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Interviews

Every time there is a challenge, the NRAI has taken initiative to tackle these by engaging in dialogue with the relevant parties : Sameer Seth

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He started his career in banking later realising his interest lies in all things food and drink. With over 7 years of experience in the restaurant business in both India and the USA, Sameer Seth along with business partner Yash Bhanage, came up with the idea of The Bombay Canteen. Driven by the passion to build a restaurant that fit in the Indian context, Sameer Seth, Founder and CEO, The Bombay Canteen shares his journey with NRAI.

1.    Give us brief about The Bombay Canteen. What are your growth and expansion plans?

The Bombay Canteen is an Indian Café and Bar, that promises you an exciting journey on a plate (and in a glass) with a refreshing new offering. With an entirely new approach that is fun, familiar yet innovative, the food focuses on recreating traditional recipes using seasonal ingredients, showcased in a contemporary form. The cuisine is best described as ‘India Inspired.’

Currently we are focused on consolidating the restaurant we have built and expansion of The Bombay Canteen is not on the plan.

2.    What has made The Bombay Canteen so popular is such a short span?

The Bombay Canteen has become popular in such a short span of time as people come here irrespective of the day of the week. The space per say is the recreation of an old Bombay bungalow, and pays homage to the city’s architectural history. The food is fun, familiar and takes you on a journey through India by using fresh seasonal ingredients and recreating traditional recipes. This very same philosophy extends to our bar as well.  Here, you’ll notice clues to India’s historical role in the world of beverages, and classic cocktails being given an Indian twist, to create an approachable yet innovative cocktail offering, that does not burn a hole in your pocket. These come together to make it an ideal spot in the neighborhood to hangout, to socialize, to unwind, just like the canteens of yesteryears that people seem to love.

3.    What is the signature offering that sets it apart from others in this segment?

We celebrate the wonders of Indian cuisine.We decided to put local and seasonal ingredients on the menu, in season, so they are the best quality. We keep it playful and fun and change our menus frequently to offer something new to our customers.

4.    What are your major learnings as a restaurateur?

One of my major learnings as a restaurateur has been that a restaurant is only as good as the team that runs it. Opening a restaurant is tough but sustaining it and maintaining a standard and quality is a direct function of the amount of time and effort that is spent in building a good team by the restaurateur. While it obviously starts with hiring the right people that fit into the culture of your restaurant, having a strong and consistent training program is a key to help the team grow to add value to various aspects of the business.

5.    How is your association with the NRAI working out? Any industry challenges you would like to address through the association?

It has been great to have an association such as the NRAI that has brought everyone in the industry together and created a platform for everyone to interact not just with each other but with external agencies. More importantly, every time there is a challenge, the NRAI has taken initiative to tackle these by engaging in dialogue with the relevant parties.

6.    One tip you would like to offer to youngsters aspiring to enter the restaurant business?

While of course defining what the concept of your venture is important, what is more important is clearly defining as to whom this concept will appeal to (who is the guest?) and does the concept fit into what this target audience is looking for (what does the guest want?). Doing this honestly allows you to develop your concept in a manner that will hopefully then connect with your guest in a deeper manner and in the process also allow you to develop a better product.

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