Aman Bhandari, the serial restaurateur has worked in different industries like FMCG, Wellness and Construction before stepping into the food-service sector. An entrepreneur at heart, Aman used to sell t-shirts and caps while he was still studying, to earn his pocket money. Bhandari has hustled a long way and now owns brands like Barka, Barka Med Lounge, The Story Unfolds, Shiv Sagar, Not Just Dilli and the iconic, 52 Janpath. The Restaurant Times by POSist recently caught up with the young charismatic entrepreneur and he talked about his life, the challenges he faced and his journey as a restaurateur. Edited Excerpts-
POSist: You started at a very early age. Before entering into food business, you worked as a fitness consultant. What was the idea behind venturing into the restaurant business?
Aman Bhandari: Three and half years back we were into FMCG, Construction and wellness industry. At that time, we got an opportunity to open a luxurious spa spread across an area of 10,000 SqFt, at a prime location- Garden of Five Senses in Delhi. When I went to have a look at the venue, I saw there were two restaurants operating in the area. I loved the property and the concept of having a restaurant at such a location. At that time, I simply wanted to start a business where I could unwind myself after the stressful construction business that I was into. So, I thought of also starting a premium Mediterranean restaurant and not a just spa. Since then we are in the hospitality business.
POSist: How has the journey been till now?
Aman Bhandari: On the personal front, my father has been very supportive. He has always given me the space and freedom to explore and experiment. Even though I am trying new things, at the back of my mind, I always know that I have someone to fall back on. I was never pampered with my dad’s money and did not focus much on having an extravagant life; hence, I went out and took risks. Some risks worked while others didn't. Apart from that, I have been lucky to have good partners who believed in my strength and backed me up. We have been constantly growing.
POSist: What were the challenges you face in the journey of being a restaurateur?
Aman Bhandari: Well, finding well-trained and educated staff remains the biggest challenge. The food-service industry still strives to have good quality staff. We all wish to provide international products and services, but staffing is an issue. Customers who visit a premium restaurant are usually millennials who travel across the world and want the same international level of services, but we, at times, struggle to provide the same quality of services. Excellent service needs to be supported by the entire team. Unfortunately, quality and skillful staff is missing. You have to make stewards and staff learn everything about food and beverages. Even a steward should know the names of all the variety of wines available in a restaurant. Once we find the right staff, the idea becomes to enrich and nurture the existing talent. For this, one has to conduct regular seminars and one-on-one meetings to groom them and make them understand the level of service you want to deliver.
Also Read: All You Need to Know About Restaurant Staffing
The other thing that came as an initial challenge to me was the lack of clarity on the documents and licenses required for restaurants. There has always been a grey area on the paperwork required for food-service business.
I strongly believe that whenever there is a new entrant in any business, the government should have a website that showcases all types of licenses and documents required for starting the business. There should also be helpline numbers for queries. Also, there should be updates and notifications from the government for any change in policy or rules, so that the businesses are well prepared. It should be part of digital India.
POSist: What is your vision? You have created multiple brands; how do you plan to move forward?
Aman Bhandari: I have created brands according to the location and preferred cuisine in the market. Now, we are at a consolidating phase. We are entering into the QSR business with three brands- Masala Trail, Not Just Delhi and Hawkers Chowk. In the consolidation, we are trying to have a centralized base kitchen that will handle our multiple locations and outlets. We have signed various properties across Delhi for these brands.
As told to The Restaurant Times by POSist