THEY have overcome heartache and the battle to survive in the hospitality sector during a global pandemic.

And now the mother and daughter team at the helm of a Glasgow eaterie are determined to put their restaurant centre stage on the city’s culinary map while keeping a beloved father and husband’s dream alive.

Yiannis and Linda Bantouvakis opened Yiamas in 2012. It had long been a dream of Mr Bantouvakis, originally from Crete, to open his own restaurant, but a different career path saw him train as a tiler.

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However, when the opportunity arose to open their very own taverna in Bath Street, it was a dream come true.

Just four years later though the family received devastating news when the tiler, turned chef and restaurateur was diagnosed with small cell cancer.

Daughter Stascia Bantouvakis and mum Linda at Yiamas

Daughter Stascia Bantouvakis and mum Linda at Yiamas

Daughter Stascia Bantouvakis, 33, said: “I stepped in to help in the restaurant when dad became ill and my mum looked after him. It was an aggressive form of cancer and just three months later he passed away shortly before his birthday. He was just 61.”

While still in shock and trying to cope with their grief Miss Bantouvakis and her mum re-opened the restaurant and it seemed natural for her to follow in her father’s footsteps.

“I took no time off and gave myself no time to grieve,” she added. “I had to work to make sure we didn’t lose what he worked so hard for. We kept each other going and broke down so many times - especially when people came in asking for him. But whenever one of us broke down, the other one would step up and keep steering the ship.

“I’ve no idea how we kept it going. He was everyone’s favourite guy and the ultimate host. All our customers still talk about him. And Yiamas was his dream.”

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A career change beckoned and Miss Bantouvakis changed course, adding: “I had been focused on a degree in TV production and had a short-lived career as an actress, so it was a complete change to go on to run the business with my mum.”

Stascia Bantouvakis and mum Linda are preparing for relaunch

Stascia Bantouvakis and mum Linda are preparing for relaunch

With restaurants closed in lockdown some resorted to different ways to generate income including running take-away services.

“Being based in the city centre take-away services wasn’t really something that worked for us as there just wasn’t the volume of people and it might have been something which worked better for other areas of the city. At first we looked at the initial lockdown as a bit of a break as we worked long hours in the hospitality sector, but it turned into a very difficult year.”

Happy family times

Happy family times

One thing which did take off was their enterprising T shirt off-shoot.

“We have a little mascot Gyro and we had T shirts made with the character on it and they sold out. It was a great way to keep our name out there and worked well on social media.”

Building back better might be the buzz phrase, but Miss Bantouvakis knew that emerging from the pandemic they had to get themselves noticed again.

They haven’t been affected by the recent skills shortage as between them Miss Bantouvakis and her mum are able to run the kitchen, bar and front of house with ease and confidence.

“We’re both spending more time in the kitchen and have a great team around us,” she added. “However, we wanted to do something to be noticed and decided to rebrand. We’ve created a new bar area in a part of the restaurant which was really only used occasionally. It will have more of a modern vibe to it with Greek cocktails to try, but our loyal customers don’t need to worry we will still be retaining our tradition with our Greek heritage dishes and taverna style.

“This place was my dad’s dream and he and my mum put everything into it. We had come so far and even despite the pandemic, I was determined we would fight back. We are very excited to be unveiling our new look this week.”

A dream come true - Yiannis Bantouvakis in his own restaurant

A dream come true - Yiannis Bantouvakis in his own restaurant

Miss Bantouvakis believes that when people build a business on the food cooked from their home, it’s incredibly special – but that it takes a lot of effort to stay true to what’s authentic.

She added: “I’m proud that we’ve managed to weather the storm and avoid closing down as a result of the pandemic. It broke our heart to close the doors of a business that our family worked so hard to develop over the years, we’ve been under a lot of pressure to make sure we don’t lose what my dad built. We want to keep flying the flag for authentic Greek food in Glasgow for a long time to come.”

Miss Bantouvakis, who has a younger sister Ketis, and their mum work well together, she added: “She’s my hero and we wouldn’t be here at all if it wasn’t for her supporting my dad and now supporting and helping me run a successful business. She’s a true superwoman. I wouldn’t want to run a business with anyone else.“