An Interview With Pratik Agarwal: Queen Margherita’s Pizzeria Success Is In The ‘Ingredients’ Of Its Business

Queen Margherita’s Pizzeria helmed by Pratik Agarwal, the executive chef and brains behind Queen’s, opened its new kitchen in Malad, 2018. It is a small Italian eatery serving Queen Margherita’s legacy. It all started when Pratik was pursuing his Masters in Marketing from Canada. After doing one of his projects on large chain pizza outlets in the US, he started pondering about building his own pizzeria. He worked at several pizza outlets in Toronto, trying to learn and gauge knowledge about the product and hospitality industry, before entering the industry. Pratik mentions that pizza is proof of the ‘versatility’ it has, as a vessel for different styles of cuisine and is an evidence of how malleable our definition of pizza can be!

In Conversation With Pratik Agarwal of Queen Margherita’s Pizzeria

In an exclusive conversation with The Restaurant Times, Pratik Agarwal talks of his journey in the industry, the story behind Queen Margherita’s Pizzeria, keeping the European spirit alive, and a lot more.

Keeping The European Spirit Alive and Maintaining The Authenticity 

Queen Margherita’s Pizzeria vaunts it’s European spirit. Pratik drew inspiration from his vast experiences in Toronto. Starting from the diversified culture across the city with people from various regions to its wide range of food and languages. It reflects the diversity of the city.

At Queen Margherita’s, they strive to link the ambiance with the color combination used, which portrays minimalism. It endeavors to be ‘real’ with their customers and in their restaurant as well. 

The authenticity in the Italian pizzas is maintained by the ingredients which are carefully sourced from Italy and also locally. The dishes are prepared to resemble Italian style pizzas, which have thin bases and airy crust pizzas here. The famous Neapolitan pizza at Queen Margherita’s is prepared by following a fermentation process. The techniques and food standards followed are according to the International standards. The hygiene is exemplary. Agarwal mentions that, because of the extra care taken to maintain hygiene standards, customers at Queen Margherita can binge on their pizzas three times a week without getting sick. 

The staff is extensively trained every week to perform their best on weekends- the performance day!

“Not To-Dos” While Opening A Quick Service Restaurant

  • Do Not Be Fancied By The Monetary Value: According to Agarwal, a lot of people enter the restaurant industry by being attracted to the monetary value of the industry. Opening a restaurant is extremely high-risk. The fact that restaurants fail at an alarmingly high rate, the restaurateurs must be fueled by passion. No one should start a restaurant to make money. If that’s the goal, one will almost certainly fail. Agarwal learned the art of making pizza and did his research thoroughly by gaining rich experience in this field before entering the industry!
  • Discounts By Third Party Aggregators Is Not A Privilege: According to Agarwal, ordering food online or getting heavy discounts on meals at some outlet has changed the definition of how we look at eating out today. These massive discounts render unprofitable sales. The restaurant lives and breathes due to its patrons and convincing the patrons to order from you is key to success. Restaurateurs should stop engaging with these delivery partners and give up such unnecessary discounting practices.
  • Be A Leader Rather Than Owner: Being an owner and a leader go hand in hand. Although, the owner is just a title, being a leader is a choice one makes every day. The success or failure of one’s restaurant business depends on how well and quickly one can adapt to being a leader. Agarwal emphasizes on the fact that the overall growth and development of his staff members is his responsibility for which he has to be a leader to guide them in the right direction. A leader connects daily with goals and aspirations and thoroughly knows what matters most to them!

Role Of Technology In The Restaurant Space

The rise of digital technology is reshaping the restaurant industry. Improving shelf life and food safety revolves around technology, and greater use of machines and software ensures affordability and consistent quality in the restaurant industry. Guest experience and customer expectations are shaping how restaurants are using their POS systems to most efficiently run their operations. 

Agarwal is using POSist at his outlet. POSist being a cloud POS software is flexible, valuable, and beneficial in a multitude of ways, and their implementation helps the restaurant to rise to meet consumer expectations and market demands. 

“The CRM reports help in conducting in-depth research on individual customers and lets you know the average check size, the last visit date, etc. These types of real-time reports and data provided by POSist help me to retain the customers by making the right choices,” says Agarwal.

Apart from POS software, social media marketing to promote his restaurant business has come a long way. At Queen Margherita’s, they keep the content ‘real’ on social media platforms, by uploading pictures without any editing!

Strategic Learnings From Experience In The Hospitality Industry

  • Prior Experience Before Entering The Industry: Agarwal advises that before entering the hospitality industry, one must gain some experience in the same field. “If you fail to prepare, be prepared to fail,” says Agarwal. Having prior experience before entering the industry helps you to assess whether you like the industry, whether it’s as good of an opportunity as you evaluated and also, whether it’s a good fit for your skills and personality. These are all essential things to know before you invest your money and which will guide you to take important decisions.
  • Tapping Into The Online-delivery Network Is Not A Solution: Agarwal says that the exorbitant amount of discounts and offers given by the third-party online delivery partners, hurt the restaurant business. Restaurants run on a thin margin and it has distorted a vibrant marketplace by aggressive discounting and predatory pricing. Some distressed restaurants might think of it as an in-house solution when they do not get much footfall at their restaurants, but the high fees from these delivery companies hurt restaurants as well as devalue their products.
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