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Leo Beer took Phanganist to go and meet Alain from Ando’s Corner in Thong Sala one sunny day.
Alain first came to the island thirteen years ago during a four month trip of travelling around parts of Asia. Then it was just for his ‘holiday of a lifetime’ and little did he know that he would get stuck here, happily, for a long time…
Hey Alain so how did it all start?
I got home from my trip, my holiday was done and I would talk to my friends saying about how great it was. I thought, why not go back, just for fun? Why not?!
Then I would come every year and I opened a bar in Ban Tai for two years before joining my then girlfriend (she is now my wife and we have spent ten years together) in running our thai restaurant.
This restaurant has been going in her family for around fifteen years already and now I also have Ando’s corner which has been here for two years in March.
So you’re partner is Ando from Ando Loco, who’s idea was it for Ando’s Corner?
Ando owned a coffee shop here in the same place before it was Ando’s Corner, but it was open less than a year. I saw the premises, it was a nice location and asked him what he wanted to do with it, did he want to keep it?
I said ‘what do you think about a sandwich/burger place?’ and he thought about this alone for a couple of weeks and had time to reflect then said ‘let’s try’.
How did you two meet?
I had a bar and Ando opened his restaurant where I was his customer. They would call me ‘Mr Taco’!
We knew who each other was but at first didn’t have a friendship, it took time to know each other but we work easily together.
We know in which way I’m good or if it’s not my cup of tea and I know when he’s good so together it’s a good fit to run a business. We do it easy and have this as an extra as we both have other things.
Why did you name it Ando’s Corner?
Well, Ando is very busy with Ando Loco and so am I with my Thai Restaurant so this place is the ‘next prize’ and it is always difficult to find a good name for a place.
He already had Ando Loco so I named it Ando’s Corner, he asked me if I was sure I wanted that name and I said yes.
It has got a nice ring to it…
He has already has his restaurant for ten years and I am the low profile one!
Where does the inspiration for the food come from?
Ando is American and I’m Canadian, I have eaten in my life a lot of burgers but Ando is more the guy to find good sauces and new burgers.
Me, I’m the guy to do the management, the new look, make the kitchen easier to work with, we are two different kinds of partners, he is more the chef than me.
So explain the burgers on the menu…
We have fresh beef every day, seven different kinds of cheese, six or seven kinds of sauce and we import ingredients from the USA to make our own sauces also. You can buy some stuff here but it is different, not the same.
What kinds of customers do you get?
We follow the seasons so we get local people a lot, more than half of our customers are people who now live here or stay for a long time and always come back.
There are many burger shops now on Koh Phangan and for me it’s the same like pizza, if you like a particular one then you will keep going back. Even when I am not here it is still working with the products.
We have great staff who are always smiling and we are lucky for that, on trip advisor sixty percent of the reviews talk about how good the staff are so it is a combination of our polite smiling staff with the product also that keeps people coming!
When you feel good somewhere you want to go back and for sure Full Moon period is busy but I am happy to work with the residents who try many other burgers but still come back here because they like it.
What is your favourite burger here?
Mine is the bacon bbq burger but the best seller would be our classic cheeseburger, I make a special big mac sauce also!
Ando made the ‘Ando Burger’ where he put in what he likes, it includes coleslaw inside the burger and where I’m from we would never put coleslaw inside. It must be more of an American thing as I am French Canadian and none of my French friends have heard of this either!
Do the Thai people of Koh Phangan come for burgers?
Yes, I’m surprised, not too many but they do come. They like the pork burger, a classic and cheese fries, they like it.
Where do you see Ando’s Corner in the next couple of years?
We are always working with the menu if we think something needs changing but our kitchen is very small so will have to use our brains to do something with this first.
Maybe we will do something on the second floor and maybe open 24 hours…
Some burgers, if they don’t work, we take them off the menu and put on other ones. We are very happy with the restaurant already but we always want to be more busy and get better every year, but slowly.
Since the beginning we haven't lost money, even in low season. You see a lot of restaurants open and close as it is not as easy to do business on Phangan or in Thailand.
Ando Loco has been going for ten years already and I have my Thai restaurant and we are still here. We know how to work in Thailand, normally this business would be an easy thing to do but in Thailand as a foreigner it is different, but when you know, then it is ok.
What do you still enjoy about Koh Phangan?
About five years ago I must admit that I got bored and wanted to change islands, I asked my wife and she said ‘you go first and open the business and if it does well then I will come’. It was just me being inside my head during a bad season.
Koh Phangan is my home, I feel more at home here than Canada. I still work in Canada, do a season and then come back here.
And your free time?
I work seven days a week, when I do have time I like to take my coffee and two days ago I went to Than Sadet which is only the second time in thirteen years! The first time I went there the road was was bad and I only just went back last week!
Sometimes I go to Isaan to see my wife’s mum, I like to be there for two or three days, not much but a holiday.
This has been my lifestyle for ten years, my days are not too busy but they are long.
Some days I do nothing but if I’m home then I will paint something or cement something that needs it and for a long time I did not cook myself but recently I cooked a pizza and I’m thinking of making a cake or pie, it all keeps me busy, I love it!
Leave us with your life philosophy…
To be busy but to be happy enough to live.
For the business, it would be to be busy enough to pay for the things you need to, I don’t need much.
We are happy just to get better, better than last year and the year before. It doesn’t need to be fifty or one hundred percent more but just to be better.
You can always try something, it may not work but if you never try then you never know!