The affable and hugely experienced Meghna Vakada hails from an IT background, having worked as a Software Analyst for Motorola. Meghna’s husband, Sridhar Vakada has been in the F&B business for a very long time. Out of interest, she started getting involved in restaurant operations. Over time she honed her skills and got involved in the other sectors as well. In 2013, they came up with the first outlet of their restaurant venture, Barley and Grapes, a casual dining eatery. Its launch offered customers a new way of experiencing top-quality food. Since then, they have expanded further and have 3 outlets currently. Apart from B&G, they also have Andhra Kafe and Blyton in Bangalore!
In Conversation With Meghna Vakada of Barley and Grapes
In an exclusive conversation with The Restaurant Times, Meghna Vakada talks of her journey in the industry, the story behind Barley and Grapes, maintaining brand consistency, and a lot more.
Maintaining Brand Consistency
With numerous avenues to promote, represent, express, and showcase your restaurant business, multiple aspects of your marketing strategy can easily compete with other business priorities. However, the solution to maximizing the influence of your marketing strategies is to maintain consistency across all channels.
According to Vakada, the first step towards maintaining consistency is to develop brand guidelines keeping the target audience in mind. These guidelines should align with the company’s vision and mission. They can serve to guide other employees and departments in terms of seeing the big picture, making them aware of the importance of teamwork. Brand-building is an activity that helps tell your brand story in a relatable and engaging way. Consistent branding happens when these activities are aligned.
Secondly, having Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) help in streamlining the processes across all your outlets. Restaurant SOPs cover not only food handling procedures, but also Front of House operations. They help lay the foundation for the restaurant’s smooth and efficient operations, maintaining brand consistency.
Strategies to Open a Casual-Dine Restaurant
Opening a restaurant is no easy business. It requires many duties and responsibilities, from planning a menu and marketing your concept to managing employees and negotiating with vendors, all of which can be stressful. Vakada shares some tips while opening a restaurant:
- Start with Something Small: It is important to know the basics of running a restaurant before opening one. Vakada says that it is advisable to come up with something small in the initial stages. While starting with something small, choosing the right restaurant concept is also a must. Certain restaurant concepts cost more than others. Not to forget, do not underestimate the local competition while choosing your restaurant concept.
- Hire Awesome Staff: Vakada says that having a solid team is essential for your restaurant to be prosperous. Individual strengths in a team can be recognized and used in the most suitable way for the success of the business. It is important to have smooth communication among the staff and management, acknowledge the staff members and listen to their feedback. It is extremely crucial to nurture the growth and wellbeing of your staff as well, says Vakada. Teamwork makes the dream work, after all.
- Passion and Dedication: Anyone who is trying to enter the restaurant industry must address their lack of experience wisely and be dedicated to fostering a new career path in the restaurant industry. It will be very difficult to get another opportunity if you lack dedication. Don’t be hesitant to take every step possible to prove your dedication and handwork for your dream job!
Controlling High Food Cost at A Restaurant
One of the biggest problems that restaurants encounter are difficulties around high food cost. Vakada shares her experience of high food cost at a restaurant and it’s control. According to her, controlling the food cost begins with the discipline in the kitchen. Every cook should have adequate knowledge regarding the ingredients to be utilized in each dish to prevent wastage which ultimately bumps up the average food cost. Shopping smart is one of the simplest precautions you can take to stop food waste at your restaurant. Buying more food than you require will instantly increase your food cost
Secondly, finding the right vendor is critical. One should not be induced into settling for the first food vendor they meet because their price is the cheapest. Having a solid idea about your inventory requirements previously is the first step to collaborate with a vendor that is right for you. Food safety is one of the most fundamental aspects of any vendor/supplier. Inappropriate food safety measures could direct to unfavorable outcomes at your restaurant.
It’s critical to keep tabs on your food costs so that when you witness them rise up, you can take certain measures and get costs under check!
Although it sounds idyllic, Vakada believes that until and unless a restaurateur isn’t willing to get his/her hands dirty, they cannot succeed in the restaurant industry. Success requires strategizing beyond the day to day operations and establishing benchmarks that will strengthen the business by regularly measuring progress. Thorough research and strategic sourcing such as hiring the right employees and vendors, it is possible to consistently outperform the competition. Having a specific ROI in mind improves planning, sharpens the concept of operations, and fine-tunes the daily functioning of restaurants.