Dishoom’s founder says everything he learned at business school was wrong. Here’s how his quality-over-revenue approach helped Britain’s Indian restaurant group explode.

Shamil Thakrar

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Indian food ranks high among the UK’s favorite cuisines and, depending who you read, there are more than 10,000 Indian restaurants across the nation.

One success story is Dishoom, the popular Indian restaurant group inspired by the old Irani cafes of Bombay. The group has long been credited for giving British diners an alternative to the classic curry house, offering a higher quality Indian dining experience at an affordable price point.

The restaurant group was set up in 2010 by Shamil Thakrar, an ex-Bain consultant with an MBA from Harvard Business School, and his cousin Kavi.

Since opening its first Covent Garden spot in London, serving 2,000 diners and employing 40 people, Dishoom now has eight restaurants in England and a ninth in Edinburgh. It now serves more than 40,000 diners yearly and employs 900 people. According to its most recent financial filings, Dishoom in 2018 posted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) of £4.33 million ($5.61 million) on turnover of nearly £45 million ($58 million).

But success didn’t come easy.

Friends and family members were reluctant about the pair setting up an Indian restaurant. Speaking to Business Insider, Thakrar recalls family telling him “that’s why you get educated so you don’t have to own a curry house.”

And Dishoom didn’t grow as expected in its first year until Thakrar realized the hard-headed business principles of his consultancy years and business school, revenue, cost, profit, capital and return weren’t the right strategy.”It’s completely the wrong paradigm,” Thakrar said.

Thakrar outlined his playbook for expanding a successful business:

Quality over revenue

Thakrar says he received his best career advice from his father, Rashmi who told him as a teenager that he “really shouldn’t measure profit.”

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It’s unconventional advice for a business owner, but Thakrar grasped what his father was trying to convey during one episode in 2011 — that profit won’t come without quality.

Dishoom organized a pop-up restaurant in South Bank, London, when the tandoor oven broke in the kitchen.

To satisfy customers in line, staff went to the closest supermarket and bought rolls. The quality wasn’t the same as freshly made naans, and customers reviewed the experience negatively.

“It was probably terrible,” Thakrar said. He added: “You have nothing unless you care about the basics and the quality and making it wonderful … that was a big mistake with a great learning and it was the best mistake [we] ever made.”

He added: “If we focus on the quality of what you’re doing, it’s a better way of creating a great business.”

Deepen, don’t dilute

Quality over revenue means also caring about both customers and the team, according to Thakrar. 

Business consists of human beings who have emotions — “this is the engine of business … and everything has to be harnessed to that energy,” he said. 

Would-be entrepreneurs need to be passionately focused on the emotional relationship they have with both customers and employees. 

When starting a business Thakrar suggested taking four steps:

Find something that moves the customer and the employee.
Figure out what that is in you, do that and do more …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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