Bergerac Bistro, an authentic French restaurant in Portland’s Woodstock neighborhood, opened in 2015 and is owned by Gisella and her husband, Joris.
Gisella describes herself as a foodie. “I’ve been in the food industry most of my working career and grew up with parents in the hotel and restaurant industry too. I like nothing more than discussing food, restaurants and food news!”
She and her husband moved to Portland from London four years ago. They run the restaurant together while also raising two young children
Gisella knew she wanted to open a food restaurant, and spent the first two years learning about American trends and the area’s local suppliers. Bergerac opened in 2015. “French restaurants are often seen as higher end, and we wanted to showcase French food that is down to earth and authentic. Our focus is on the South West of France, known for duck confit, foie gras and wine. We are the only restaurant in Portland focused on this particular region of France and its an area rich in food history and culture,” she explains.
She looks up to her dad for his calm and approach to building business. Gisella says she has learned a lot over the years. She says “I worked for my parents family business in London, three cafes with outside catering, for several years and honed my management style while working there.”
Gisella’s biggest struggle is one nearly every MOB can relate to – finding a work and life balance. “We opened Bergerac the same month we had our second child and it was long hours and sleepless night for the first year,” she explains.
She also says finding the balance and confidence to ride out busier and slower weeks has also taken time to develop. “I tended to stress when there were changes in staff or quieter weeks and have learned this year to see the business in a longer term way versus day to day.”
She and her husband also have the added challenge of running a business together. “Dividing up who does what in a husband wife partnership is something we sometimes still struggle with. but we are getting much better at trusting the other person to get their job done with constantly checking in!"
She advises new business owners to reach out to other business owners – especially those in the business model you are considering. “Don't be afraid to ask them what they would have done differently or what they wished they had known when they first opened. Most people are happy to help as long the business you want to open isn’t going to be direct competition to theirs,” she explains.
As far as Bergerac goes, Gisella says she would have been more detailed in the sales process of buying a restaurant space to head off unexpected expenses. She reminds other business others to believe in your product or service. “We were influenced by what locals told us about price point for our area and didn't serve the menu we wanted to in the beginning for fear it was too expensive. But in reality, once we started offering a menu that we love and are proud to talk about and design, it turns out our customers do too,” she says.
She says she loves being a MOB for the community and support she receives. “I feel like its often easier to give great ideas for other people businesses than to think of ones for your own!”
She also loves the flexibility and freedom to be in charge of her own future. “We are building a business we are proud of and learning new things each day. I am in charge of areas of the business that keep it running including the books, the website, the marketing and the specials events,” she explains.
Gisella says she particularly loves planning the various events including Alliance Francais dinner, a Valentine’s Day menu, Mother’s and Father’s Day brunches, Bastille Day, a Wine dinner, a Mushroom dinner. and three more events are in the works for the end of the year.
“I love creating the menus with my husband and business partner, Joris, designing the posters and promoting the event and then am even more pleased when most of our events are sold out. It really confirms to me that we are meant to be in the food business and are on the right path for this part of our lives. I also love that our kids can be part of life at work, such as when our oldest son helps his dad in the kitchen!”
In addition to being a lovely place to enjoy brunch, lunch or dinner, Bergerac is also available to rent for office and private parties. A MOB Alliance paint party was even held at Bergerac this year! “We have had events such as graduation parties and wedding rehearsal dinners,” she says.
Gisella hopes to work with more wedding planners in 2018 to offer the restaurant for wedding rehearsals and other events.
MOB Alliance members receive 10% off at Bergerac. excluding drinks and gratuity, for brunch, lunch or dinner.
You can find Bergerac online at: