Manjeet Singh, the owner of Plan B which is an upscale restaurant in DLF Phase 3, Gurgaon, completed his education in London and gathered international exposure for more than seven years. After returning to India in 2011, and evaluating various businesses Manjeet decided to turn his passion for cooking into a full-time profession. He opened a restaurant called Plan B, and also started another restaurant, Volt by Plan B, following the first one's success. Manjeet shares his experience of starting and running a restaurant from the scratch with no hospitality background with The Restaurant Times by POSist in a candid chat. Edited Excerpts…
POSist: You stepped into restaurant industry with no hospitality background. How tough or easy was it for you to start a restaurant?
Manjeet Singh: I started from the scratch with no help around. I managed everything: from setting up a kitchen, interior of the restaurant, hiring and marketing and promotions, myself. The only thing which was easy for me was to get a location which most of the other restaurant owner find tough. You can say I was lucky enough as it started really well. That was the only positive thing at that time.
POSist: How did you get people on board?
Manjeet Singh: At the initial stage, I looked for people on the internet. I posted few ads on the internet and on different pages of facebook. I hired few people from there. Then, I went to different restaurants which I personally like and handpicked few chefs by giving them better and lucrative offer. Apart from this, people who joined me in the early days referred a few others. This is how we built a team of 60 employees for both of my restaurants.
POSist: What was your criteria to finalize the location?
Manjeet Singh: I scrutinized the international Bars and Restaurants. The successful ones were near to corporate hubs. Corporate executives go there for parties and hang-outs So, I decided to choose my restaurant location near such hubs. My first location is just near DLF cyber Hub where more than 2 lakhs employees work. What more you can ask for from a location?
POSist: How did you promote and market Plan B?
Manjeet Singh: In the starting phase, we did everything; from offline ads to online campaigns. We used leaflets, put up hoarding at relevant places, printed ads and did promotion on food portals. But that was just to get the customers' first visit. Post that, we came out with different innovative offers for all set of customers. For example, we used to offer free dishes and whiskey bottles when a table crossed a certain limit of billing. We used to offer a bottle of whiskey for the bills above Rs 10,000.
POSist: How do you manage your employees as attrition rate is so high in the industry?
Manjeet Singh: I treat my employees as my family. They work and earn for me and I respect them a lot. It is tough to get good people on board. I would just say keep your employees happy. People try to poach my employees but my employees don't want to leave as they also consider treat Plan B. Most of them come and discuss with me whatever offer they get from outside. We together discuss what is best for their future.
POSist: How do you manage your customers? How do you retain them?
Manjeet Singh: We take customer reviews really serious. I personally manage all the reviews. Owners have to be involved in the restaurant. If the owner is there on the floor seeing what is happening, then only there are chances that the restaurant will run successfully. You cannot handover the restaurant to someone and expect it to grow. It is actually like feeding and helping it grow, just like a child. The emotions are also akin to those between a parent and their child. If the parent doesn't care about it, no one will.
POSist: Tell us about menu designing?
Manjeet Singh: I have divided the menu into two parts. One part is the fixed part that is 70 percent of the dishes, which remain the same. With the other 30 percent, we introduce and shuffle new dishes depending upon the audience we are targeting, giving more choice to the customers. It is important to give choices to people as they always looking for new experiences.
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