If there has been one crucial lesson that Nicholai Grech has gleaned from being part of the family business, it’s that the ability to evolve and adapt to market dynamics and changing times is absolutely crucial for longevity.

Set up by his entrepreneurial father Ferdinand Grech back in 1984, Mirachem initially thrived as a company specialising in locally produced brands, before moving into imports, with a focus on detergents.  By the late 80s, Ferdinand had seized the reins of the Italian personal care franchise, Malizia, in Malta, and went on to expand the company’s horizons further, introducing new products to the local market such as baby items and other household essentials. Each new addition to the portfolio has been a calculated decision, driven by the realities of the market to stay relevant and competitive.

Nicholai joined the family business at a young age, helping at the office over the summer holidays. These formative experiences provided him with invaluable insights into company operations across many different facets. With his father retiring some years ago, the business is now co-lead by Nicholai and his siblings.

From detergents to fine dining: How Mirachem continues to adapt with the times

“Over the years I’ve found myself naturally gravitating towards the commercial aspects of our business. I'm the one meeting with clients, driving business development, and maintaining constant communication with suppliers. Meanwhile, my brother Andre handles the administrative side, and my sister Janika oversees the logistics of the company. We consider these three pillars as vital for running a successful company. By dividing these responsibilities among us, we ensure that every aspect of our operations is well-covered,” Nicholai explains.

Like many who work in a family business, Nicholai acknowledges that it's not always smooth sailing to be working with relatives, day in and day out. However, he emphasises that despite the challenges, he views the family unit as Mirachem's greatest asset.

“When we meet new clients and suppliers, they instantly realise that we come with a rich history and provide a personalised approach. Plus, adaptation is easier since we are all on the same page. We can pivot swiftly because there's an understanding among us as a family, allowing us to make decisions internally. This agility has proven highly effective for us time and time again,” he says.

This family dynamic proved particularly crucial when the opportunity arose to enter the wine industry. When Malta joined the EU in 2004 it brought increased competition from big international brands, demanding that Mirachem adapt yet again to stay relevant. Recognising a rising local interest in wines, Nicholai and his brother embarked on putting together a unique wine portfolio for the family business. With more at stake as part of the family enterprise, the Grech brothers delved into extensive research, studying wines, identifying top producers around Europe, and actively participating in numerous wine fairs to gain a strong foothold in the market.

Reflecting on this period of transition, Nicholai highlights the hard work poured into this new venture: “Between 2004 and 2010, my brother and I travelled extensively, meeting with wine growers and producers, developing a vital range of wines that were new to Malta. We were very young, only 23 and 28 at the time, so there was some scepticism about what we could offer. But we were always very honest with anyone we met—no big talk, no promises we couldn’t deliver on. This was crucial to creating strong relationships. Moreover, many of the great wine producers are family run enterprises. So, the fact that we were approaching them as a family was very much appreciated. It gave our business a soul and a personal face they could relate with.”

The wine segment has proven immensely successful for Mirachem, becoming a major cornerstone for the business. They now manage an extensive selection ranging from renowned regions like Italy, France, and Spain to more diverse terroir in Syria, Macedonia, Israel, and Lebanon, among others. With interest in their wine portfolio growing, the Grech siblings were hit with the idea of opening a retail outlet to sell wines directly to consumers. It was during this process that a simple twist of fate led to Mirachem’s next major venture.

While searching for a suitable commercial space, they stumbled upon a prime location in Sliema, which coincidentally came complete with a catering establishment licence. Suddenly, they saw a feasible opportunity to enter the restaurant sector, planting the seeds for Fernando Gastrotheque.

From detergents to fine dining: How Mirachem continues to adapt with the times

“Initially, the idea was to offer a wine theatre experience at Fernando. We wanted to pair our wide selection of wines with premium cheeses and cold cuts. Things then fell into place rather seamlessly. We found the right talent to support us in the kitchen department, and the restaurant was an immediate success. When we opened, there weren't many quality dining spots in the area focusing on wine, so locals embraced it. But then the pandemic hit and that forced us to rethink our approach,” he shares.

It was during lockdown, when everyone was stuck at home with plenty of time to focus on cooking, that another realisation came up: “As restaurants began reopening, diners craved exceptional dining, not just ordinary meals they could whip up at home. People were ready to pay, but expectations rose, and this helped the fine dining industry a lot. That's what drove us to elevate Fernando into more of a fine dining experience while retaining our emphasis on excellent wines and a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere.”

The move proved canny, as just a year later, the revamped Fernando Gastrotheque achieved Michelin success, first clinching a Michelin plate in 2021, a feat it retained until it earned a prestigious Michelin star in 2023. Since then, the restaurant has experienced a surge in interest, with fully booked nights becoming the norm for six consecutive months and weekly covers more than doubling.

“Receiving a Michelin star was an honour, but I've always stressed the importance of not letting it become an obsession. Our priority remains on delivering an exceptional experience centered around our USP: a relaxed atmosphere, outstanding cuisine, and exceptional wines. We're committed to continually delighting our guests, which is why we're investing in our kitchen, sommelier teams, and other areas of our operations to meet and exceed expectations.”

Despite the demand for Fernando Gastrotheque, a successful wine operation, and a diverse portfolio of established goods, Mirachem is far from letting the business slip into cruise control. Nicholai and his siblings are forever strategising and adapting to market shifts, such as the growing concern that the international wine industry is entering a phase of a metamorphosis due to wines reportedly losing their status symbol among younger generations.

“Furthermore, I believe inflation is taking its toll. People are frustrated, having got used to a certain lifestyle which is suddenly being taken away. At Mirachem, we're responding with a new market offering, introducing good quality wines at more affordable prices. Our plan is to invest in an in-house store which will double up as a retail outlet making our wines more accessible to the general public,” he adds before concluding on a final note: “Ultimately, our goal remains the same: to adapt, anticipate market changes, and keep the family business alive and well.”

Main Image:

Read Next: Placeholder