The first restaurant Succhanda Chatterjee ever designed was in 1992. It was called Only Fish and her hotelier husband Anjan Chatterjee had given her Rs 25,000 to refurbish it. Ask Chatterjee how she discovered a flair for designing and she recalls, “Even though we were living in a small 1BHK apartment in those days, I used to change the décor every Sunday. I can’t see one thing in one corner of the house for too long. So Anjan decided to employ my skills at designing the restaurants.”
The experiment paid off, and since then, Chatterjee, who’s had no formal training in design, has designed close to a 100 restaurants including Mainland China, Oh! Calcutta and Global Grill among others. The job is not just creatively satisfying, but hugely challenging as well. “There are a number of things one has to keep in mind while designing a restaurant. You have to make your own format, own template and own food. Take the case of Mainland China. People come here for the food and service, and of course, the décor. They have been coming here for years. Now if somebody from Mumbai goes to the Mainland China in Chennai, and sees the same food and décor, he will feel at home. So, atmosphere is very important to a restaurant,” she adds. According to her, the décor also depends a lot upon the psychology of people, target audience and pricing. “I have learnt not to go overboard with the décor. I try and see that the decor is non-maintenance, at least for five years, so I use material accordingly,” she adds.
A lot of research and planning goes into each restaurant’s design. “I travel often and have to do a lot of research before finalising a restaurant’s design. I even check out the locality where the restaurant is going to be, people’s mentality when it comes to food and even the other restaurants in the area,” says Chatterjee. So which restaurant was a challenge for her? “I have worked really hard on Global Grill in Powai. It’s global cuisine, so I had to make sure the décor was neutral. It took almost six months of research, and I came up with the idea of doing panelling which nobody does anymore. There’s minimalistic artefacts, wooden sofas, almost 200 small round chandeliers on the ceiling and a very interesting live kitchen counter. Anjan is so happy, he’s asked me to make around 18 of them all over India,” she laughs.
Ask her why she doesn’t design other people’s restaurants and she says, “A lot of people have approached me, but I can only spend a few hours in office. In the evenings, I like to meet my friends for coffee and when I reach home, I like to paint a bit as well. I have 21 restaurants on my plate at the moment. Where’s