In a candid chat with Franchise India, AD Singh talks about his journey so far, the challenges he had to face while opening a restaurant and the importance of the right ambience for restaurant success.
I got into the food business because I have a sweet tooth. I have been in this business for 23 years. The journey has been great – there have been many ups and downs. I was far removed from the hospitality industry when I first began my career. After completing my engineering in America, I worked for Cadbury for a while, but I realised it wasn’t for me. I then tried out the NGO sector, but I figured I couldn’t build a life with that salary. I slowly entered the hospitality field, when I opened a small venture called Party Lines, through which I organised boat parties. It started doing quite well! Ultimately, I opened a small café in the Flora Fountain area of Mumbai called Just Desserts, which was a decade before opening the Olive Bar and Kitchen. So it did take me a lot of time and a couple of trials, before I actually realised that my passion lay in this business.
Working in India has been very challenging. The journey has been one of learning. We started with things that we saw as an opportunity in the market. That has been my direction. We always created a place we liked but didn’t find in the market space and that is how we’ve grown.
The real challenge in this sector is firstly real estate availability and costs, secondly lack of legal system and finally the environment headaches which we do not have anywhere in Asia. We have built a lean strategy for the future; we are more careful now. We are more creative as ever and trying to do more products in new models that are weatherproof.
Obtaining quality ingredients and produce was a big challenge, because ultimately the success of a restaurant depends on the quality of food. Initially, I also struggled with trying to attract the right crowd to the restaurant, but that happened over time.
If one location of an industry goes bad, it drags down the profits of 4-5 locations. So one has to be very careful while choosing a location.
I feel people need a place to enjoy the cuisines and food they taste, so the external atmosphere has to be conducive for leisure. Outdoor spaces, with elements of nature, add to the feeling of creative freedom and serenity.
On foreign brands
The number of foreign brands coming to India is also doing very badly; there are only few success stories even amongst those. Most of the success stories are when they had a good Indian partner. A good Indian partner is critical to the game.
I believe in sticking to the basics. It all comes down to great food, good wine and warm service. Until you have all these ingredients in the right proportions and working the right way, you will not enjoy success. I also like to be involved in all the processes of the restaurant, so I do participate in the discussions and tastings.