In a candid chat with Franchise India, Chef Abhijit Saha talks about his journey from a chef to a restaurateur, the F&B trend in the industry and the challenges faced.
From a management trainee to a chef to an entrepreneur handling the business realms of the company...
I started my journey 23 years ago. I’m a hotel management graduate from Hotel Management graduate from the Institute of Hotel Management in Pusa. I joined Taj Group of Hotels as management trainee and worked with them for 8 years. Then I joined Manor Hotel and worked with them for 3 years. Then I worked with Park Hotel as Executive Chef and Director of Food Services for 8 years. Then I went the entrepreneur way.
After 8 years of my work at Taj, I had the opportunity to work at the project stage when the Manor hotel in Delhi was being set up. That gave me great exposure in various areas of the project rather than just being in the kitchen. It also gave me good exposure and when I was with Park Hotels where I got training on how to be an entrepreneur and manage projects rather than being a chef. That helped me when I decided to become an entrepreneur.
The F&B trends nowadays
India is a vast country. India can’t be bogged by any single trend or a particular trend. There are trends in the QSR formats, there are trends in the Fine dining formats and there are trends in the five star dining formats. There are so many trends – the food-related trends, beverage-related trends – and I think many cities and different places are going in different directions. While in Bangalore, the trend is to set up microbrewery a lot and have the cafes and pubs which are coming up. Then there are the regional Indian cuisine restaurants that are opening up. So, that is the important area of growth that we are seeing in and also people are enjoying at being at most smart casual dining places and I think this is definitely going to increase over period of years. And I think people love food and the food and beverage industry is booming.
On why foreign restaurant chains opening in India become successful than their Indian counterpart
It is the knowledge and research that we have been indulging from many years. Indians sometimes have the tendency of looking at it only from the culinary point of few and not be based on thorough market-based research. That is what is very important being an entrepreneur; you may have certain ideas and thoughts that should be validated in market research. It is not that too many people are not doing it, but they may not be doing it in the right manner. There could be some things lacking in that. It is about management style and also about empowering of your people – how you train. Investment also has to looked into not only in the form of restaurant but how you invest in research and innovation. So these are all important roles which we need to focus on and we might be lacking in doing that.
Advise for budding restaurateurs
Every day the life of a restaurateur or a chef is a new day, you can face new challenges in a new manner. The ability to tackle challenges makes one successful. So challenges can be in terms of customer management and retention, the management in terms of quality, the management in terms of how speedy, reliable or how consistent is your restaurant. There could be problems in terms of recruitment.