Banker turned Restaurateur Akshay Anand started his hospitality journey seven years back with One Cafe bar. In less than a decade, the new age restaurateur has worked on many concepts from Karaoke to high-end restaurants in a five-star property, the foodprenuer is now on his way to expand further in different cities like Mumbai, Dubai, and London. In a candid interaction with The Restaurant Times Akshay Anand, Co-founder, Hotmess shares his experience of seven-year long journey and challenges he faced during the course of time. Edited Excerpts…
POSist: How has been your journey into restaurant industry?
Akshay Anand: I was a banker with American Express for seven years before I entered into the hospitality business. In 2007 end, I opened a small cafe in Select City mall 'One Cafe bar' of merely 1200 sqft with all my savings. It was the first karaoke bar in Delhi. It got an overwhelming response and soon it became the rage in the youth. We started selling sheeshas and created a very chilled out place for the youngster to chill and enjoy karaoke. It was a huge hit for us and had impeccable sales. Ever since there has been no looking back. Right after that, I opened a 'One Boulevard'' right opposite to one cafe bar. We started the Sufi bands culture in Delhi.
I am not from the hospitality industry and neither my background is hotel management. I was a banker and it all came out of passion. Now we have Unplugged Courtyard, Hotmess, and Townhouse cafe in CP.
POSist: In the journey, what are the lessons you learned and would you like to share with young entrepreneurs who wants to step into this industry?
Akshay Anand: There is some learning every day in this industry. You need to keep up with the food trends, marketing trends, promotions of the place etc. The industry evolves year after year. You need to adapt to the change that happens in the industry, and innovate accordingly. The learning is never-ending and you have to raise your learning bar. One should be clear about the idea and the concept he or she is working on. Based on that, the rest of the things are planned.
POSist: How much time it you took to understand the whole restaurant business?
Akshay Anand: It took me six to eight months to get the hang of the business. Since my finance was strong, it really helped to manage the things and control the business from the finance perspective. And when you are passionate about something you achieve what you want to do. Now we have a centralized team for everything, and the restaurant works like a corporate structure.
POSist: How has been the experience of working with private investors and partnership business?
Akshay Anand: See, we do and manage everything from concept, location, food quality, and services. We manage everything and pull things in the right direction. So, our investors getting returns on their investment and they are pretty much happy with our work.
POSist: What are the challenges you faced on the daily basis? What was the major challenge for you?
Akshay Anand: The main challenge is that we don't get any support from the government. For example, they don’t allow us to work in the open air; microbrewery in Delhi is still a challenge etc.
Getting the licenses from the MCD and the NDMC is also a challenge especially when we create a new concept restaurant.
And these challenges holds you from expanding further.
POSist: What is your take on the attrition in the restaurant industry? How do you manage that?
Akshay Anand: There is a lot of attrition rate in the industry. The junior staff keeps on shuffling jobs. We have to step up our own HR team which takes care of recruitment and there is a lot of training that is happening all the time.
So, to keep the standards high and to meet such challenges, we also pay good salaries to retain the staff. We pay on the higher side of the scale that is prevalent in the industry. We treat our staff like our family and make sure their every need is met. We further educate them and give them 10 days of training before joining.
POSist: How do you see this industry growing in coming years?
Akshay Anand: Our industry will grow substantially in the coming years. The government is taking a lot of initiative to increase the tourism in Delhi, as the current situation is pretty bad. The central government has started giving on arrival visas to a lot of countries. So that will really help to boost the tourism and hospitality industry. Another great step that recently taken by the government was giving permission to open late night which will further enhance the restaurant business.
POSist: What are your expansion plans?
Akshay Anand: We are doing three projects in Delhi – Drama an upside down bar, Zabardast India Kitchen, and a property in Ashoka Hotel. Then we are moving towards to new locations like Mumbai, Dubai, and London.