What was your original inspiration when you started out? Why Basanti, Silver Beach Cafe? The Lazy Goose?
Hitesh Keswani: Let’s just say the restaurant business has been my calling. Since I can remember there isn’t anything else I have wanted to do. It all goes way beyond just a business, it is my passion.
After Silver Beach Cafe (our 1st benchmark restaurant in Juhu followed by Lokhandwala), Nom Nom – Versova & Bandra, Copa, Radio Bar – Khar & Chembur, Sirocco, Jantar Mantar, The Terrace – Juhu & Andheri West & subsequently Estella – Beach Bar & Restaurant in Juhu (our most ambitious project up to date), I wanted to keep going & open new places with differ- ent cuisines & across various cities. Like they say, the hunger to succeed takes you places.
Basanti was interesting because it was Indian – something that we had not explored (except with Jantar Mantar which is a takeaway & not the same as an Indian sit down experience). I
personally love Indian & it is Mumbai’s foundational cuisine. We hadn’t gone this way so I felt, why not!
The lazy Goose happened when my partner & our culinary di- rector Chef Rohan D Souza hit upon a gorgeous spot in Goa. He is from the city so helps that he knows the place, target audi- ence, loved cuisine & trends better than any one else. Also, I got a chance to move out of Mumbai! We then also went on to open Toro Toro, also in Goa
Within a span of few years you have built 12 brands please tell us what’s your secret to staying relevant and ahead of the pack?
Hitesh Keswani: I think its about being passionate, having a team that is ready to support your decisions & power through with enthusiasm & a positive attitude. It also helps to have an open mind & not get stuck with a certain type/category of restaurant. We are in the business of making people happy through food & entertainment and that and only that should be the core focus. Needless to say, reading up, staying aware & traveling always helps to polish my brains on new trends & customer needs.
What are your thoughts on the food trends coming out these days, from farm-to-table to millennial dining experiences?
Hitesh Keswani: Well, every decade has its trends. Nowadays they last shorter than a decade even. For me Farm to table is a great concept keeping in mind how sustainable & health-conscious guests today are. While some are short lived, others like Veganism/lo- cally sourced foods & zero waste cooking are powering through while somewhere all leaning towards an ethical / environmental cause.
What kind of dining trends do you foresee in the near fu- ture? And what’s your assessment of the dining scene in India?
Hitesh Keswani: I have a feeling more ghost kitchens will open in 2020 – with the option of delivery / takeaway. More people are turning vegetari- an & this is a big change for the food industry & will now re- flect on restaurant menus. Dairy free & vegan products will be raring to go in 2020.
How closely have you been involved in the development of the restaurant & how have you found the process of getting the right chefs and staff?
Hitesh Keswani: The food & beverage industry is a passion for me, not simply a business. This is why the setup stage is the most exciting for me. From scouting & choosing the location to the interiors & crock- ery/cutlery purchase, I am always involved in every process end to end. Even if I am not physically doing it myself, I am aware of the details. I am blessed with a great team that follows throw processes out of which one focusses on staff hiring.
What other projects are you working on? Can you elaborate more about your most popular restaurant Silver Beach Cafe?
Hitesh Keswani: We are slated to open another six by the end of 2020. Three in Vashi, One in Bandra West & One in South Bombay which will be our most ambitious project till date. All of these are different cuisines & themes – it is a very exciting time for us.
Can you talk us through how you came up with the design for Basanti, Mumbai?
Hitesh Keswani: We knew we had to be synonymous with the Hindi film industry keeping in mind the area we chose, the cuisine & most important our target audience. When we briefed our creative agency & gave them a glimpse of the colours & feel we wanted, they gave us the name Basanti! After that everything fell into place like a stack of cards.
Why after Mumbai you selected Goa to open your restau- rants ?
Hitesh Keswani: The lazy Goose happened when my partner & our culinary di- rector Chef Rohan D Souza hit upon a gorgeous spot in Goa. He is from the city so helps that he knows the place, target audi- ence, loved cuisine & trends better than any one else. After Lazy Goose, we also opened Toro Toro (Baga in Goa). The location allowed us to expand outside of Mumbai & explore a new expe- rience while still geographically staying close to Mumbai to en- sure we manage all our places at best.
Please share some of the most difficult task or circumstance that a restaurateur has to deal with ?
Hitesh Keswani: I think right now, it is high rents & low staff retention. These are our two most difficult problems; as are for the rest of the indus- try
Out of the 12 brands you have established so successfully please tell us your favourite brand and why ?
Hitesh Keswani: This is like asking a parent who is his favourite child! There are days where one supersedes the other, but all in all the love for all remains the same…
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