Minakshi Singh always dreamt to open her own bar. In 2012, she, finally, got the opportunity when she opened Cocktails & Dreams, Speakeasy in partnership with Yangdup Lama; she had quit her job. She is someone who made her first business plan back in 2005, and still cherishes that excel sheet!
A hotel management graduate from IHM Pusa, New Delhi, while at college she dabbled into bartending for pocket money, and that’s where her excitement for the alco-bev industry came from.
In an interview with Restaurant India, Minakshi Singh, owner and partner at Sidecar and Cocktails & Dreams, Speakeasy talks about her journey as a women entrepreneur in the restaurant industry.
Her Journey in the Hospitality Industry
After I graduated from IHM Pusa, I attended a six-month course at a bartending school Cocktails & Dreams in Delhi by Yangdup Lama, a very well-known and highly respected mixologist, trainer, and author. I enjoyed serving guests, and loved the subject and wanted to learn everything. I joined Tulleeho, an alco-bev industry consultancy; it gave me a better understanding of how to run a business. Later, I joined Diageo and worked on brands like Smirnoff and Captain Morgan, and then Trade marketing for international brands such as Chivas Regal, Absolut Vodka, and Glenlivet at Pernod Ricard. While working in brand marketing, on-trade promotions, and activation segments, my real love remained with running my own bar.
Key Learnings during the Entrepreneurial Journey
It is really tough; almost everything works against you - laws, taxes and rentals. You should stay focused on your dream, and keep going. You will always second guess everything but listen to your instincts because they will always guide you.
Take criticisms positively. While there will be all sorts of feedback – negative and constructive - focus on improving. Initially, these things will overpower me but gradually I realized these feedbacks, at least some percentage of it, are true. Make it better for yourself.
Connect with your guests/customers. It is very important to understand your guests and their needs. At a macro level, we all have a target consumer base but at the ground level, it’s important to interact and get to know all your diners. It sharpens your business sense, and you make friends in the bargain!
Business sense is primary. Having a passion for food and beverage is a must but if you don’t understand the business, the operations and the costs, you will have a tough time running it.
Gurugram’s clientele is mostly upwardly mobile, well-travelled corporate who love to experiment, and are highly engaging. In Delhi, I am just getting to know the guests as we are fairly new (only three months old at Sidecar). In Delhi, we have, so far, seen artistic, independent and quite an experimental clientele.
A Great Bar Experience
If I have to describe my restaurant in one line, it will be - A Bartenders’ Bar. Both our bars are centrally designed and meant for a great bar experience. Not only for the guests but also for the bartenders in our team. We are constantly innovating our drinks list, specials, and cocktail programs. There is excitement in the bar all the time. As of now, we are working on the Spring summer menu for both the bars and we are buzzing with ideas and deadlines!
Footfall at Sidecar
We average about 60-70 pax daily average at Cocktails and Dreams, Speakeasy (lovingly referred to as Speaks).
Revenue Model and Expansion Plans
We are on a 70:30, beverage: food split, and are highly focused on our drinks program. The food supports the amazing experience that you get at the bar. As we have recently opened our second outlet, Sidecar – an artisanal cocktail bar, three months ago, this year will be about getting to the Delhi clientele and reaching out.
Favourite Item on Menu
Since the recipe is of my husband’s, I absolutely love the Rosemary Chicken from the Speaks menu; I especially love the Pork belly Yakitori at Sidecar.
In drinks, I am a fan of our Old fashioned, and at Sidecar, I love the Nebraska, which is made with Bourbon, homemade corn puree and orange served straight up.
It will be another great neighbourhood bar, where the bartender is the hero!
In today’s day and age, location is paramount. When we opened our first bar in Sector 15 in Gurugram in 2012 — it is considered to be a low footfall and quite place — we had a tough time reaching out and making it work. It took us more than a year to start making any real profits; it was a difficult journey for us. So, I now feel if you can get low to a decent rental location in a good footfall area, go for it.
Key Challenges Faced as a Woman Entrepreneur
It was quite funny dealing with cops; they almost never acknowledged or spoke to me directly. Whenever I visited government offices for any work, I was always asked to accompany as a prop, and I felt the surprise on their faces, when they realised I can talk! I simply went ahead and talked unabashedly, as there was not much to overcome.
Working in an all-male staff was initially quite challenging. There were times when I felt the need to prove that I also know my beverages, and the industry. It takes time to build trust and confidence.
Important Ingredients for Success
It might sound like a cliché but there are no shorts cuts. Perseverance, Hard work, and Passion for your work always shows and shines.