Both Manali Guha and Abhinav Aggarwal came from a different background before jumping into the food business. Abhinav, an MSC in physics from BITS Pilani and Manali a B.Tech in computer science, always dreamt of owning a restaurant of their own as food was always close to their heart. It was in early 2017 when the duo together came to open this restaurant in Gurgaon which has become a go-to destination for the expats as well as the locals for the fine gourmet food. Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us something about Stay Woke.
The name Stay Woke is a millennial kind of word which means to be aware. We wanted to create a space which talks about all the issues that concerns all of us and at the same time about food which is groomed. That’s the probable reason why we came up with this name and the place.
How much time did it take to start your restaurant?
It took us a lot of time.Usually,it takes roughly four to five months for a restaurant to be up and running, but for us, it took a year as we didn’t know anything and wanted to do everything on our own. Ranging from getting funds to decorating the interiors we wanted all to be personalized. We almost visited 70-80 restaurants in Delhi observing every kind of details that we could use.
How much have you actually invested in the cafe?
It’s a bootstrapped venture. Till now, we have already spent around one crore. Hopefully, we are looking at investing another 10 lakhs after which things will be profitable. But it’s been a tough journey, as initially we were looking for funding and were unable to have one. We also applied in many start-up India plans but things didn’t work in our favor.
Why did you choose Gurgaon as your location?
We chose it to be Gurgaon just because of the demographic condition. Initially, we wanted it to be in Delhi, but later we decided to establish our venture in Gurgaon. We personally believe that Gurgaon has the most mature and global crowd whom we can attract by our services.
How are you matching up with the prices and same standard with other ventures in the market?
The initial idea in our head was to stick with the competitive pricing. First we looked at the places around us. Our food margin is comparatively lesser than of others. We believe in acquiring customers for now. The ideal thing which is in our mind is to satisfy the people who are visiting us. We want to acquire market and increase our brand value.
What is the average footfall at your restaurant?
We roughly get 30-40 orders on weekdays. Weekends would be approximately 60-70.
Whose stake was at the menu?
I (Abhinav) am handling the finance part of the restaurant, whereas she (Manali) is dealing with other stuffs. She is the mastermind behind designing and customizing of our menu. Coordinating what items should be selected, doing the trials of the food and deciding what to keep and what not to keep in the menu is all her part. I was busier handling the construction part of the restaurant. We did trials for a month until we were sure that these products are great for our menu and will not be dicey in the future. I personally believe that the customers don’t want to sound stupid while ordering food. So keeping that point in mind, we have designed the menu in such a way that everything is crystal clear for the customers so that they can easily differentiate between varieties of products.
What is your take on various online platforms like Zomato and Swiggy?
Online platforms are a kind of gimmick but Zomato has certainly helped many restaurants including ours. People can actually make their decision while being online whether they want to dine out with that particular restaurant or not by sitting at home. The availability of numbers of the restaurants is another key feature which Zomato is providing. The only negative point I can suggest is that they really need to maintain the balance between what the consumer is saying and the actual feedback of the restaurant.
What is your expansion plan going forward in this industry?
We have already decided the next two things which we are going to do in the upcoming time. The kitchen we are having can serve to hundred people a day. But we only have a capacity for forty two people a meal. We will first make it a bigger place converting it into a hundred seater outlet. After that we are interested in introducing wine and beer at our outlet.