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They came, saw & conquered!

Eight individuals who quit their previously successful careers to become restaurateurs

Thursday, January 19, 2017, 13:21 Hrs  [IST]

India’s culinary scene has never looked this good. It has ushered in unprecedented concepts, equally accentuated global and local cuisine, and made them accessible to everyone, without making a hole in their pocket, catering to people’s gastronomical cravings both gustatory and visually. Behind these inceptions, there are individuals who have the highest degree and experience in the F&B and hospitality market, and there are also individuals who have had no idea of how to run a restaurant, no professional or educational background in the field but are now proud owners of these establishments owing to their determination to succeed and a passion that is awe-inspiring. These restaurateurs dropped every fear, quit those careers that no longer excited them, conquered every challenge that came their way, turned it into an opportunity and zealously pursued their love for food. Hospitality Biz spoke to eight such restaurateurs about their decision to quit their starkly different careers to enter the restaurant industry.

Dinesh Arora
Managing Director, Tourist Janpath
Connaught Place, Delhi

Some say that if you convert your passion into your profession, you'll go a long way and that's precisely how it worked out for Dinesh Arora, who quit the fashion industry - after being involved in denim manufacturing for a decade - to pursue his inherent love and passion for food. With a Bachelor's degree in Commerce from Delhi University, the switch from fashion to food happened in 2007, when he launched Elf Cafe & Bar in Delhi. "With this, I decided to mark my presence in the Indian hospitality world. Thus, I came up with invigorating and innovative concepts with the aim of making my restaurants stand out from the others in the industry." Having had no experience in the F&B market to now running some of the most innovative restaurants in Delhi as a young entrepreneur, Arora has some wise words. "Food service business is a constantly evolving and welcoming business for young entrepreneurs. Your passion can make you achieve unbelievable heights in this industry."

USP - Tourist Janpath is a street food bar serving global cuisine, the menu elaborately covers over 40 countries of the world. Interiors are designed to resemble a youth hostel, hiking, backpacking, airport flip-board showcasing signature dishes, a live train, travel library, live kitchen and laid-back beach seats.

Raj Barai
Co-Founder, Wok This Way &
The Playlist Pizzeria, Mumbai

While people have for years been trying to figure out the perfect pizza combination, Raj Barai, has apparently found the answer. Music and pizza combine to make eating out at The Playlist Pizzeria a lively experience, and one can be rest assured of the playlist, since Barai has been a professional disc jockey since 2007."I used to work for Thomson Reuters in New York and Mumbai, in the financial tech domain. Djing was a hobby and an alternate career." After a gig in Amsterdam, he and his co partner Nikhil Sachdev were hungry and stumbled upon an eatery serving woks. "That's when we thought that the concept of woks is missing in India." Their first venture Wok This Way gave way to their second. "While looking out for spaces for Wok This Way, we came across a property that seemed apt for a pizza joint and thus came about The Playlist Pizzeria, with the assistance of our family friend Chef Rakesh Talwar."

USP- Since Barai and Sachdev are both involved in the music industry, The Playlist Pizzeria looks to marry music and food, with each pizza named after a song and an in-house app called Play My Song, which lets one select tunes from a list of about 150 tracks.

Jimmy Bhore
Owner, Jimis Burger

It is often said that the best decisions are made spontaneously. One morning, Jimmy Bhore woke up, decided to get out of his humdrum existence as an employee at an event production company, and started a burger joint. "As a vocalist of a metal band, Zygnema, I started going to different states of India and later out of India to compete. I am a big foodie and love burgers, therefore I ate various burgers abroad, spoke to chefs, owners, to learn more about flavours, combinations and elements." But the mundane pattern of life took over; after graduating in management studies, he did an MBA in Marketing, eventually landed a corporate job, then ventured into event production. No longer wanting to feel as though he was working for the sake of filling his stomach, he abruptly left for Sangli, Maharashtra, in 2012, worked at a vada pav stall for few days before starting his own burger cart there. "My entire family thought I lost my mind, except my wife. There were financial issues, I was shifting to an unknown territory but it was exciting and exhilarating." Finally, in 2015, Jimis Burger was opened in Mumbai with a seating capacity of six and five burgers to offer and later expanded- capacity and menu wise.

USP- Their Jawbreaker burger is the most popular - seven inches tall with fresh, succulent fillings of meat - cooked to order.

Paresh Chhabria
Partner - Small Fry Co. &
Between Breads, Mumbai

After doing his Bachelor's in Business Management from Jai Hind college, Mumbai, Paresh Chhabria was certain that he didn't want to study further. And so he began his career - as a door-to-door salesman, studied acting, pursued theatre for about a year and dabbled in a few call centre jobs. His love for hosting and feeding people was ascertained after he worked as a cabin crew member for one and a half years with the now defunct Kingfisher airlines. "When the company shut down, I realised I wanted to do something of my own and start a restaurant. Since it was self funded, I wanted to minimise risks, thus we stuck to basics - Sandwiches. We did various trials with friends, served free food for a weekend to anyone who walked in to the restaurant. In March 2013, Between Breads was up and running." But with minimum budget and tough competition, challenges were aplenty. "We were turned down by eight-nine interior designers, I couldn't afford to hire a manager, so I served the dishes, the investment (time & money) was high and the returns weren't fixed. However, I have learned immensely in the past four years and the journey was thrilling." And now when he looks back, he couldn't be more glad he made the switch.

