Rajesh is a passionate and seasoned hospitality professional with over two decades of experience. He started his career with the Taj Group of Hotels & Resorts, learning the nuances of fine dine operations. Over the past two decades, Rajesh has worked with global food companies like Compass Group and pedigree restaurant brands such as Pizza Hut, KFC. As a Business Head for a national chain of restaurants, he focused not only on revenues and profits but also on marketing and operational excellence, while simultaneously building and establishing robust franchise models.
Rajesh founded Gourmet Sage Hospitality Solutions, a restaurant consulting firm providing the entire gamut of restaurant solutions. He now mentors aspiring restaurateurs in arriving at exciting new food & beverage concepts to execution of new restaurants, cafes & pubs. To grow the business in the right direction, he concentrates on the implementation of best practices and ensuring adherence to international standards. He is also adept at turning around non-performing outlets to profitable ventures, with his keen business acumen.
Rajesh holds an MBA in Marketing and Hotel Management, a Diploma in Hotel Management from IHM, Chennai and a Certificate from American Hotel & Motel Association in Food & Beverage Controls.
In Conversation With Rajesh Kumar Of The Gourmet Sage
In an exclusive conversation with The Restaurant Times, Rajesh Kumar talks of his journey in the industry, the story behind The Gourmet Sage, controlling food cost, reasons behind restaurant failure and a lot more.
Trending Formats in 2019
Food delivery players like Swiggy, Zomato, and UberEats have captured huge market share with marketing goodies and bizarre innovations. Millennials are the priority audience for food delivery services as they spend the highest share of their budgets on prepared food compared to other generations. With fast-paced lives, Generation Y is more apt to eat in quick-service restaurants and order food delivery. Today’s youth cannot be lured away from the convenience of ordering in by just good food. They seek a consummate dining experience that makes for quality social media fodder. Pop-ups, themed eateries, interactive dishes, striking ambiance, snazzy décor, culinary aesthetics and a host of other factors that were once secondary to the menu, have become part and parcel of consumer expectations.
‘Affordable casual dining restaurants offering experiential dining is the format to look out for in the future’, says Kumar.
Why Do Restaurants Fail?
According to Kumar, there are numerous external and internal reasons, so many nuances, and intricacies that contribute to a restaurant’s success. Every industry has its experts and consultants and we must acknowledge the value they bring to the table.
“If we have to narrow it down to one biggest challenge why restaurants fail, it would be not hiring a good restaurant consultant,” says Kumar.
There are cases of people who had started restaurants on their own, without any consultants’ help, and have succeeded, but the percentage is quite low. A restaurant consultant can increase your chances of success by saying 40%-50% to 90%-95%.
Hacks To Sustain In The Restaurant Industry
From the initial stages of building your restaurant business to developing it exponentially, it is a full-time job to be a restaurateur. One must be prepared to continuously find ways to enhance the customer experience and boost sales.
According to Kumar, some of the basic strategies which should be kept in mind are as follows:
- Do your homework – It is important to do your market research well before you open a restaurant. Decide on the concept based on your research which includes an array of elements ranging from the ambiance and decor, service style, menu design, to the type of cuisine served.
- Choose the right location – It is essential that you finalize the location based on the target audience and expected footfall, but don’t sign up a place at exorbitant rentals. No one can help later.
- Hire and manage talent well – always be on the lookout for good talent. Pay attention to attitude and integrity over skill, which can be taught.
- Stay strong on basics – Good Food, Great Service, Right Price, Clean & Hygienic ambiance.
- Listen to your customers and stay relevant – Pay close attention to Menu Engineering and Marketing activities. Menu engineering includes the study of the profitability and popularity of menu items and how these two factors influence the placement of these items on a menu. The goal is to increase profitability per guest.
Whereas marketing activities include a wide range of activities, ranging from word of mouth to social media, one should opt a marketing tool after proper research.
- Keep a hawk-eye on finances – Find lucrative ways to increase revenue and optimize expenses, without compromising on quality.
- Hiring a good restaurant consultant, who will guide and support all of the above.
Hacks To Control Food Cost
Food cost refers to the menu price of a certain dish in comparison to the cost of the raw materials used to prepare that dish. Food cost is the major cost that restaurateurs have to face in the foodservice industry.
Restaurant Food Cost Control is essential as it allows you to identify the areas of your expenses and take corrective and preventive measures to keep a healthy ratio between your expenses and revenues.
According to Rajesh, a few points to be kept in mind for keeping the food cost in control are –
- Always be on the lookout for best purchase prices without compromising on quality.
- Train staff on the right portion sizes, recipes, wastage control, receiving & storing guidelines.
- Make good use of software for recipe management, inventory control & theft management to track theoretical vs actual food cost.
Effectively Handling Vendor Management and Competition
According to Rajesh, Vendors are important stakeholders in the restaurant business. If you manage your funds well and be prompt with vendor payments, they will deliver good service.
It is always easier to manage the inventory if the restaurant does not have more than 4 to 5 good vendors. It also helps to keep an alternate backup for each of these vendors in case of emergencies.
One trait that separates successful restaurants from the competition is “Consistency”.
Many restaurants start very well but fail unable to keep up their standards in the long run. The ones which are consistent stay on top of the game.
According to Rajesh, in order to stay ahead of the competition restaurateurs can use certain marketing and CRM tools.
Besides social media & other marketing avenues, restaurateurs making good use of CRM software tools can really see the difference in the growth of their top line. One important aspect of the CRM software tool is that businesses learn more about their customers and how to best cater to their tools.
Mystery Shopping Services At The Gourmet Sage
A customer’s experience depends on a variety of factors such as the ambiance, quality of interaction with the staff, facilities and infrastructure, the billing process and many other aspects of customer service.
Mystery Shopping Services is a method used externally by market research companies or internally by the companies themselves, to measure the quality of service, compliance with regulation or to gather certain information about the products or services. It is a way to measure employee uprightness.
Companies want to know what is happening in their outlets and how can they make the customer experience better. Mystery shopping services may include a range of tools ranging from questionnaires to complete audio or video recordings.
“Mystery Shopping services help you objectively measure the quality of your customers’ experience at restaurants. It helps identify exactly what behaviors and metrics link exceeding guests’ expectations,” says Kumar.
It is a tool used to unlock the company’s potential for driving customer delight and limitless profitability. It is one of the most effective ways to get customer feedback and reports about their experiences.