With its rustic and comforting vibe, Boveda Bistro is the ‘it’ place for family get-togethers; outings with friends, and casual work meetings. Yasho Sonthalia and Abhishek Goyal are behind the steering wheel of this venture, and the dynamic duo has welcomed Syesha Kapoor as Partner and Managing Director. With a focus on exceptional food, the team has Gracian Dsouza donning the chef’s hat, who has to his credit, the experience of working in Michelin star restaurants.
Syesha Kapoor, Partner and Managing Director, shares her insights in a candid interview with The Restaurant Times by POSist. Edited excerpts…
POSist: When did you think of opening up your own Restaurant/Bar/Cafe? What were your initial thoughts about the business? What was the approach?
Syesha: Since my first event stint with Indigo Cafe (interned as the assistant of the dessert chef), I have dreamt of having my own restaurant. Firstly, I believe that different people have different aptitudes thus definitely wanted to work with a partner/s. If people in a group are in sync and have a similar thought process they can do wonders. It’s important for them to be open to ideas and listening – that’s the key! Abhishek, Yasho and I all wanted to bring something casual yet high in quality to Andheri. There are many small places all over Mumbai but Andheri has very few ‘bistro like’ places: genuinely classic and with a Euro-American touch. We wanted our international exposure and travel experiences to reflect in our work.
POSist: What kind of problems and challenges you faced at initial stage? How did you overcome them?
Syesha: I think the initial challenge was only self-conviction about the project. We were diving into something with a high risk, so being ready for that is the biggest challenge. At the end of the day, it’s all a state of mind but it takes the time to get set for that.
POSist: Was getting licenses and permissions easy? What are the important licenses required to operate any particular kind of restaurant/outlet?
Syesha: Licenses are a never ending process, but it’s important for us to ensure we get all licenses to run smoothly. There are many licenses one needs to run a commercial food establishment, but some of the main ones are shop, cooking, alcohol, and health & safety.
POSist: What is the USP of your restaurant/outlet? Who is your target customer?Syesha: I think it’s a place that you can dine at any time. It's innovating food, yet comfortable. The best part is the All Day Breakfast. We are the only ones to offer ADB till closing; in fact, we are also working on a TRAM menu that will be open even after the main kitchen shuts. It will have quick bites and some delicious small meals – The kind of food that people crave for (purely indulgent!)
POSist: How do you reach your target customer?
Syesha: I purely believe in the word of mouth. Keeping up the standard of food and service is easier said than done. It’s not an easy task to maintain the ‘same’ quality & be consistent. If one can achieve that there is no reason to fear. People will hear about you through friends and family and keep coming back!
POSist: How do you ensure customer loyalty? What are your views on customer retention?
Syesha: We have an amazing loyalty program so that definitely helps. We genuinely reward our loyal guests & want them to keep coming back and enjoy this space, food & service. Also, before the bill goes to the guests table, we always request for feedback on food, service and ambiance. This helps us to address problems on the spot & ensure guests leave satisfied.
POSist: How do you see social media as the marketing tool? Why is it important for any kind of food business?
Syesha: Social media is definitely an accelerator. It helps make people aware of new promotions, dishes & what we offer however I do think that it isn't a measurement of actual revenue. It can only push what’s already good or ensure (up to an extent) that there is brand re-collect. It’s a great engagement tool. Food today is first eaten through the eyes; this is where social media plays a huge role. Guests look at pictures, what we offer and then make a decision; so yes in today’s time one can’t ignore social media platforms – especially Instagram and Facebook.
POSist: What kind of technology you have integrated at your business? How does it help in managing the business?
Syesha: We use a POS system that helps us to generate reports; giving us information on the week to week sales, the number of tables, average cost/head, which item moves the fastest and more. This really helps us to analyze what we should retain in our menu and what we can substitute. Our tab also pulls in guest feedback & exports it to excel – which is very useful!
POSist: What are the key mantras to manage employees? How do you motivate your employees?
Syesha: Employees are happy when the place is full & they see happy guests – period! You can do everything you want but if your place is not buzzing, their motivation is low. They work harder under stress & perform better! We do have interesting incentive programs to challenge them and ensure they achieve their individual targets. When a guest mentions a staff member’s name on a social platform, we reward them too! Also, we do a little get together for them every now and then; after all, even they need to relax. Our briefings are usually about appreciating their work & pushing them to excel.
POSist: How do you see food industry growing? What are the upcoming food trends in Restaurant and hospitality industry in 2016?
Syesha: Restaurants are opening by the dozen every day! Everyone is trying to innovate – new dishes, new presentations, and the new trends are now gastronomy and a mashup of Indian food with western dishes (like – the Gulaab Jamun Cheesecake, Chicken Makhni Risotto & more). It’s getting insane-r by the day! Like another other industry, this will grow and grow until it reaches saturation point. I think experimentation is at its peak right now, but soon we will go back to traditional food & recipes. Everything is a cycle! Restaurateurs are rushing & opening outlets by the day, for me it’s important to go slow but right.
POSist: How do you sum up 2015? How do you see coming years for your business?
Syesha: 2015, in general, was a RAT RACE. I think restaurateurs need to stop pricing so low to please guests and pull them in. They lower the quality; use ‘not so real’ supplies, and give lower than low rates. The restaurant next to them offers and even lower price. What happens here is a price war. One needs to understand that no-one gains here except the guest who has multiple options to choose for and almost no loyalty for a restaurant. The idea of a meal outside was an ‘occasion’ and it was meant to be special – a celebration, however now it holds no special value. I hope the industry and work on its own terms and not succumb to the pressure of low pricing. Let’s be true to the quality and offer the best – guests will come if they truly love everything you stand for!
POSist: What are your expansion plans? Are you looking forward to any kind of funding?Syesha: At this point in time, we are concentrating on our current outlet. Let’s give this one all we have & then work on the next. Like I said – its quality over quantity, any day