Ten minutes with Sanjeev Kapoor

Sanjeev Kapoor is one of the world’s most well known chefs. A TV personality with over sixty restaurants and more than 150 books in English, Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati, this is a man who knows his Indian cuisine. Founder and managing director of The Cutting Edge Agency, Duncan Fraser-Smith, sat down with Sanjeev to talk challenges, how little things might ruin your restaurant, and what causes F&B concepts to fail

My secret to success is… breaking bigger ventures down into smaller tasks and taking care of one project at a time. When we launched my 24-hour TV channel FoodFood, we simultaneously launched a channel on YouTube. Today my YouTube channel has one of the highest subscription rates in India. Did we say to ourselves “today we’re launching one of the most popular YouTube channels in the country?” No. We just starting doing it and by breaking our bigger dreams and actions down into smaller, tangible activities – all performed with consistent effort and sincerity – it turned our vision into something really successful.

I love the progress and vision of Dubai… There is no other city quite like it; in many ways it’s a world unto itself. The love that people in the emirate have for Indian food inspired me to open my restaurant. You could say that I was pushed into doing it – in a good way! Many people from the region kept asking me to open up shop here, so I did.

I never shy away from a challenge… Every new day presents new trials and I tackle each one with the thought that it is a chance to improve myself. I’m a very positive person and I look at life in a very upbeat way. I believe that people should view challenges as opportunities.

Being a restaurateur is not easy… and it shouldn’t be something you jump into on a whim. If, on the other hand, you love the thrill of the kitchen and get excited by cooking and hospitality in general, then the restaurant business might be your thing. It is incredibly demanding but – if you get it right – very rewarding, too.

Business know-how and good food are both equally important… when it comes to running a successful restaurant. If you love to cook that’s all well and good, but you need to ask yourself: do you have business sense? For example, you buy the best tomatoes in bulk, but you don’t buy them at the right price; that’s going to affect your revenue. Maybe not now, or tomorrow, but all of these little things add up over time. In the same vein, if you whip up a delicious meal but you don’t price it right, that’s going to impact the bottom line eventually, too. Of course, pegged to all of this are exceptional ingredients that have been cooked beautifully. Without delicious, fresh cuisine, you can’t have a restaurant.

A restaurant business is likely to fail… if it doesn’t have the best HR practices in place. Here’s a little example: You may have the world’s best cooks in your kitchen and be serving the tastiest food, but if you don’t invest in properly training your floor staff, your customers are going to leave because the service is terrible. The people you hire are your biggest asset and training is the buzzword when it comes to the success of any F&B business.

Duncan Fraser-Smith is the founder of The Cutting Edge Agency that specialises in the development and creation of benchmark F&B concepts through conceptualisation and training, as well as sourcing and partnering with international brands and high-profile chefs to successfully establish their presence in the Middle East.

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