En- The Japanese Restaurant is located in the midst of the old city of Mehrauli in South Delhi, spread across a heritage haveli with intricately designed interiors and a sprawling lawn with both indoor and outdoor seating each one with a great view of the Qutab Minar.
With a mix of Japanese and Indian customers, the En has been serving some its signature dishes such as Buta Kakuni (a pork dish prepared in a 28 hour long process), Ebi Tornado (Deep fried prawn wrapped with sweet potato and served with tonkhatsu and tartaru sauce), Baked Salmon Roll (Sushi with raw salmon filling) and Qutub Roll (Vegeteriansushi roll) for more than three years from now.
In an interaction with The Restaurant Times- POSist, Sherry Anne Sudan, Director, Marcom, En-The Japanese Restaurant, shares her experience on driving the growth of the specialty restaurant and attracting customers that serve not so popular Japanese food. Edited Excerpts…
POSist: How do you see food industry growing? What are the upcoming food trends in Restaurant and hospitality industry in 2016?
Sherry: People don’t look at food as a mere thing now as dining has emerged as a concept in itself. People are coming out of their comfort zones and exploring cuisines like never before.
In 2016, we will see chefs playing with more advanced cooking techniques, focusing on presentation of the cuisines to give a whole new experience to the patrons.
Also, cuisines in smaller portions will continue rule the table this year too. In addition to that, producers will be introducing a never seen before drinking experience on the table to attract the diners.
POSist: How do you sum up 2015? How do you see coming years for your business?
Sherry: 2015 was very good in terms of expansion of the industry. We witnessed rapid changes in the trends which was inevitable. The industry is growing tremendously and there is a lot which we are expecting in the coming years. I am very positive about our business in the coming years considering how people are coming out of their shell and showing interest in exploring cuisines of other countries.
POSist: What kind of problems and challenges you faced at initial days of operations?
Sherry: Our biggest challenge was to make people, customers and audience aware about the Japanese Cuisine. There is not much awareness about Japanese cuisine among Indian people. People here in India resemble Japanese cuisine with Sushi only which is not the case.
There is a wide variety which needs to be explored in this segment. We are trying to make people familiar with other dishes such as Yakitori, Live Teppanyaki via engaging with people on various platforms such as social media and Food Fests.
POSist: What are the important licenses required to operate any particular kind of restaurant?
Sherry: There is lot of paper work to be done before opening up a restaurant such as Food License, Health Trade License, and License for Eating House and Liquor/Bar License (if you are serving liquor in any of your restaurant) are some of the important licenses to operate any restaurant. It is not an easy process but with help of some consultancies and proactive effort helped us get all sought of permissions.
POSist: What is the USP of your Restaurant/outlet? Who is your target customer?
Sherry: The authentic Japanese cuisine is our major USP. Due to rise of globalisation there are lot of Japanese companies which have their manufacturing base in India especially in National Capital Region. These people have very less options to eat out. So, our targets are Japanese customers and Indians who would like to explore Japanese cuisine.
POSist: How do you ensure customer loyalty? What are your views on customer retention?
Sherry: Customer loyalty plays a very essential role in the service industry. Loyal customers not only bring back the business to you again and again but it also help you to grow the business with free word of mouth promotion. Investing in reducing attrition and providing extraordinary customer service are some of the ways to retain customers.
You can’t afford to let the customer relationship go unattended after spending so much in the initial stages to build that relationship with them. One has to constantly nurture these relationships.
POSist: How do you reach your target customer?
Sherry: We try to make a best use of all accessible platforms to reach our customer. We plan our strategies diligently and ensure it shouldn’t be uneconomical. However, our main focus is on tools like social media and PR. Apart from the aforementioned, we also use traditional tools such as outdoor marketing and advertising to reach our target customers.
It’s not possible to avoid the social media in today’s era as the platform has emerged a very powerful medium to reach out to your existing as well as potential customers. We have more than 6,000 people following us on Facebook and there are thousands of posts on Instagram. It is one of the best and low-cost marketing tools. It not only helps in spreading the message about the brand among masses but it also helps in increasing the sales indirectly.
POSist: What are the key mantras to manage employees? How do you motivate your employees?
Sherry: It’s very important to manage employees effectively as they are one of the important assets of any organization. Our retention rate is very good as we not only focus on hiring the best but we ensure we invest enough in employee engagement. Also, we design our HR policies very well keeping the interests of both parties in mind.