In an exclusive interview with Franchise India, Rohan Vaidya, Owner, Bombay Duck Co., talks about the beginning, importance of teamwork, the challenges faced and his journey so far.
My father emigrated from Bombay to New York City roughly 40 years ago and quickly found his calling building his own seafood wholesale business (NMV Co.), catering to many of the top up and coming Indian restaurants in NYC at that time. His hard work and dedication in building his business allowed him to grow and establish strong relationships with those top (now world renowned) Indian restaurants in NYC, which he still maintains to this day. As he built up his business, he grew very fond of the industry and always dreamt of opening a restaurant he could call his own. Over time, that idea evolved through countless discussions at the dinner table amongst the family. There came a point a few years back when we siblings decided to take that leap and set out to execute our father’s dream.
Before Bombay Duck Co., I had been a founding member of a consulting company and after 5+ years decided to quit my job to start my own independent consulting business. Since I was going to have bit flexibility with my schedule, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to start exploring our restaurant concept and formalise the vision for our concept. It was not an easy task to make this decision at the time. I quickly found that managing two careers would prove to be quite difficult, but I committed and did my best to follow through. But since then, over the span of 3 years I turned my new independent business into a successful consulting partnership, catering to many world class finance and tech organizations in NY.
On selecting a location
The area of Greenwich Village/West Village is very well known for many reasons. There is a great deal of foot traffic in the neighborhood which consists of local New Yorkers, NYU Students (due to the proximity to NYU) as well as the tourist population come to the area to see the well-known neighbourhood.
On setting the mood of the restaurant
The whole concept of our restaurant is centered on ‘Home’, as home is a comfortable area that should be inviting, cozy and enjoyable. We wanted to keep that in mind when creating the vibe for our restaurant. Our theme is very much Indian by way of the décor, the music, the energy, yet we remain balanced with some Western accents.
On funding and franchising
Being a family business, we have funded the restaurant ourselves. As we continue to grow, we may explore options of bringing in outside funding since a number of folks have already expressed interest to help us grow our brand, identity and concept. We have been approached a few times already about the idea of franchising and think it could be something worth exploring in the very near future. By the end of this year or early next year, we should be looking at opportunities to open our next location.
We cater to all age groups and families. Since we are in close proximity to NYU, we offer students a discount to make things even more affordable for them. We offer a student discount for NYU students and other college students. We don’t invite corporate specifically, but we have had many people come in and conduct their meetings over a meal at our place. We do cater corporate lunches and dinners offsite at their offices.
The response has been overly positive. We have seen Indian customers travel at great lengths from long distances to frequent our place. We have gotten the same overly positive response from Americans, as well as foreigners. Everyone has given us very positive feedback on all things related to the concept.
On menu innovation
Our menu is small and we do not innovate on any of those dishes. Our goal is to execute those perfectly; innovation comes into play around any specials that we have for a given day or week.
Our most popular dish is probably our Fish Curry, which is also my favourite dish. This is authentic homestyle fish curry and my Mother’s one-of-a-kind recipe. We haven’t really invested much time on marketing, and we feel that the best marketing is word of mouth. We regularly tell our story to our patrons and let the food speak for itself.
On the challenges faced while starting the restaurant, Bombay Duck Co
Being a new business, we faced a number of challenges with getting things in place with leasing the space. Real estate in NYC is quite expensive and sometimes a challenge in itself. We had a fantastic legal counsel who took care of all licensing for us.
On working as a team
In the beginning, we had four people on staff, but we’ve quickly grown to double that in a few short months. To build team spirit, we work closely with the team and drive/motivate them.
Additionally, we share all of the customer feedback as well as online feedback to let them know that every thing they do impacts the overall experience for the customers. Positive reinforcement goes a long way here. We continuously evaluate our employees/staff and processes to make sure we are operating efficiently.
Working as a team is critical and has an immeasurable impact on the business. If the team can work hard, execute and operate efficiently, customers are responsive and they have a great experience. This makes them come back. We have biodegradable to go containers and are mindful of using proper biodegrable products throughout our restaurant.
On how slow economy is affecting
The economy has been changing and it seems that people are still eating out quite often. The difference is: where people may have spent 100.00 USD on a meal at a restaurant a few years back, they now are only willing to spend 50.00 USD. What this means is that they are still interested in eating out, but want to be more mindful of how they spend their money rather than how much they spend.
On international fast food chains as competitors
The international fast food chains are not exactly our competition. Our model is not that of a fast food restaurant, yet it wouldn’t be categorised as fine dining either. It’s a very cozy setting that offers a great meal with a great ambience.
If one want to run a restaurant successfully are food quality, he should concentrate on food quality, staff, operational efficiency and financial efficiency.
Journey so far
Since this idea was one in the making for many years, the journey has been long, challenging, a great learning experience, and very exciting at the same time. This journey was a great deal of learning in itself as I faced countless challenges and more than a fair share of stresses. This was a complete team effort for our family.
The journey taught us about life, family, and how with hard work and dedication anything is possible. It has taught us to never give up on your dreams, and if you believe, anything is possible. Thus, our journey has lead us to a point where we now feel our concept can certainly be a game changer.
On handling stress and pressure
My strengths are conceptualising ideas, their execution, identifying inefficiencies and optimising processes around those to solve the problems that arise. Handling stress and pressure are part of day-to-day activity. My strategy here is to quickly tackle the issue, then step back to look at things strategically. This is to make sure that we optimise and make that solution efficient so that the problem is solved for a long term.