Varun Duggal, CEO and Executive Director of Eastman Colour Restaurants is a restaurant industry veteran having worked with some of the top hospitality brands of India. After his stint with Lite Bite Foods and Massive Restaurants, Duggal, along with his brother Dinesh Arora, founded Eastman Colour Restaurants which houses various popular brands, namely, Unplugged Courtyard and La Roca.
In Conversation With Varun Duggal Of Eastman Colour Restaurants Pvt Ltd
In an exclusive conversation with The Restaurant Times, Varun Duggal talks about the story of Unplugged Courtyard, the importance of feedback management and customer service, and a lot more.
Story Behind Unplugged Courtyard
According to Duggal, everybody enjoys dining at a place that promises quality ambiance, interiors along with amazing delicacies, so it is essential to create the right setup and vibe to make guests comfortable. The entire team of Eastman Color Restaurants has prior experience, and so they understand the need of the consumers all too well. Their expertise is reflected in the ambiance and service of Unplugged Courtyard. Beautiful lighting, live music, and the sprawling open area are what formulate the entire setup of the brand.
Unplugged Courtyard has another outlet in Gurgaon, which is a destination in itself, in a brand new avatar. The property has been built with a considerable amount of thought and passion, with personal attention given to every detail. It allows the customers to walk in through an array of trees and transports them into a completely different land. The setup is welcoming, intimate and quite effortlessly dramatic. With a capacity of over 375 covers, the restaurant also boasts of a terrace area.
Dealing With Competition
According to Duggal, opening and operating a restaurant is not for the faint of heart. Thin margins and ever-changing food trends complicate things. With new restaurants cropping up every day, dealing with the competition is a challenge in itself. Gaining an aggressive and competitive edge requires a prominent understanding of the demographics of the surrounding area and the nature of existing competitors.
‘Analyze the local competition after choosing the location. Choose a focus for the restaurant that takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors. Your restaurant should provide services that become difficult for the competitors around to match, such as higher quality food or quicker service. Offering competitive prices, along with the great quality of food and service, will always attract the patrons,’ says Duggal.
Customer Service Techniques
According to Duggal, customers are your best marketing assets. It is essential to maintain a level of interaction with them that will add value to their visit. The atmosphere and ambiance of a restaurant outlet is also a crucial factor in the success of the business, and poor customer service can lead to a situation that drives away potential customers that would come in regularly.
One of the most basic techniques for delivering great customer service is reducing the wait time. If the patrons are made to wait too long for their first round of drinks, appetizer or meal, it really won’t matter to them that the bartender makes the best cocktail or the chef prepared the best food. Another important thing to remember is to ensure the customer queries or complaints are handled with empathy.
According to Duggal, most restaurants these days find it challenging to manage and handle all the reviews that are published and posted by the customers on different portals. Many brands even find it tough to get the customers to leave reviews, that can lead to a loss of business to the competitors. Customer feedback is not only about online visibility and publicity. Collecting feedback from customers also helps the restaurant make positive changes in the way they operate and thus, improves customer retention.
According to Duggal, it is essential to market a restaurant and a bar actively, considering the competition. There’s nothing quite like word-of-mouth marketing, as customers are the best and the perfect brand advocates. Even when today where technology has taken over the world by a storm, word-of-mouth is still one of the most potent elements a restaurant can have. ‘Word of mouth marketing can be summed up in a single word, that is trust. One customer will always trust the other customers and the experiences that they have to report,’ says Duggal.
Social media and word-of-mouth marketing go hand-in-hand. A confrontation or an experience by one consumer today can reach millions in a few seconds. This is why monitoring the online reputation of the brand is a critical aspect of marketing.
According to Duggal, POS software for restaurants is no longer a luxury but rather has become a necessity now. Customers expect quick and efficient service, which can be facilitated only through streamlined operations.
A POS solution simplifies the daily operations of running a restaurant, right from the Front of the House to the Back of the House. When used smartly, it allows the restaurant to track everything; from daily stock consumption to the most popular menu items.
POSist is the perfect solution for a restaurant brand. I always have all my sales data on my fingertips. The anti-theft feature has allowed us to cut down our pilferage. The data is precisely managed and recorded and enables us to extract the information quickly whenever required.
Duggal concludes by saying, ‘Eastman Colour has always seen a rapid expansion. This year we plan to open five more brands in India across Mumbai and Bangalore. We even plan to open our brands internationally, and the first one will be soon seen in Spain, followed by an outlet in Dubai.’