Monday, August 8, 2011

Our Story

A large number of readers have emailed me asking me about the restaurant business I run. I have been very hesitant to share this - have no clue why. But given the number of requests I have got, I am sharing our story below.

Our Story:
We (Srikanth, a college buddy of mine and I) invested our hard-earned post tax savings in the Restaurant business based on a strong interest in the business and a belief that if others can make a restaurant business work, we are also smart enough to do so. We hired a Restaurant consulting firm and used our brains to come up with an innovative concept - Everyday Healthy Food at Value Prices, and started “Café Aarogya” in Aug 2008. We worked really hard, were highly responsive to customer feedback, made no compromises on food and ingredient quality, invested in marketing (newspaper ads, flyers in newspapers, apartment notices, discount coupons, banners, online food sites, friends & families etc.) and explored every sales channel possible (Office Meals Catering, Individual Meal box Deliveries, Party Catering, independent Kiosk format with ready-to-eat food). We got written about very positively in newspapers (Times of India), Magazines (Femina) and were even interviewed on television (TV9).
After a few months, the writing on the wall was clear to us – we will not make money and will lose our investment and more money if we continue operating. But in our entrepreneurial zeal and refusal to accept failure, we refused to acknowledge this fact and so worked even harder, made changes to the menu, pricing and continued to believe that something would happen and things would work out. We also attempted to find investors to bail us out based on a nicely written and attractive business plan on paper. After about 12 months and having lost enough money, energy and enthusiasm, we decided to end the bleeding and accept the fact that what we had created was like an art movie – “Critically Acclaimed, Commercial Failure”.
Once the decision to shut down was made, we informed our staff about the decision, requested their support and promised an additional notice period pay post shut-down, helped them find other jobs, and attempted to sell the assets and transfer the lease to another restaurant business/entrepreneur (the offers were abysmally low as expected). During all this, some of the key staff and us, kept racking our brains about what else we could do in the space we had, without any additional investment. Out of this desperate situation and sheer survival instinct was born our Biryani business. Since the idea primarily came from Mani (the executive chef at Café Aarogya), the fact that he anyway had an interest to start a Biryani restaurant when he had the money,  we chose the name “Mani’s Dum Biryani”. We changed the sign-boards, designed a new menu and opened “Mani’s Dum Biryani” in Oct 2009.
In Jan 2010, we felt as though we had struck gold as we operationally broke even for the first time. Our energy and enthusiasm got a positive boost and we started focusing on trying to make the business profitable. By Jan 2011, we had experimented, refined and made some small investments to spruce up the restaurant. Our efforts finally bore fruit and we soon started making EBITDA to the tune of 10-12% of Net Sales per month on a consistent basis (like I have mentioned in my earlier posts, market norms are in the 15-30% range).
The journey has been painful – but we managed to hang in there and survive. Now we want to make an attempt to grow and build something meaningful and fulfill our dreams. In our minds, even if we end up with just creating a small restaurant business (say 10 restaurants in 10-15 years), we absolutely want to take this journey. Do check us out at www.manis.in

24 comments:

  1. Wonderful, inspiring story. A FABULOUS blog.... Added into my favourites..

    Thanks.
    Ramakumar

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  2. Your blog makes very interesting reading. I stumbled upon your blog during my research in the run up to my own restaurant start up. It answered or at least touched upon many points that I had as queries / apprehension. It comforted me in a strange sense - that at least my thought process is not way off reality (I must mention here that my previous experience of over 25 years had nothing to do with the food business. Day after tomorrow would be one month into operation for me; today when I read the blogs again, lot of things fall in place and I am able to appreciate them in a different perspective. Thank you for the efforts that you took to keep these information together - just the kind of information that I was desperately looking out for.
    Cheers
    Thomas
    Rice Boat, Pune.

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  3. Jayanth - Why do you think Cafe Aarogya didn't work out? I saw some reviews and it seemed to have a good menu with good reviews. If you think retrospectively, what should you have done to make it a success?

    - Just another guy sitting in front of computer all day trying to venture in unknown waters ;)

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  4. Well. I think Cafe Aarogya should have been a premium concept for it to work as a business, not a value priced model as we envisaged. If I were to do Cafe Aarogya, I would do it on the lines of atleast Au Bon Pain.

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  5. thanks for the motivation...
    i have just started planing to open a small rest.
    i am sure i'll learn more from our blogs.
    thanks

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  6. Frank and simple....just like everyone else, even i came across the blog on my research for the restaurant business.Any business needs to break even,unless you want to call it a business,but unlike most people who change tracks,you've come back on the same venture. All the best

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  7. Really inspiring and never say die attitude indeed. If we can work hard and burn our energy by working late night on the bright screen for the benefits of others, then we can certainly do the same for ourselves as well. Nice one to arouse one's thought process to get started. In fact, I am started now.

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  8. This is a wonderful blog with lots of information on restaurant business. Thanks for taking pains to write so meticulously on all important aspects and above all for sharing your hard earned knowledge with others. Thank you, thank you and thank you!

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  9. I love Manis Biryani, Best Biryani!!

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  10. Fantastic and inspirational write up. There are lot of enterpruners like me, who having ideas could not partner with like minded people for a start up like Jayanth. I have been in touch with Jayanth constantly for an right opportunity. Only belief hard work, patience atleast fetches SUSTAINABILITY with minimal profit in long run.

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  11. Nothing is really impossible in life and idea is to keep working at it and not give up and your story is a proof of that. Nice to read this article jayanth, just when i am too venturing into food business :)

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  12. Well like others , you came in search while doing research. I run sucessful IT bsuiness and out on interest, planning to start something in to this sector too.


    I must say big thanks for putting this together,

    whats your view on working under Franchise model (take franchise of one of successful food joint) so that you get lot of experience from day1 ?

    Interested to see your views on this.

    Regards
    Atul Kumar
    http://onlineAppsDBA.com

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    Replies
    1. Apologies for rushing in my comments (I was excited to see above page and didn't look at full site) I'll be reading your views in F word :)

      Thanks once again and good luck with Mani's Biryani. I'll be definitely ordering one , next time I am in Hyderabad .

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  13. hard worked.. struggled..modified and finally WON..congrats

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  14. hi jayanth,

    Can i know any good Restaurant consulting firm in bangalore to meet, as i am planning to open a restaurant.Anticipating a positive reply.

    Thanks,
    Mahesh

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  15. I am planning to open a exclusive health food kitchen, where all the prep will be done under the guidance of dietitian, having weight loss, weight gain, diabetic menu options.Planning to rent a big spaced kitchen in out skirts of gurgaon, doing all the meal making there, and selling the clients on subscription of a month, weekly, or quaterly 5 meal a day plan including a complete healthy and balanced meal, my target customers will be 25-40 office going and people who dont prepare all meals. I will tie up with gyms, and health and diet clinincs.
    Can u guide me is the plan suitable enough practically, the investments details, the pros and cons of it, things which need to be sorted out if it comes to execution and other relevent points and guidance from your side.

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  16. Hi ,

    I m planing to keep liquor shop in bangalore near bank colony... So please let me known the cost of licence

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  17. Very informative and helpful. A great documentation of your experience.

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  20. Thanks for sharing such a nice article. It is very helpful to who want to learn
    Biryani .

    ReplyDelete
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