This is an opportune time to venture into the restaurant sector. With consumers opening up to the idea of new experiences and cuisines, the market in metropolitan India is booming. Many new restaurants have popped up in cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore over the last decade. And the interesting thing is that these restaurants are not run by international corporate chains, but by a new generation of resourceful Indian entrepreneurs.

So what’s the recipe to thrive as an entrepreneur in the restaurant business?

At the NewX-Sunday Guardian Food Conclave, a number of successful restaurateurs or “resteprenuers” participated in a session called “Rising Restepreneurs: Recipe for Success”, where they shared their knowledge about the industry from personal experiences. The panel was led by A.D. Singh, Founder and MD, Olive Group of Restaurants; Rahul Singh, Beer Café Founder and NRAI president, Ashish Kapoor, Founder, Yo! China; Radhika Khandelwal, Founder, Fig and Maple; Dildeep Kalra, Director, Massive Restaurants, Farzi Café, Masala Library; and Anurag Batra, Chairperson, Business World. The panel was moderated by Arjun Gupta, Founder, The Piano Man.

The experts traced their journey, the growth stories of their respective brands and shared their business expansion plans. A.D. Singh, Founder and MD, Olive Group of Restaurants, spoke about what worked in his favour about three decades back, when he started his restaurant. “When I grew up, there weren’t as many role models in this business. So the vision for being a restaurateur was not common. There were no cool hangouts. The market hadn’t grown and anything new worked. But now it’s competitive and people have to go step by step. It’s not easy. But we constantly try to create excellence in our products,” he said.

Ashish Kapoor, Founder, Yo! China, described how Chinese food was trending when he started his brand 15 years ago. At that time, there were hawkers selling Chinese food or luxurious venues, which were out of reach for many. He said, “There was no brand like Pizza Hut for Chinese food. But the cuisine offered aspirational dishes. We wanted to build on that.”

He went on to describe how scalable brands ensure business legacy. The great thing about India is that there is scope for disrupting the market. Take the emerging trend of home delivery of food, for instance, which has changed the restaurants are run.

Dildeep Kalra, Director, Massive Restaurants, who owns 26 restaurants with her husband, Zorawar Kalra, narrated an incident that reflected the couple’s passion for food. They started out with Punjab Grill, but quit when they realised that molecular gastronomy had started in the Western world. But this concept hadn’t yet reached India. Once they realised that consumers are well aware, and the timing seemed right, they focused on catering molecular gastronomy to Indians. She stressed that modern Indian food is now on a par with various global cuisines.

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