In a candid chat with Franchise India, Chef Taruneet Walia talks about her journey – how she got into restaurant business, the challenges she faced and the ways to tackle slow economy.
On her growing up years
I got my Hotel Management degree from Chandigarh and did my training from Oberio’s New Delhi. When we moved to Canada from India about 12 years back, we had the dream of opening our own restaurant some day.
We had good and well paying jobs before starting the restaurant; it is always challenging to venture on something on your own when you are financially and professionally doing well. Of course the decision was always based on your dreams and planning for the next 10 to 15 years. It took about 8 years before we opened the restaurant but during those 8 years we gained valuable Canadian experience.
On target customers
Our restaurant is well received among the local Indian population. All age groups come and enjoy our food. The restaurant is also very well received among the local Canadians and, in fact, they form a big percentage of our regular clientele. As long as food and service give good value for money, people will come.
On restaurant ambience
We started with a very ordinary looking dining room in the beginning and kept it as casual dining restaurant, focusing on food, service and cleanliness. With the increase in business we kept on investing in the decor and upgrading the ambiance. Since we wanted to keep the restaurant look as fresh, clean and inviting, it wasn’t too difficult for the interior designer to follow our directions.
It wasn’t difficult to raise the capital needed to fund the restaurant. It was a good mix of personal equity plus bank loan.
On marketing strategies
From the beginning we focused on the quality of the food and promoted the restaurant offering true home-style cooking. Marketing is done thru monthly newsletter, some road signs and our birthday club.
We have a loyalty programme where we reward our regular guests. For every dollar spent they earn points and those points can be redeemed towards gift certificates. We do have a specific product which we take to the companies (delivery). We go door-to-door of the large corporations to promote this product.
On menu innovation
We innovate dishes and change our menu frequently. We focus on the presentation and try to provide the dishes which guests have not experienced before at the same time we do carry some staple dishes.
On supply chain
As far as suppliers are concerned, we try to procure our supplies locally as this supports the local economy. We choose the suppliers who provide good consistency with their products. We did not face difficulty in getting suppliers for our restaurant –hardware (equipments, utensils), vegetables, etc.
On the slow economy
The slowing economy is not affecting much; at these times it’s important to know how and where to market your product. There are always people who are ready to spend money as long as you provide them what they are looking for.
Team work is essential for the functionality of any business. We work very hard to make sure that there is proper team spirit in the kitchen as well as front of the house along with good harmony. We recognise employees at the right time in front of other staff members and praise them for little things and lead by example.
On the Go Green concept
Following the Go Green concept, we use eco friendly containers for our take out business and we let people know that we care about the environment.
On the journey so far
The journey has been quite interesting, challenging and rewarding. We learned a lot during this time, kept on improving our standards of food and service plus brought in innovative new ideas to adapt to market demands.
Location has to be a residential and commercial client mix. It has to be easily accessible from major highways – an area where there is more growth potential plus reasonable rent.