Zion Hospitality Consultants, a Delhi-based restaurant consulting firm founded by Umesh Kapoor in 2008 envisions to become the forefront of hospitality and emphasize Indian Culture and geographical feature. The company has worked with brands like Chew Pan-Asian Café, WIC India, Café Delhi Heights, Niche Lounge & Bistro, CP, Grub House, The Hiatus, Turquoise Cottage, Samovar, Influence, Kylin Experience to name a few. Umesh Kapoor, Founder of Zion Hospitality Consultants shares his insights and experiences with The Restaurant Times about the different type of concepts and their viability. Edited Excerpts.
POSist: What are the best practices and strategies to follow to go from ‘Local’ to ‘Chain’ restaurant business?
Umesh Kapoor: The biggest thing to become a chain of restaurants from one single outlet is your own 'Self-confidence'. In present times, the biggest support, as well as the biggest fear in the market today, is the funding companies. These funding companies have their own vested interest you. However, these companies help in the expansion of the business. But it totally depends on the individual (owner) what model he/she picks up for the expansion spree. Let us take the example of Cafe Delhi Heights, it has never been into a funding a mode ever. Still, it has 11 outlets and they plan to further expand. On another hand we have Turquoise cottage: they has 5-6 outlets and are also expanding further, but they are into franchise and funding model.
It also depends upon the system performance based input as an entrepreneur you have got. Some owners who want to expand further invest some percentage of profits into business development and make new investments.
Other than the type of expansion you want to go for, one thing which is most important in going from one outlet to several is logistics of the restaurant. If the restaurant is logistically sound nothing bad will happen. The template of the kitchen and bar remains the same, training of the chefs remain the same. Today when we hire any chef and the team, we make sure they are trainable commodities. So, when any new outlet opens the team is hired and de-fragmented into the different location where they get on the job training and at the same premise (previous Restaurant). When they enter the new outlet, the process and the functions of the restaurant remain the same and they can easily deliver what is expected from them.
To make sure that the quality remains same across all outlets, you do bulk buying which gives you several advantages. One is that you get it at the wholesale rate, secondly, you get the best quality and when you end consumer gets the best quality products from best quality of raw materials.
POSist: Based on the present facts and market sentiment. What format (fine dining vs casual dining vs QSR vs Speciality Restaurant) of the restaurant will win the game in near future?
Umesh: At present, consumers are moving towards specialty food. So, specialty restaurants and the food outlets with specialized concepts will stay in the near future and 'clone' restaurants will fade away.
POSist: Since you are with founders of the restaurant from the inception of the idea, what kind of advice do you offer to your clients in terms of ambiance, furniture, kitchen layout etc.?
Umesh Kapoor: Whenever we take up a new project, we tell our clients that they are doing an executive hotel management with us. We make sure that the first level training goes to our clients rather than the staff at the first stage. The idea is to make a common base of making decisions. For example How much space is required for the particular format or type of food outlet he/she wants to open, What kind of electrical load is required for it? Why we need that much and why we don't need that much. It is basically taking them to the ground reality. The biggest thing I keep on telling to my clients is that they need to believe in their selves and whatever your food and beverage you are serving are the best.
POSist: How about rentals? What should be the weight of rentals in working capital or profits?
Umesh Kapoor: Ideally, 15 percent of the working capital should be the rent of the food outlet. However, it goes way beyond that but it is expected and we cannot do anything about that.
POSist: What are the upcoming hot locations pan India to open a restaurant? Where can we see the crowd moving?
Umesh Kapoor: The upcoming hot locations are cities like Mumbai, Pune, and Kolkatta if we talk about the metropolitan cities. While cities like Aurangabad, Dehradun, and Lucknow are also emerging as the hot market for the food business. In Mumbai locations like Bandra, Kamla Mills and Phoneix Mills are promising. In Pune, Viman Nagar is one hot location. There are around 12-13 restaurants coming up in Pune.
POSist: What is the basis of the hiring new employees? How to retain the old ones?
Umesh Kapoor: We have structured the hiring process in three rounds – technical and skill set round, general aptitude, honesty and personal well-being rounds and one final round with the client they will work for. On retention, I would like to say India is a poor country and people who work in this industry are lower middle class. They have to send money to their family or feed their families living here with them. These are small headaches of the common man which if taken care well by the restaurant owner nobody will go anywhere. A proper structure approach should be there should be there. However, attrition cannot be stopped completely.
POSist: What is last piece of advice would like to share with restaurant owners and future restaurant owners?
Umesh Kapoor: Restauratering is not an easy business. 80 percent of the people who end up entering restaurant business are the ones who go in a restaurant at the peak time and see the business and got fascinated by the crowd. Aspiring restaurateurs should do a proper research and why and how they are going to open a restaurant.
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