Nina Manchev from Forte Tapas on engaging customers with social video

Takeaways from this episode:

Culture exposure is a creative muse — Nina Manchev has a love for Bulgaria. In fact, she has a passion for sharing her culture with other people, which is the foundational inspiration for her Forte Tapas restaurant in Las Vegas.

Food is a love language — As Nina Manchev points out, food is an international language that we can all understand and feel, the love that goes into every dish, no matter where we are or where it comes from.

Do what you do and do it right — As a young 23-year-old woman starting a business, Nina Manchev felt the pressure to constantly prove herself. As time has gone by, she has embraced doing who she is and what she has to offer. That has made her a mighty force to be reckoned with.

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“I knew what I wanted to do. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”

Any entrepreneur should empathize with that sentiment of Nina Manchev, owner of a string of business ventures, including Forte Tapas Bar & Bistro in Las Vegas.

It’s no secret that it’s hard to find success in the restaurant industry. The level of difficulty is increased when said restaurant opens in a location where hospitality is the main industry of the region. Success gets a little harder to find when the person opening the restaurant is in their early twenties.

“I was 23 years old when I started,” Nina Manchev says of her remarkably early start to her career. “I’ve always been passionate about hospitality…I didn’t know where I would be in the industry.”

Born in Bulgaria, hospitality is woven into its character. Sharing that hospitality with others was her first inspiration for creating something she could call her own.

“Bulgarians are very hospitable people,” Forte Tapas owner Nina Manchev tells Restaurant Influencers podcast host Shawn P. Walchef of CaliBBQ Media. “It’s a lot about taking pride in what you do and who you are and then passing that on to someone else.”

In a competitive world like the hospitality industry in Las Vegas, it can be difficult to create that environment. However, Manchev makes sure that every customer at Forte feels the heart that goes into every meal. The attention to detail and labor of love that goes into cooking is an acceptable trade-off for the little extra time a meal in the restaurant takes to get to the table.

That exceptional service led to a surprise email from and subsequent appearance on the extremely popular TV show Dinners, drive-ins and dives organized by Guy Fieri.

“We were especially recommended by someone who was on the same show, even though we don’t even know each other,” says Nina Manchev of the chance opportunity.

Though shy by nature, Manchev is constantly trying to push the edges of her comfort zone to grow. That was most evident when she had to find a way to stay connected with the people during the pandemic.

“The most important thing was how do I still maintain the relationship with our customers? How can we still interact with them even if they are not in the restaurant?”

The answer: live cooking on her YouTube channel. Not only did that bring the customers behind the proverbial curtain of the kitchen and show them what went into creating the Forte dishes they love so much, but it also gave Manchev the opportunity to use the Bulgarian hospitality that means so much to her.

The success of Forte Tapas has allowed Manchev to create other businesses that match her original desire to introduce people to her culture and be the creative she is at heart. She is the co-founder of a multi-level brand development company called Veritus Media Group, the owner of Epicurean Atelier, and the owner and Lifestyle Curator at NIMA Concepts, LLC, a consulting and development company. That urge to make branches from one main tree is a trait she attributes to her father.

Through it all, Manchev says, “I found the most connection to people through food because wherever in the world you go, the common language is food. And it’s something you give of yourself. It comes from the heart for me.” . That’s what we stick to here.”

Here, be Forte. On a larger scale, Manchev has gained the confidence that she can just be. She has learned that she doesn’t have to compete with others or prove herself. She understands that asking for help, leading with grace and letting time and experience be a teacher is the only way to lasting success.

Nina Manchev sums it up in one sentence and says poignantly: “Keep going.”

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