Fr!day talks to three such restaurateurs who are successfully operating multiple restaurants in Kathmandu, and picking their brains for you.
Sujan Shrestha knew, even while he was studying hospitality in Australia, that when he returned to Nepal he would do something on his own. After returning, he was working with a music store when a colleague of his, Bikram dai, approached him about working with him for Tangalwood Hotel Apartments. And, that is how Sujan got started in the restaurant business. Today Sujan helps operate Tangalwood Hotel Apartments and Club 25 Hours, and is a co-owner of Calm Restaurant.
”Right now there are many challenges in the restaurant business,” he says. According to him, getting good human resource is a big problem in the industry, as they are hard to find. Another challenge is the opening hours, which currently are not as suited for the restaurant business as they could be. However, he is very much optimistic about a future in restaurants. “These people are going out to eat a lot more than they ever used to. People are interested and enthusiastic about food and eating out and the entire experience. People don’t just look for food, they appreciate the whole concept behind the restaurant. We have food blogs that are popping up everywhere, and people are getting to know the scene, all of which is very good for our business,” he explains.
Sujan is working on growing his three restaurants and making them bigger and better. Presently, he is working on Club 25 Hours, which will be getting reconstructed from January, with a bigger lounge and all the works. The high competition in the business is only motivating him to make his restaurants better than ever. His advice to young entrepreneurs who want to dive into the restaurant business is to work hard, and especially to work on innovation.
Karish Pradhan returned for London in 2011 with the motive to do something in Nepal itself, and he immediately got into the restaurant business. He is currently the co-owner of Tamarind, Embassy, and Zen in Kathmandu, as well as another restaurant in Guangzhou, China.
When he first returned to Nepal, his brother was already operating Tamarind, which was one year old at the time. He had been hearing about the restaurant for quite a while, and some of his friends were also operating restaurants back in London. He became involved in Tamarind and Zen, both of which he co-owns, and in 2013, he started Embassy restaurant in Panipokhari.
Karish also believes that good human resource is the biggest problem in Nepal. “Right now, our business is like a class, a training ground. We train people to work in restaurants, and then they leave to go abroad. Our biggest challenge is figuring out how to make people stay,” he explains. “We really need to develop some professionalism and some sense of responsibility in this country.”
But, despite the difficulties, Karish sees endless opportunities in Nepal. Nepal is still a growing market with a high GDP growth. Only last year we had a GDP growth of 7.5%, which is the third largest in the world. On top of that, tourism is huge in Nepal, and the middle class is also growing, and with it, the trend of people eating out. So, this has led to a massive growth in the restaurant business. “If the government supports us, the opportunities are endless,” he adds.
Right now, he is working on extending more branches of his restaurant. A new branch is being established in Lazimpat, and we may expect to see its opening very soon. His advice to new restauranteurs is to do some research and have a strategy before jumping in. “When we first came to Jhamsikhel, we were the third restaurant there. Now, there are more than seventy! And, in these years, we have seen many restaurants come and go. People think there is a lot of profit in restaurants, so they just jump in, which is the wrong thing to do. Have a strategy. Think about your target audience, human resources, entertainment, everything. People nowadays don’t just come for the food and service, they want more. So, have a plan, and a back-up plan if the first one does not work."
Among the seven restaurants in Labim Mall Nakim Uddin co-owns four, which includes Mango Chili, Le Mirch, Gelato Icecream, and Burger Bar. “When we were building Labim Mall, we thought that every store must have its own unique selling point. We initially were going to build a food court at the top, like every other mall in Nepal, but then we thought we already have a food street downstairs, so why repeat the same thing twice? That’s why we settled on the idea of mini restaurants,” he says, talking about his initial foray into the food industry
In order to make sure that the mini-restaurants had something that you could not just find anywhere around Kathmandu, he decided to invite branded food outlets, which would ensure that people would get something new, and also, as an investor he would not have to operate the restaurants himself. Instead, the individual franchises run the mini-restaurants themselves. This, of course, took a lot of negotiations with many brands until they finally settled on Mango Chili, Le Mirch, Gelato Icecream, Burger Bar, Dalle, Roadhouse, and Nilgiri.
“My motivation to get into F&D business was a personal wish to have a nice restaurant in this mall with its own USP. The idea was that we shouldn’t have to promote the restaurants, and the restaurants should not have to promote the mall. I always enjoyed food and food business, so since we were building this mall, it was a question of ‘Why not?’ rather than why invest in food business?” he says. “Once I had the concept, I invited some of my good friends to invest with me, and now I have three partners who co-own these restaurants.”
Having so many restaurants at the same place, one might think would lead to very high competition that could affect the business. But he disagrees. “Each of these restaurants—Mango Chili, Le Mirch, these are all different cuisines. The idea is that none of the restaurant’s cuisine should cannibalize each other. They should each have different cuisines with their own USPs.” Although he owns these businesses, he does not manage them. “Food business was not as easy as I thought it would be, but we finally managed it,” he says.
His advice to anyone wanting to enter the food business, would be to study the industry, do a lot of research, and be very focused on the work they do. Right now in Kathmandu, most of the startups are in the food business. Most of these businesses start and end very, very rapidly. He has plans to expand the Mango Chili, Le Mirch, and Gelato Icecream franchises to other cities in Nepal, as well.