Specialist Spotlight: An Interview With The Expert – Rifaquat Mirza!

What, according to you, are the five industry secrets every restaurant must adopt for success?

I don’t know if there are secrets left in the restaurant trade. My answers are more insider tips or best practices I have observed over the years, which may aid in a restaurant’s success. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution, but the F & B fraternity agrees that these work for the most part.

1) Put a face to the place: It makes a big difference if chefs or restaurant owners become the face of the business and are active on social media. It’s also fine if they choose to hang back while someone else (preferably from the team) takes over the spotlight. The bottom line is, patrons need to be able to associate a brand with a familiar face.

2) Exaggerated Revenue Figures: I’ve noticed the ‘top revenue recall’ phenomenon when I ask about sales figures. People almost always quote their peak sales rather than their average sales. It’s not a conscious effort to create a favorable impression, but it happens. I have been guilty of it too. Just do not use these figures to create or compare your business plans unless you have access to the books!

3) Pre-manufactured surprises or customisation: Create surprises like an unlisted amuse-bouche or a special dish just for kids that’s not on the menu. Systematically incorporate these into your process without letting diners know, so when you present it, your customers will be thrilled.

4) Run all briefs parallelly and concurrently: Successful restaurants design their restaurants around the cuisine, service, and aesthetic requirements of the brand simultaneously when opening a new venture or renovating an older property. For instance, the kitchen should be designed in consultation with the chef, so that all the equipment and counters are in the optimal position for the team to run efficiently and comfortably. Similarly, the bar should be designed to avoid bottlenecks in service even on the busiest of nights. Replicating this across all the facets of a restaurant will help you make the most of the infrastructure into which you are moving.

5) Share financials judiciously: I see a lot of restaurant owners withhold financial information from their top management while some have their figures all over the place. It’s essential to share enough to set reasonably challenging targets. Income and cost statements are not representative of past performance alone, but also a means to assess future goals. The process used to disseminate this information is up to the restaurant owners. The late-night WhatsApp on the day’s performance seems to be ubiquitous, but successful restaurants have regular, formatted meetings for a good reason. Choose not to broadcast the information formally if you feel unsure, but keep management informed. They need to know.

Describe Five industry trends that you see taking off in the next five years.

I won’t pretend to be prophetic to forecast trends for five years in advance, but I will try and share some ideas of what I feel seems to be emerging based on observations, data, and personal and shared insights.

1) Psychographics v/s Demographics: I think there is going to be a higher emphasis on the psychological connection of food and restaurants with their patrons. There will be a lot of ‘philosophical’ restaurants coming to the fore that connect to a particular sense of being, be that sustainability, or underground musical or cultural movements.

2) India will create new service trends: Over the past few decades, we often heard that trends in the US or Europe come to India in a certain number of years, which used to be around 10, now down to two years or less. Besides our cuisine, I believe we will soon be exporting our unique service offerings to the west. Why wouldn’t a Spanish chef incorporate our South Indian sit-down, banana leaf service style? While we market our Indian tapas-style menu, I see American chefs with Tex Mex Tiffins. This could be the new frontier.

3) The All pervasiveness of Technology – 360 degrees adoption: One might say I’m stating the obvious, but technology is progressing at a faster pace than we could ever predict, and restaurants need to ride this wave!

If a restaurant does not invest holistically in a comprehensive technology platform immediately, they will be left behind. PASSION IS GREAT; GUT FEEL IS NOT. If you run your restaurant on instinct rather than data, efficiency and effectiveness will both be equally affected negatively. Use technology to help you with wait-list and table management, home deliveries, POS activities, loyalty programmes, and marketing. Having multi-outlet and multi-delivery model functions are essential. The right tech will give you a wealth of usable data that will help you become more analytical of your business and give you an understanding of how to make diners’ experiences more vibrant, more personalized and more rewarding.

4) Restaurant Renaissance and Recession Simultaneously: These are exciting times for restaurants as all kinds of service models and culinary palettes are emerging, but the forecast of growth doesn’t exist for several reasons, mostly due to internal decisions rather than macro factors. The paradox will continue to play out for the next few years. True-blue organic, growth-led restaurants will lead the way, steaming ahead of cookie-cutter-creativity.

