Mumbai restaurateurs share advice on what it takes to be a 'food-preneur'

May 16, 2015, 08:15 IST | Compiled by Krutika Behrawala

Whether you plan to start a patisserie, a culinary studio or an online food-delivery portal, industry insiders share tips and tricks of the trade to help you realise your food business dream

If you're a gourmand, a home-chef or a food blogger who wishes to turn into a food entrepreneur, drop by an interesting workshop called Food 101: Food Entrepreneur to be held by Ravi Wazir, hospitality business consultant and author of Restaurant Start-up: A Practical Guide.


Wazir shares, “The topics covered will include how to create trends, the scope of work for a food entrepreneur, what a basic business plan involves, a mock food enterprise exercise and my formula for success in the food business. While chefs and food bloggers usually know how to cook great food, this workshop helps people become aware of what else it takes to succeed in this business and prepares them for the journey.”

Ravi Wazir
Ravi Wazir

Apart from listening to valuable insights by Wazir, you will also get to hear first-hand experiences from Yohaan Dattoobhai, founder of Kaboom restaurant at Fort, taste desserts from Sucres Des Terres and create your own mock food-enterprise concept.

On Today, 10 am to 6 pm
At Essar House, 11 KK Marg, Mahalaxmi.
Call 66601100 RSVP (prior registration compulsory)
Cost Rs 2,000 (inclusive of lunch and tastings)

For a quick takeaway
Majid Khan, owner,
Jantar Mantar and Masalchi Ustad Innovation is the key to open any new place. If you become a me- too, then there is too much competition in the market. Ensure all your regular permissions are in place.
Tip: Make sure you are consistent with a quick delivery service.

The dessert dossier
Find a place that ensures a good footfall. It’s important to rotate menus, play with seasonal ingredients and always keep your customers guessing what’s next.

Pooja Dhingra, founder, Le15 Patisserie
Pooja Dhingra, founder, Le15 Patisserie

We add new limited edition items to the Le15 menu every other month. This is exciting not only for the customers but for me and my team. Try and keep your food cost below 20% of the selling price.
Tip: Be passionate and creative. Patience is very important.

Food at a click
Check whether your idea for an online venture falls under a mature industry with a good-sized market or a newer industry with great potential.

namita ambani, founder, Dial Organic
Namita Ambani, founder, Dial Organic

Your idea should have a potential for 360-degree expandability. The last mile service is a key in an online business and always a challenge. We use a combination of the Mumbai dabbawalla service and our own delivery boys.
Tip: Keep the pricing competitive.

When creating set menu meals
Keep the customer in mind while creating set menus. We have created set menus with the restaurants keeping in mind various customers: the Jain menu, vegetarian options (with/without paneer/mushroom) as well as non-vegetarian options (with/without fish/chicken).

Deepa Jain, co-founder, WowTables
Deepa Jain, co-founder, WowTables

In this city, seasons demand a change in experiences. The September-December period always demands a lot out of the hospitality industry when compared to the rest of the year. Make the customer see the value of the experience you are offering.
Tip: While christening your brand, keep the name simple so your customers remember it.

For a pub with a difference
The concept should be unique, but one that retains your interest for a long time. Back it up with great food and fantastic service.

Ashish Sajnani,  co-owner,  Please Don’t Tell
Ashish Sajnani, co-owner, Please Don’t Tell

Select a location based on your target audience. It should be affordable as a business proposition too. Food festivals are a great way to introduce new dishes and garner customer feedback. Base your price according to your closest competition. Based on your pricing, decide your Average Per Cover (APC). Also, keep in mind your costs before deciding an APC.
Tip: Rentals, staffing and licensing are the main challenges in this business. Hire experts wherever necessary.

Care for a culinary studio?
It’s important to make your space looks clean and professional but at the same time, make it warm and inviting. Ensure it doesn’t look intimidating for beginners.

Chef Rakhee Vaswani, owner, Palate Culinary Studio
Chef Rakhee Vaswani, owner, Palate Culinary Studio

Initially, we started with select cuisines, now we have over 100 different workshops where we also add newer trends like sushi rolling classes, desserts in jars, Lebanese platters, etc. Keep in mind that classes should be interesting for everyone, from kids to 60-year-olds. Consistency of workshops is very important. It is very important to strive for perfection and maintain the quality of the sessions.
Tip: Add seasonal workshops, like a mango-special workshop.

What an idea, sir ji!
Think out-of-the-box and wow your customer. The concept can be fantastic, but it is powerless if the customer cannot understand it at one go.

Mihir Desai, co-owner, The Bar Stock Exchange (TBSE), The Big Bang Bar & Cafe
Mihir Desai, co-owner, The Bar Stock Exchange (TBSE), The Big Bang Bar & Cafe

So keep it simple. TBSE, as a concept, ensures that the customer always wins and goes back happy. A concept place needs to ensure that it keeps reinventing itself. Always keep marketing in mind. Hire a consultant for legal and licensing (for your first project atleast) and also, before you start out on your own, train in another F&B outlet for a significant time to learn the tricks of the trade.
Tip: When in doubt, choose Asian cuisine, it has now become bigger than Indian cuisine!

For an uber cool experience
Providing good food is critical; however, in today’s competitive environment, it’s also important to offer an experience that is cohesive in terms of the ambiance, style of service, presentation, etc. The menu must be unpretentious, irrespective of the cuisine.

Yash Bhanage, Sameer Seth, founders, The Bombay Canteen
Yash Bhanage, Sameer Seth, founders, The Bombay Canteen

It is important to see how a cuisine (be it Italian or Bengali food) is consumed locally; this should be considered while while deciding the menu. Adding local flavours in the food helps. We were apprehensive while using more adventurous ingredients such as kaleji and turai. So, we used these ingredients to create dishes with familiar flavours, like kaleji marinated in spices and grilled over charcoal. We find people returning for these dishes.
Tip: To sustain a food business, be consistent and stay quality-focused. Spend time in training your team for the same.

Setting up a local joint
Plan your logistics well. These include accessibility to the outlets, sourcing of raw material, product shelf life, etc. Location is important.

Jasmit Tibb, owner, Tibb’s Frankie
Jasmit Tibb, owner, Tibb’s Frankie

If you are opening a local food joint, ensure that your location has great ‘foot’ crowd so that you can literally help them with food on-the-go. Respect your customer’s wishes and preferences.
Tip: Unless you have deep pockets, expansion for a regular food outlet can be daunting. Create your own unique product or a superior one that the city has not seen before.

Compiled by Krutika Behrawala

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