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Keeping a focus on the vision and mission brings everyone on the same platform: Murali Parna

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In an interview with the NRAI, Murali Parna, CEO of Sagar Ratna group, a casual dining restaurant chain which has been operating over the past 3 decades in the country, explains the importance of cultivating a culture of professionalism in the brand and shares his perspective on the Indian restaurant industry.

Tell us about Sagar Ratna, its journey and scale up plans.unnamed1

Founded by Jayram Banan in 1986, majority stake was sold in 2011 to a PE firm (IEP) when it was about approx. 45 restaurants. Under the new management since then it has grown to 90+ restaurants and in more states and towns. Focus in FY 17 is to open up in West and East markets and have more deeper penetration in a few states like Rajasthan, Bihar and UP.

What kind of competition is Sagar Ratna facing in the current scenario? How do you plan to stay ahead of the competition without compromising on the quality?
Decrease in spending or share of wallet due to higher competitive intensity, lack of an optimistic economic outlook etc. has surely impacted spends per restaurant visit. Frequency of visit to the same restaurant or food has seen marginal decline due to increased variety in the market. Innovation in new products, staying relevant with the needs of the customer and focusing more on our southindianness is what we believe is keeping us on stronger ground.

What according to you are the crucial drivers for any restaurant’s longevity?
Understanding the changing customer needs and being relevant is the most critical. Engaging in price promotion or price subsidy needs to be more tactical and cannot be seen as strategic. Apart from creating new products focus on employee morale and motivation is equally critical to ensure higher customer satisfaction. Partnering with the right franchisees to ensure that they maintain the same value system as the brand commands is also important.

After having worked with many eminent brands, how would you elucidate your journey with Sagar Ratna?
Building a strong team, ensuring all have a shared vision, creating a culture of professionalism and a performance oriented approach is what I’m proud of. Experience gained thru the years could be practically applied here to turn around this business financially. Miles to go still…

How do you motivate your team to work seamlessly for the value creation?
Keeping a focus on the vision and mission brings everyone on the same platform. Continuous communication, an open door policy also adds positively to the process.

Which is your favorite dish from Sagar Ratna’s menu?
Dahi vada and Rawa Masala dosa

What do you do to reinvigorate yourself in the leisure hours?
Reading, listening to music, watching old movies, engaging with my family keeps me occupied.

One piece of advice you would like to offer to the budding restaurateurs?
Focus on the fundamentals – food quality & taste, never compromise this even in the worst of times.

Any challenges you face as a restaurateur. How do you think NRAI can contribute in curbing those?
Ease of doing business eg. single window clearance for all licences, longer term licences, reduced n exception based interventions by regulatory authorities etc., Encourage the govt to notice the kind of employment generated by this industry, the tax revenues generated and therefore give it the required importance.