5) The emergence of domestic restaurant chains as regional, national and international players:  We already see a slowdown in the entry of foreign brands. The larger well-established QSR chains from the US are mainly the ones gaining traction. They mastered the art of franchising and growth, but leading Indian restaurant chains are now boasting of best-in-class systems, procedures, and franchising models. Honestly, they have become more economically viable while the allure of a ‘foreign’ chain has lost its shine. These chains are becoming regional and national; notwithstanding the challenges they face when growing out of their local strongholds. Restauranteurs have learned from their earlier international forays, and I bet the big guys will go beyond our borders with great success.

Which, according to you, are the top 3 restaurants in the India today?

I am not ranking these, but rather listing three restaurants that have caught my fancy. A disclaimer: These are my thoughts based on an obvious bias, but I have thought this through. Also, this is from a particular perspective in the context of this interview.  My answers would be different if I were given other parameters.

  1. Dumpukht. ITC Maurya. New Delhi

This much-celebrated restaurant’s cuisine has stood the test of time. They have perfected every dish on the menu and, for me, the single most important factor is that their senior master chef, Chef Ghulam Qureshi, oversees every portion served to their discerning and loyal clientele. It’s not easy to consistently serve with their high standards considering the sourcing of the produce and the delicate nature of the cooking, not to mention the pressure of meeting the high expectations from the diners.

The service is elegantly classy fashioned after the refined art of “mehmanawazi” befitting the patrons and the hotel in which it resides. This place is as close as you can get to the ‘good old days’.

2) Agashiye. House of Mangaldas. Ahmedabad.

Having been born and brought up in Ahmedabad and then grown into a professional hotelier, it has always been on my agenda to showcase Gujrat’s culinary legacy beyond the “sweet daal” and the claim that every food is sweetened.

Agashiye (literally meaning ‘at the rooftop’) is the distillate of home-cooked Gujarati food showcased through a dynamic Thali menu prepared in the manner of Abhay Mangaldas’s household. Abhay is the scion of a renowned business family who converted this historic family mansion into the new showcase for Gujarati culture. The food is simply fantastic, and the part that steals my heart is the traditional mi casa warmth blended with excellent service – the latter being a rarity in Ahmedabad for discerning patrons.

No wonder he recently hosted the Japanese PM along with our PM for lunch, and even though the Taj chefs had curated a Japanese meal for him, the Japanese PM preferred the local fare. He has re-invented two havelis in the ‘pols’ of Ahmedabad and a 3rd one recently. He wears his (and his restaurant’s) fame quite lightly and goes about his business reviving and projecting the grand legacy of Ahmedabad.

When I asked him about his motivation behind this, there were no proclamations of changing mindsets or starting a movement. He just said ‘It’s not always easy for us to serve homely food to people considering the logistics…’ or the cuisine being ‘ just home food from our kitchens.’ Restaurants that aid tourism, go beyond food, and deliver consistently brilliant service over the years,  will always have my vote. His eco-friendly packaged ‘Bhathu’ meal for one and the day’s menu in a large tiffin to serve four are clear winners for me.

3) Social. ( From Impressario Hospitality). All over India.

Riyaz told me about this huge space he had in Hauz Khas Village overlooking the lake where he wanted to do something interesting back in 2013. I didn’t know then that he was on the verge of starting a new trend.

While I was playing around with the ‘third place’ concept with a new chain of hotels, they’ve got the ‘second place’ concept bang on. Years before coworking became the new working; they had already got the place set up as a hybrid concept with multiple-dimensions as the day progresses. Work + Play manifested in a unique model.

I love the food and its universal all-day appeal and consistency. People love the price points. They have ‘culture managers’ who befriend single person start-ups and DJs alike. Their success is well known: the quirky outlet-specific themes lend that extra bit of character while keeping the brand DNA up front and alive. Social is a restaurant that brings its branding to life like never before. Nomenclature is easy, but extrapolating it through street art, curations and being a local magnet is what gets my vote.


