients.

What’s the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
Get an Australian cockatoo tattooed on my calf.

Favourite holiday destination?
The Cyclades, Greece - obviously.

Best business decision?
To be fearless. 

Worst business decision?
We try to learn from everything we do. New openings come with their own risks. The most important thing is for us to learn and become better at what we do.

What piece of advice would you give to those looking to climb the rungs in the business?
To be fearless and know their 'why'. Every business in order to survive and thrive needs to have a reason why they exist, and making a profit should never be the reason.

If you could change one thing about the restaurant industry today, what would it be?
To turn delivery kitchens into collection hubs for customers. That way the lines between traditional bricks and mortar and the new digital restaurants would blur and it would maybe over time make the high street fast food restaurant a thing of the past. In some markets that’s already available and happening.


Born in Athens, Vasilakis studied Music in Edinburgh and spent more than five years working as a sound engineer and editor for blockbuster video games. He launched The Athenian in 2014. The group currently operates a small selection of restaurant based primarily in London, and has delivery kitchen locations across the UK. Last year, The Athenian announced plans for international expansion​, and also begun laying the groundwork to double the size of its UK estate.

Related topics QSR & Street Food

Related news

Follow us

Hospitality Guides

View more