Demystifying the restaurant business, with a dash of spice!

To create a business and thrive in it has an uncanny familiarity with having a child. You may work your hardest, invest all that you have and not leave any stone unturned to ensure it grows; but in the end, it is ought to be self-sustaining and know how to thrive amongst chaos.

With a plethora of restaurants around every corner, one tends to wonder if creating your business is unexpectedly a whole lot easier in today’s world. But a single look at the shelf life of most of these restaurants and it is a no brainer that inception and survival are two very different ball games after all. In this universe of fierce competition, you have to get your basics/pretext right. And who else to emphasize this better than my recent guest and a rock-solid restauranteur Padmanabhan (alias Paddy), founder and owner of the very popular casual dining restaurant Herbs and Spices in Bangalore. Over a decade’s experience as a chef and 18+ years as a restauranteur under his belt, Paddy is still going as strong as ever.

In this interview with Paddy, we decode the very basics for you and bring to you the survival guide to this seemingly glamorous but extremely cut-throat business of restaurants.

The Beginning- WHY?

For Paddy, it was a natural progression from being a chef to becoming a restaurateur. You have the advantages of having known the business and the people who surround it, he concurs; yet the skill of detachment of your passion for the food-craft from the very practical business requirements is the key here.

As Paddy muses about the roadblocks he faced with respect to compliances and statutory requirements, we collected that having the right people around you for advice is the most important start. Paddy explains that his learning of the craft came purely by making mistakes and getting his hands dirty. As one progresses, it’s important to be the apprentice instead of the mentor at times, so as to know the nuances of the game- Paddy wisely points out. No one can know or correct the business without being in it.

The Differentiation- HOW?

Paddy has the most sagacious smile, as I ask him about his thriving strategies. And that is the thing with people who start from the roots and keep it simple, they go back to the basics when in a dubious situation.

He explains how building a differentiation is about identifying a long-term trend and not falling for the fads. His version of differentiating factors would be varied cuisines and ambience. The reviews of Herbs and Spices speak volumes about the ambience and food offered, and one can see the point. Paddy insists that an innovation can only work with trends and not fads, so an investment needs to be made accordingly.

The Checks- WHAT?

As Paddy emphasizes the importance of a correctly priced menu and the seasonal alterations required in it to control cost, I come to talking numbers with him. Paddy who feels very strongly about waste management and control, insists that in the food business if the cost% is higher than 40% for a fine dining and 30% for a casual dining restaurant, then it would be equivalent to social service!

20% EBITDA is a healthy goal to keep, according to him. To achieve this, he deconstructs the pricing strategy like the chef in him would deconstruct a dish. Trail backwards he says, start from the price and then onto cost management and this strategy will never fail!

Paddy has transformed his dream into an example for people to follow and how! My conversation with him was a delightful mix of candour, reality check and knowledge only a veteran in his field can offer. Here’s hoping, this is as useful to you as it was to me.

Keep watching this space. Good luck until next time!