Specialist Spotlight: Raminder Bakshi, Hospitality Expert, Entrepreneur and Chef

Having more than 24 years of experience in the field of F&B and hospitality, Raminder Bakshi is famed as a “Young Turk” from his early days. His farsightedness and leadership helped him set up food courts, hotels, resorts and restaurants with unmatched hospitality.
At present, he is founder of The Baking Lab, The Art Culinnaire and The Fruit Boutique. The Art Culinnaire provides concepts to help hotels, restaurants, kitchens, and caterers update and upgrade their services and infrastructure. He has been associated in the past with brands like Hyatt, Sodexho, Hilton Group, etc. He has also provided his expertise to notable hospitals like Fortis, DHLI and Max. We at in Resto got a chance to speak to Mr. Raminder Bakshi and ask him about his insights into the F&B industry.

Q. What, according to you, are the five industry secrets every restaurant must adopt for success?

In order to activate each and every one of the profit drivers, you must implement a set of tools or systems that are customised to your business. These systems must be strategically positioned to gain the maximum effect for your business. There are 7 systems that you must implement for the 6 profit drivers to be activated, these systems include:
1. Marketing
2. Branding
3. Key performance indicators and time management
4. Organisational development & Business Structure
5. Finance & its Systems
6. People Management Skills & Training

Within these 6 systems lie the growth formula for success. If you implement a plan to incorporate each of these areas, your business will grow very rapidly. This is one of the most important areas where business owners get trapped. The trap is a catch-22 as the majority of business owners don’t have the time to implement all the systems to help their businesses grow. However, it is those business owners who invest the time to develop systems in their business that benefit in the long run as their business then runs on autopilot. To develop your business to that stage, you must be able to analyse, optimise, systemise, document, and track business successes and failures.

Small to medium-sized restaurants have always been and always will operate in a cut-throat environment, and unless you take the steps to map out your pathway to success, your business will always own you and not the other way around. Plan for success, and succeed in your plan.

Q. What are the industry trends that you see taking off in the next five years? Also Please include your thoughts on the growth of restaurant management technology in this section.

1. Health And Wellness Top The Menu:
As baby boomers accept their collective aging, dietary issues gain momentum not just for themselves but for their children

2. The ‘next’ Cuisine:
My vote goes to Peru. Its government is promoting the cuisine, which is a fabulous fusion of Italian, Japanese, Indian, Spanish and indigenous cookery. It will certainly be a part of the next wave of specific regional cookery. Nobu came from there; it’s hot, spicy, and with creative flavours.

3. Chef-driven Restaurants:
Celebrity chefs are hanging their names on reinvented restaurants. More chefs are following this exercise in “brand extension.” When you get “Sautéed snapper with edamame dumplings in a ragout of mussels” in a chef-driven restaurant, you know that the category is being redefined.

Hotels, restaurants and shopping centres laying big money on these chefs because they’re competitively desperate to draw crowds.

4. Ethical Eating:
“Fair trade” and “sustainable” are terms gaining traction with restaurant chefs and Indian consumers. People aspire to
feel ethically comfortable about the food they buy: they want uncaged chickens and their eggs, humanely raised animals and environmentally friendly packaging. They’re looking for locally grown products that reduce the global warming impact of moving food around the world.

5. Izakayas:
Tapas making way for Japanese small plates. Restaurateurs are opening Japanese taverns, called izakaya, all over the world. These are homely places emphasizing modestly priced Japanese hors d’oeuvres washed down with oversized bottles of beer and overfilled glasses of sake. Some of the food may be unfamiliar, but people are willing to risk $5 or $6 to experiment. You’ll find izakayas in London, Toronto, Vancouver, Seattle, LA (where, predictably, they’ve morphed into fusion menus). I’m sure it won’t be long before they come to India.

Raminder Bakshi has certainly created a niche for himself in the F&B industry. His diverse experience in domestic and international markets makes him a one-stop solution for all food industry related glitches. We are so glad we had a chance to chat with him. Want to find more about Mr Raminder Bakshi, visit here.

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