The Deccan Canteen
Bhargavi tried her hand at many things before opening a franchise of Punjab Grill at Jubilee Hills. Soon she wanted to start her own brand to pay tribute to her love for food. A restaurant that celebrated the food of the region plus an ambience that was picture perfect. “I started Deccan Canteen; opening this restaurant was like seeing my dream taking wings. It was a task that I took up to challenge my limitations and test my skills as an entrepreneur. Restaurant business is very dynamic. As an owner you not only have to look at the business running steadily but also manage staff, marketing, housekeeping, customer, purchase and most importantly food. These are everyday challenges. It is very sad that the concept of casting couch is a reality in the restaurant business as well, especially when you are looking for investors. The biggest mantra to run a restaurant is team work and to find people who genuinely love food and serving people. I love cooking, so I chose to do a business that makes me confident of my choice. Since I love cooking, I think I am at a better position to judge what is going right or wrong. Owning a restaurant can be exciting and lucrative but there is a lot of hard work and dedication required to run it successfully. My role as a restaurant owner has all the responsibilities of maintaining and running the business, sometimes also as a restaurant manager. Dealing with issues which the helping staff has in their personal lives is a challenge which has to be met with a lot of patience and care.”
Nawabi Palate Restaurant
Sravanti wears many hats. She is a fabric designer and a terracotta jewellery maker and runs Nawabi Palate, a 100-seater eatery along with her partner Jagdish. Palate is about 8 years old and have transformed into a 100-seater place from a six-seater hole-in-the-all-cafe. Sravanti loves the daily challenges the restaurant business brings with it. “All labour-run businesses comes with the uncertainty of its staff. It is difficult to say who’ll stay or who’ll leave the next day. The market is competitive so we have to do our best to keep it running irrespective of what issues and challenges we are facing at the back-end. I feel our regular customers come back to us because of the freshness of the food. We do not have huge cold storage or refrigeration. Instead of purchasing on bulk from suppliers we do retail purchase day on day. If the raw material is fresh, food anyway tastes well. This also means our profits are less. It is a very stressful business and we run it only because we are passionate about food. To own a restaurant is like preparing for a function at home everyday.”
From assisting her husband, Chef Sahil in their single-room bakery set-up where they exclusively made cakes-to-order to starting their flagship store in Jubilee Hills and extending it to a restaurant, Swati Upadhay has done it all. Currently she is busy making a dossier for Concu that will be like a manual for those who want to take franchise of the brand. Swati and Sahil might not ring a bell for many. Mention Concu instead, and see the puzzled expression become a smile. Known for their eye pleasing and soul satisfying desserts, Swati runs the show at Concu while Sahil keeps himself busy with what he is best at — making desserts patiently. Says Swati, “It has been a long journey. Thankfully for me work is like home as well. Since I can have my little daughter at work and seeing her getting comfortable with everyone and the surrounding, takes a lot away from my shoulders. Sometimes our customers can be quite difficult, since I manage customer care, I need to be extremely patient. Then there are customers who become friends and then like family. What brings me back to work everyday is the happy smiling faces after they have tasted our desserts.”
Pooja Reddy made many things before she saw an announcement calling for dessert enthusiasts to intern with Concu. “I joined only because I love everything they make. I stuck on and continued to be a part of Concu. It was an amazing journey. I learned a lot about baking and desserts with Sahil. So when Concu was ready to start a franchise outlet, I was too happy to step in. Concu at Country Club has the restaurant as well and we serve alcohol for dinner. I am learning and unlearning and if I can sort my house-keeping staff, I will consider half the battle won. The existing team we have is extremely helpful, understanding and loves their job. Their good attitude comes across in the way they treat guests and attend to every requirement in the restaurant. Another drawback of managing and running a restaurant is you are left with no time for friends and family. ”
Sravani’s bistro, Nirvana Bistro is about a year old. This self-service restaurant has seen many events till now. Sravani worked to start an eatery to make it into a culture hub. She utilised her prior experience in the food and beverage industry to own a place of her own that means more than simply meeting for food. Nirvana Bistro is a place for exchange of ideas, discuss music, art tell a story or just read poems. “It is a cultural space. We encourage artistes to come and share their knowledge, show their crafts and also try our food. We offer desi-global food and plan to keep the menu simple. This plays as a drawback for me. As a cultural space people are free to sit and share and discuss ideas, at the same I expect them to order food. That is where my revenue comes. I say this not to make profits but to be able to run the place smoothly. Unlike other restaurants we do not push customers to order food immediately, so we have a lot of people who think it is ok to use the space and not buy food. So, for now my challenges are different. I am extremely happy that sometimes Niravan Cafe is compared with Lamakaan. It is an honour, however we need revenue to run the place and so that we can make a community called Human of Nirvana.”
Suma’s simplicity reflects in the taste of the interiors of the two restaurants she runs — Kaficko and Haiku. This poised electronics and communication engineer when driven up the wall, won’t be seen pulling her hair. She instead gets down to work, sorting one issue at a time. “Imagine waking up to things like my Barista boy isn’t coming, some of the staff members are on sudden leave etc. In this business we don’t get time to sit and think. We have to swing into action. I got into food business purely because I love food. I had no experience whatsoever so I take everyday as a learning experience. This industry is merciless so as a woman the fight has to be a tough one. My staff has stood by my side and have shared their joys and triumphs as a team. Food business is amazing when you can offer something different to the guests. Different but good at the same time. I first opened Kaficko and learnt a lot from it. Kaficko gave me the courage start Haiku. Now both run independently and have their own set of loyal patrons. I have a met a lot of people who has taught me something new everyday.
Cafe Totaram is a few weeks old in Hyderabad. Brainchild of Ranjana Singhal, Cafe Totaram’s parent outlet in Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu is over four years old. Ranjana dared to revolutionise the food culture in Coimbatore by offering non south Indian food to die-hard loyalists of the traditional south Indian food. She also owns ‘That’s Y Food’ “I initiated a change and believed in my food. It was not an easy task to make people like what they are not used to. South Indian people are proud of their vast variety of traditional south Indian food and mostly prefer them even while dining out. It was a slow journey and here I am opening my second outlet in Hyderabad. My journey has been a learning process throughout. It was extremely difficult in the beginning but I worked it out because I wanted people to try something new. Handling blue collar professional is extremely difficult. I had to work it with them to teach them to work like a professional. To make them do this, one has to give them their comfort zone. Since I manage most of my business I have learnt to be extremely swift in my marketing. My business acumen has improved. In the restaurant business one need to be smart, take notes of speed and swift.