An Interview With Chef Koushik Shankar: A Trailblazer In The Culinary World

Exuberant Chennai-born Chef Koushik Shankar aka ‘The Mad Chef’, commenced his gastronomic journey at a young age of five. He did his studies from the Institute Of Hotel Management, Bangalore. Also known as ‘The Mad Chef’, he was given this name, because he is absolutely ‘mad’ about food and he belongs from Madras, now known as Chennai. He has worked in some of the most famous kitchens in the world under the tutelage of the greatest stalwarts in the restaurant business. 

His culinary journey has been thrilling, almost dream-like. Known for his inventive take and evangelizing modern fusion cuisine, he experiments with diverse ingredients and flavors to bring out his signature dishes. His company, Eatitude, is a complete Food and Beverage solutions provider.  It is a consultancy that offers a comprehensive end to end restaurant management services for entrepreneurs with different budgets and aspirations, looking for expert guidance while entering the restaurant industry!

In Conversation With Chef Koushik Shankar of Eatitude Gourmet Technologists

In an exclusive conversation with The Restaurant Times, Chef Koushik Shankar talks of his journey in the industry, the story behind his consultancy agency, causes of a restaurant failure, and a lot more.

Role Of A Consultancy Agency While Entering The Restaurant Industry 

Chef Koushik says that as per the statistics, 9 out of 10 restaurants shut down in the first year of its operation. Entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds are taking the plunge into the restaurant industry and facing a variety of challenges. To avoid these challenges and make sure that your restaurant business runs into as few problems as possible when beginning its operations, one may need the services of a restaurant consultant. A Restaurant Consultant gives perspective regarding the business plan for setting up a restaurant in a particular area and helps one to launch and operate the restaurant business.

“If you do not know what you are doing in the restaurant industry, you will be stuck,” says Chef Koushik. 

At Eatitude, they take care of the 6M’s of the restaurant industry- which includes Menu, Manpower, Material, Machinery, Marketing, and Management. These are the six main areas to run a restaurant. Eatitude helps in careful Menu Planning curation, Recipe Development, Culinology, Recruitment, and Training of manpower, Sourcing of tools and utensils, Kitchen Planning, Branding and Promotion of the restaurant and Market Research!

4 Major Causes For Restaurant Failure

  • Lack Of Technical Knowledge: New technologies are being introduced around the globe, restaurateurs everywhere are employing them in several ways to best fit the wants and demands in their markets. Possessing technical knowledge and experience of the restaurant industry is critical for an entrepreneur entering this industry, says Chef Koushik. Patrons practically identify convenience with technology. Restaurateurs lacking technical knowledge have to suffer a lot. Cloud-based POS systems, online ordering, feedback systems, chatbots, loyalty programs, automated reservation, Kitchen Display System are some of the technical features which can be implemented in the restaurants!
  • Not Marketing The Brand Right: Restaurant branding can set your food outlet apart, giving it a memorable ambiance that guests will want to experience time and again. Chef Koushik says that many times, restaurateurs forget that marketing their brand is crucial to create brand awareness. Recall Value, Brand Identity and Enhanced Credibility are some of the benefits derived by marketing the brand right.
  • When To Hire Manpower: According to Chef Koushik, it is essential to understand the right time, when to hire manpower for the restaurant. If you don’t recruit the right people, you won’t be successful. The biggest asset of any restaurant owner is their staff, and in the restaurant industry, they’re often the scarcest resource, so one needs to have a strategy in place for identifying them before you begin the recruiting process.
  • Overdoing The Restaurant Menu: Not only does the restaurant menu design influence the customer experience, but the restaurant’s profits hinge on it as well. Chef Koushik says that a big menu with a multitude of options more often confuses patrons as they are not able to decide what to opt for and so they default to the least profitable item.

3 Pro-Tips To Optimize Restaurant Chain Operations

  • Employing A Point Of Sale (POS) Software: Restaurant management software is the answer for restaurant owners who want to optimize restaurant chain operations, says Chef Koushik. One of the easiest ways to ensure that you are notified about your restaurant operations on a daily basis is by bringing in POS software. The real-time reports will help in monitoring the sales in the outlet, the total number of bills, discounts given, inventory, footfall. An effective POS helps in comparing the performance of the different outlets and measure their performance.
  • Prior Experience and Planning: It is essential for the restaurateurs to have prior experience and/or professional training regarding restaurant chain operations. Inventory management, Vendor management, Purchase order management, Consumption and variance management are some of the elements for smooth operations at a restaurant. POS technology combines all the associated elements of restaurant chain operations involved on a single platform, making the job of running a restaurant chain simpler.
  • Acquiring Knowledge By Right Sources: According to Chef Koushik, it is imperative to acquire knowledge through the right sources, preferably someone who has expert knowledge in this field. How to monitor the sales reports, manage the vendors, taking care of inventory, having centralized marketing control are some of the important aspects of optimizing the chain operations, for which one may need expert guidance.

Factors Leading To High Food-Cost

  • Lack Of Knowledge Of Menu Design and Engineering: Sometimes restaurateurs lack knowledge regarding menu design and menu engineering due to which the food cost tends to increase. If a lot of food wastage is occurring at your restaurant,  you should reduce or replace specific items on your menu. It is advisable to either change the placement of the item in the menu or eliminate it completely. The restaurant menu design should only include the most popular items. To earn a fair amount of profit margin, there should be a balance between the high and the low food costs of the food items.
  • Food Cost Control: Food costing means the ratio between the cost of raw materials that make up a dish and the revenue generated by that dish. Chef Koushik says that the targeted ideal food cost used to be 25% but now it is 35%. One can see the increases and decreases in terms of food cost are consistent, especially when you factor in the sharp increases in the prices of onions in the past few years. By tracking food prices, you can modify your menu so your recipes include more affordable alternatives, which will further help you to control the food cost.

Chef Koushik, while concluding, says that young entrepreneurs should not be swayed by the glamour attached to the restaurant industry. People have the wrong perception of the industry. The restaurant industry is cutthroat making it essential for restaurateurs planning to enter the industry, to gain first-hand experience!

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