Muddassir Iqbal was brought up in a family of restaurateurs. His father (Mohd. Iqbal Shamsi) had a small restaurant in Nainital, which instilled in him the dream of having a restaurant brand. Along with his brother, Zafar, Mudassir Iqbal opened Zooby’s Kitchen, which is more of a family business as the entire family is involved in its operations.
In a short period only, Zooby’s kitchen received a lot of attention and love from the customers. Currently, they have three outlets located respectively in Delhi, Noida, and Nainital.
According to Iqbal, India has seen a lot of Mughlai food but not with good ambiance and location. Mughlai cuisine is mostly seen in delivery formats or very exclusive dining setups. This is the gap that Muddassir wanted to fill through Zooby’s Kitchen. Zooby’s Kitchen aims to bring authentic Mughlai food to people with a new style that is accompanied by the ambiance, music, and good presentation.
In Conversation With Muddassir Iqbal Of Zooby’s Kitchen
In an exclusive conversation with The Restaurant Times, Muddassir Iqbal talks about the fast-paced growth of restaurants in India, the importance of location and all about his brand, Zooby’s Kitchen.
Changing Consumer Trends Impacting The Restaurant Industry
More Indians are gradually warming up to the notion of dining in restaurants, and not just for special occasions. According to Iqbal, India has always been a food-loving country with each region having its distinctive cuisine. But all that is changing now. The restaurant industry in India has been growing at a rapid pace over the last decade and the growth story is set to continue for the next foreseeable future.
‘India has seen enormous growth in the number of restaurants lately. With the growing number of delivery partners like Zomato and Swiggy, the logistic part has become very convenient as well as hassle-free. The last three years have seen massive growth in the number of online ordering of food, and there certainly has been a considerable customer shift mainly because of the corporate class culture growing’, says Iqbal.
According to Iqbal, there has been increased exposure to international lifestyles and cuisines. More and more Indians are demonstrating a growing appetite for a variety of cuisines ranging from Chinese and Italian to Mexican and Middle Eastern. Greater awareness of global cuisines combined with a more considerable disposable income is leading many Indian consumers to seek experiential eating or fine dining. Casual dining is no longer just about going out and eating but having an overall great dining experience. Consumers have become really sensitive towards the ambiance, presentation of the food, quality of service, use of gourmet ingredients, etc.
How Location Impacts The Business
According to Iqbal, location is one of the most important criteria to be taken care of while setting up a restaurant brand, and that plays a major role in its success. It is essential to analyze potential locations and their access to customers, the size of their parking lots, their location concerning your equipment and food suppliers, and other factors.
‘Analyze your restaurant’s concept and who your target customer is. Evaluate demographics, and decide your style before choosing a location. Finally, take into consideration the nitty-gritty details like parking and traffic patterns. The location of your restaurant can directly influence whether you sink or swim in the business.’
Research has been fundamental for Zooby’s Kitchen. All three outlets are located in three different places and have three different types of customer base and choices. ‘Our brand aims to create a sense of nostalgia among the customers. The brand tries to live up to the expectations of its tagline, ‘grills from the hills’. So we made sure to conduct the market research in a way that we understand the audience and if the customers there will like the theme that we have set,’ says Iqbal.
Curating The Perfect Menu
A restaurant’s menu is one of the most critical internal advertising tools that can be used to educate a guest about the experience they are about to have. According to Iqbal, a good restaurant menu design is a key ingredient of any restaurant marketing plan. Having an engaging, clean menu is essential for communicating the identity of a brand.
Menu engineering is significant for brand recognition and for maintaining its recall value. There is a lot of noise in the market, and one has to shout out loud to be recognized, and one such way of doing it is through a well-designed menu. The most important technique is dividing the list into logical sections, making it easy for the customers to search for dishes by arranging items sequentially and in coherent groups.
Food Has To Look Good To Taste Good
Visibility is more important than ability, they say. According to Iqbal, visual appeal is just as critical as the taste of the food. If there is no exposure to the food, the food will not attract the number of customer base it should. Importance of plating and designing is also important, and as everyone these days like to click food and then to post it online, this also adds to the marketing of the brand.
The way a plate is designed is what entices customers to take a bite. The design in plating makes the experience of food more than just eating and enjoying. Using the form, texture, and color to solicit emotions is very important. Food is a creative means that is universal, and plating is the mode of influx to the meal, the chef behind it, and the cultures around the world that influenced it.
Ensuring Food Cost Control
According to Iqbal, proper food costing is vital as it has a direct effect on the profitability of a restaurant. It is the cost of your ingredients, and it does not include other costs, such as labor and overheads. Food costing is critical in determining whether food costs targets are being met. The recipe mix involves the ingredient costs – what the food company charges you.
According to Iqbal, restaurants are always looking for a fast and efficient way to enter each customer’s order. Due to this reason, many bars and restaurants are putting an end to their ancient cash registers and money tills in favor of the new POS systems.
‘We have been using POSist at Zooby’s Kitchen. POSist has been a lifesaver; the data that we used to gather before POSist, was all messed up. After we started using Posist, the data got automatically arranged. The audit timing is so quick that we have a bulk of data stored that helps us when we want to run any SMS or feedback campaign.’
Zooby’s kitchen has been the highest rated restaurant by Zomato in the area for three consecutive years, and also the User’s Choice best restaurant in Nainital on TripAdvisor and Zomato both. According to Iqbal, one should take criticism as a ‘gift’ as when customers tell you what they think, it gives you an opportunity to fix the problem. Not telling you might mean they’ve decided to go elsewhere.
Iqbal concludes by saying, that Zooby’s kitchen will be coming up with a few cloud kitchens along with takeaways outlets in the future.