Asan is a butcher by trade. He was born in 1959 in Erzincan, and is one of the five surviving children of the family out of ten births. The family migrated to Istanbul in 1962 due to his father’s wish to secure an education for his remaining children, and moved into a shanty house in the Civciv neighborhood near where the Bostancı Amusement Part stands today. His father began to work as a building superintendent. He was a man of character, integrity and honesty.
During his primary school years, Cüneyt Asan started to work in a butcher’s shop to help support his family, causing him to fall behind on his education. He had to rely entirely on donations for school supplies, as his family could not even afford to buy him a uniform. His teacher was very compassionate towards him, and one day called for Gülcan, one of Cüneyt’s classmates and the daughter of a well-off family, to take Cüneyt home with her after school and ask her mother to sew him a uniform. That was the breaking point for Cüneyt. When he went back home that evening, he told his father that he would drop out of school, to which his father strongly objected. Cüneyt had made his decision.
The following day, after school, he entered the Butcher’s Market in Bostancı, carrying the plastic bag he used in lieu of a school bag. He got his first job at a butcher’s shop called Bahar. His new boss gave him his apron that day, marking the start of his career as a butcher. He served tea, cleaned the shop and carried customers’ bags, earning his first money. When he went to school the next day, he had pocket money for the first time, which he used to buy sodas for two of his friends.
Every day after that, he went to the butcher’s shop after school, and he worked there until he enlisted to the military for his mandatory service. Even at such a young age, he was thinking about how meat should be stored. He would go on to introduce a multitude of firsts for butchery in Turkey. He was the first to offer meatballs from a butcher’s shop, make meat popular among kids, simplify women’s work in their kitchen, and offer chicken products. Soon, even the smell of meat on butchers would become synonymous with love for him.
In time, he came to believe that he was chosen for this profession. He began taking on apprentices. Hundreds trained and developed working with Cüneyt Asan in Turkey, Moscow, Dubai, Qatar and London. His first shop was barely getting by. They were going through some hard times. He managed to keep the shop alive, and in time, purchased it. He would get beat up by his masters when we was still an apprentice. He persevered, and as he did, he grew stronger. By the time he enlisted, he was responsible for almost all aspects of the shop. At the time, the butcher’s shop still went by Bahar, which, he noticed one day, was not at all original. He decided to make a difference, and rechristened it ‘Günaydın’. Back then, there were newsboys on the streets, shouting the name of the newspaper they were selling, and Günaydın was one such newspaper. This would give Cüneyt Asan a sense of greatness and fame.
He was in the army during the coup d’état in 1980. Those troubled times made him realize a lot. He always cared a great deal about keeping his promises to himself. He realized that success paved the way for more success, like a snowball rolling downhill. He always avoided a fight, but never compromised on his morals. He worked hard to compete, and he became stronger as he grew, always staying in the race. When he returned home after the completion of his military service, his boss told him about his decision to sell the shop, so he took his coat and left. One week later, his boss came to ask him to negotiate the sale. Cüneyt Asan became one of the seven buyers of the shop, partners of 35 years today, who put together the money. The problem was to find a qualified workforce, so he started developing it. Many of those who work in the business received their training while working with Cüneyt Asan. A few of his old masters are still working with him. In the fifth year of the partnership, he established his own meat production facility in Malkara, Tekirdağ, and began supplying raw meat to restaurants and processing plants in Turkey.
Cüneyt Asan and his partners knew they had to create a difference with the Günaydın Restaurant. They opened the world’s first butcher’s shop featuring an American bar and a library. Newspaper headlines called them the pioneers of the profession. There was an influx of kebab cooks who came from Antep, Urfa and Southeastern Anatolia to open their own kebab restaurant in Istanbul. He began supplying them with meat, and in 1992, he opened his first restaurant in Çamlık, Küçükyalı.
The high demand paved the way for new branches in Bostancı, Kozyatağı, Etiler and Suadiye. Today, he has over 40 branches in Turkey and abroad, as well as a logistics center in Turkey. With 2,500 employees, he is listed as one of the giants of the restaurant industry. Cüneyt Asan trains new colleagues personally. He believes the importance of training, and is committed to uphold it.
Cüneyt Asan has always kept a close eye on novelties and developments in the industry. He is providing his services through Günaydın Et, Günaydın Kasap/Steak House, and Günaydın Köfte Döner brands. He is always among top 10 restaurants in Turkey. He brings in ingredients for side dishes from Gaziantep. He makes sure to use the highest quality meat, and to provide the best training to his employees. He attaches great importance to communication. At the dawn of the shopping center era in Turkey, the founders of İstinye Park were among his customers. His close links with them enabled him to establish his own place inside the shopping center, the first of many. He was introduced to the DRY AGE system. Today, his cold storage project, made out of Himalayan salt, is used around the world. In 2016, he opened his first restaurant in Dubai, a market in which he plans to rapidly increase the number of branches. He has also plans for entering Qatar, London, Dubai, and New York. Günaydın is a brand that produces its own beef. He has 20,000 cattle in his ranch in Gönen, Balıkesir, one of the five purebred ranches in Turkey.
In 2015, he partnered with the Doğuş Group with the purpose of becoming a global brand. Cüneyt Asan’s most important principle is to make his presence stand out wherever he goes, as otherwise one would not realize his real value, and would be stranded, as he explains. The story of his life symbolizes a fact of life. He is a man that can find himself, clear a path for himself and walk his path with determination. He believes that, in order to succeed, one needs a target, and most importantly, a need. He thinks that being born into a wealthy family eliminates one’s drive to endeavor and accomplish.
He does not believe in luck or coincidence, putting his trust in hard work, intelligence and science instead. He also believes that one should chase his dreams. He believes that success depends on hanging one to one’s beliefs, just as one would keep the passion in his heart. He thinks that all hardship is motivation for growth, and believes that without struggle and growth, change is impossible.