USP - The dessert sandwiches at Between Breads, for instance, Rocky Road, a white sliced bread with Nutella, jelly, chocolate, brownie, cream cheese, marshmallow, and jujube bits, are items which no other restaurant offers.

Gauri Devidayal
Co Founder, The Table Colaba &
Magazine Street Kitchen, Byculla, Mumbai

Being a qualified Chartered Accountant from England and a law graduate from University College London certainly helped Gauri Devidayal run the operations at The Table, Mumbai - which was, in 2014, awarded the best restaurant in India by The Timeout Mumbai. Giving up a secure career as a tax consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers and subsequently, KPMG in London, for a more unfamiliar entrepreneurial risk, had driven her parents on the worry path, and making them understand that her decision to quit was a reasonable one turned into "one of the biggest uphill challenges" for her. "Everything was new to me as far as the restaurant business was concerned, but that was the kind of challenge I thrived in since it meant learning something new." Her husband, Jay Yousuf, had his heart set on opening a restaurant. He left San Francisco, after having spent 14 years there, and she, London, after living there for eight years, and they together embarked upon the journey of opening The Table in early 2011. Initially, she helped with the legal and financial work relating to the restaurant's opening, but then slowly found herself getting more and more involved until eventually she realised it was too difficult to maintain both jobs.

USP- The Table introduced a family style dining in western cuisine with a menu comprising small plates and large plates, intended for sharing, a farm-to-table menu and a 20-foot long community dining table. Most recently, she has launched Magazine Street Kitchen, a one of a kind culinary event space in Mumbai.

Suren Joshi
Owner, Pali Village Cafe, Pali Bhavan &
Su Casa in Bandra, Mumbai

His restaurants are all frequented by the creme de la creme of Bollywood, and have received rapturous reviews. But then comes a shocker. "The restaurant industry in itself doesn't excite me. I am a strange human being; I think a little differently," reveals Suren Joshi. This statement comes as an eye-opener, for Joshi, a former car stylist and enthusiast, didn't like going to school, worked with the newspaper Mid-Day for a long period, and also at a front desk while he was in the States. All random jobs, with no experience in the hospitality industry whatsoever. So when the arrival of Pali Village Cafe in mid-2010, co-owned by his partner, saw success, one would think that the restaurateur had found his calling. "I don't even consider myself a restaurateur. I am a businessman. I can start the most random business in the world, as long as I have a basic idea of it. I started a restaurant simply because I like eating at restaurants, but it is essential to know that it may not be as easy as it looks. Your initial passion for food is not enough."

USP - Pali Village Cafe gives off vintage, French vibes, has an impressive wine list and doesn't serve any other alcoholic beverage. The recently launched European eatery Su Casa will soon host morning yoga classes and breakfast sessions.

Munaf Kapadia
Chief Eating Officer
The Bohri Kitchen (TBK)

What started out as an experiment to keep his mother, Nafisa, occupied and leverage her flair for cooking and feeding people during her idle hours, soon turned into a full fledged home dining experience for ex-Google employee, Munaf Kapadia. "I was a management trainee for a leading chewing gum brand but left that for a dream job at Google." TBK took off in December 2014 and the pressure of the popularity of TBK started to get to him. "People from New York were talking about it. I wasn't courageous enough to quit Google; the company is fantastic, I was very comfortable, but my senior employees asked me to take the plunge and wholly run the brand that it had become." Initially, the prospect of opening a restaurant seemed promising, but the financial challenge it posed was not feasible for a middle class family. And thus came the idea of an experiential home dining setting. Kapadia invited 50 of his friends via email to relish his mother's home-cooked Bohri delicacies, at a cost of INR 700 per head at his house in Colaba, and from then on, there was no looking back.

USP- A mother and a father who proactively run the operations of TBK, right from sourcing the ingredients from Colaba market to preparing the final dish served on plates, all at the comfort of an unpretentious homely setting and an opportunity to dine with strangers. One doesn't reserve a seat at TBK, he must ask for one. There exists a 'No Serial Killer' policy, wherein the credentials of a person are verified before he is allowed entry to the Kapadia's home.

Rahul Singh
Founder & CEO, The Beer Cafe

It took 20 years of working as a professional in lifestyle and sportswear companies, for Rahul Singh to realise his dream of being an entrepreneur cum restaurateur. Of course, it was the love for beer that inspired him to start The Beer Cafe. "I did my graduation in the textile industry from TIT&S, Bhiwani, Haryana. I was a conscientious businessman, a globetrotter, but I was also a beer evangelist, which made me transform my dream into reality." Making the career switch was a major challenge for a trained textile engineer, but the vision to stimulate communities towards a fun and responsible drinking culture was a strong motivator to start The Beer Cafe. "People do not come here to get drunk. Just like a coffee outlet, I am trying to make The Beer Cafe a neighbourhood place centered on beer." Another difficult task was to change the perception, as alco-beverages have so far, been a social taboo. "We want to position The Beer Cafe as a QSR where families can spend time."

USP- The Beer Cafe purveys 50 different varieties of beer from 17 countries in the world and a new line of utility products called Beerosphere- a range that patrons can take home, to work, gift or collect as souvenirs. Brewmiles is their customer loyalty programme that offers patrons gifts worth upto 30% of the amount spent.

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