Kainaz Contractor's dream of opening her own Parsi restaurant was one that she harboured for many years. She loves to cook, eat and feed people. So, she felt that this was the most natural career path for her. However, it was always a post 30 plan; she was very clear that she would spend her 20s' learning about all aspects of restaurants before she opened her own place!
In an interview with Restaurant India, Kainaz Contractor, owner of Rustom's in Delhi, speaks about the key challenges she faced as an entrepreneur.
The Journey as an Entrepreneur
I started with hotels to learn how things work and understand the backend operations of a restaurant. Once I got that exposure, I explored food writing to delve deeper into where food comes from, coming into close contact with a lot of chefs and restaurants, I found out what was happening globally and kept up with food trends. I cut short my stint at BBC Good Food magazine as the food editor once the magazine turned vegetarian (Parsis will relate). This pushed me to fast-forward my post 30 plan and the varied work experience I gathered over the years gave me a different perspective and edge while opening my first restaurant. Rustom's is my baby and dream project; I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to serve Parsi food that is as close to home-cooked as you can get in a restaurant, that too in a setting as beautiful and befitting as the Delhi ParsiAnjuman. The end result of seeing people have a lovely meal at your restaurant, celebrating important personal milestones whilst having your food and enjoying your hospitality is an incomparable feeling.
Rustom’s in one sentence
Authentic home cooked Parsi food served in an authentic setting that will immerse you in the Parsi way of life.
Here’s what I have learnt in my entrepreneurial journey so far:
- Things aren’t always going to go as per your master plan. But have enough foresight and humility to embrace change that is beneficial for your company’s growth and survival.
- Don’t micromanage and try to control things that cannot be controlled.
- Don’t let the business affect your moral compass. There will be a time when you may be duped, outsmarted or betrayed all in the name of good business. But don’t follow the herd, be the kind of entrepreneur you want to be.
Also Read: 'Be Astute in Business and Creative in Food'
What’s more Important – Sense of Business or Food
I feel that both are very important. While you don’t need to be a chef to open a restaurant, you do need to be passionate about food and hire the right person/people for the job(s) who will translate your vision on a plate. It’s a business like no other, with its own unique set of challenges so you need to be sharp as a tack when it comes to handling the daily operations of the business. You cannot outsource the job of managing your restaurant and expect it to be done. It’s a fine balance that needs to be maintained. The foodie in you should be inspired to make bold and unique menu changes, inspired food concepts and create a unique culinary identity for your restaurant while the business person in you should be able to predict market shifts, evolve along with ever-changing consumer patterns and maintaining a healthy balance sheet.
While our earlier location had mostly families and students visiting, our new location in ITO has a lot of lawyers, doctors, tourists and journalists visiting in the day and families at night.
I’m a thoroughbred Bombay girl so I would love to open a branch of Rustom’s in Colaba. My company is called Divided Attention Hospitality and we stay true to our company name by collaborating with other brands in creating bespoke F&B projects which are driven by championing the cause of regional cuisine, local produce and seasonality. In addition to Rustom’s, we also have collaborated with brands such as Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters and NappaDori in operating and managing their cafe kitchens.
Obstacles are aplenty when you’re opening a restaurant in India, regardless of your gender. Right from the bureaucracy in procuring licenses to setting up the space, staff hiring and retention to making the final look come together. Designing and executing the restaurant interiors, the kitchen layouts and equipment and getting vendors on board too proved to be a challenge for a first time restaurateur like me. Of course every obstacle is multiplied when you’re a woman boss and you have to delicately balance managing the daily running of the restaurant, creative inputs and working towards a collaborative result without bruising any male egos. You cannot change the mindset of the industry overnight but you can make some conscious HR decisions to ensure that a positive, gender neutral working environment for women is created.