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I firmly believe in the message that NRAI has been sending out of late – United we stand: Aseem Grover


An ex-Army Officer, he decided to leave his job in order to embark upon the adventure of setting up The Big Chill Café along with his wife, Fawzia. Aseem Grover, Owner, The Big Chill Café, shares his journey with NRAI. 

Please take us through The Big Chill’s journey. How did the concept emerge? Was expansion already on the cards while launching your first outlet in Khan Market?

The Big Chill started out as a specialty Ice-cream and Dessert Café serving hand-made, artisanal Ice-cream and premium Desserts. The inspiration for The Big Chill was rooted in our desire to set up a friendly neighbourhood café, which had a cool, young vibe and reminded us of some of the places we frequented whilst in college abroad.  It was envisaged as an informal meeting place for friends.  Our love for cinema and films influenced us in developing the look and the feel of the place and we were keen to share our collection of whacky and cult film posters with other like minded people.  We were sure that they would have a resonance with young people and would help create the fun and colourful spirit which reflects our brand.

We had little idea of consciously building a brand when we started The Big Chill.  It seems to have evolved into something that we could not have imagined in our wildest dreams!  We had modestly thought of a stand-alone single outlet but the overwhelming response we received led us to develop the concept that we have today.  Our growth and development has been very organic and closely connected to our customer base.

What set your restaurants apart from others?

The distinctive look and feel, the friendly vibe and the consistency in the quality of food is what we hear our customers talking about!

The Big Chill hardly has any online / social media presence. In this insanely digitally obsessed world, how have you managed to be a favourite for all without being online?

I don’t know – I think we just got lucky! When we set out, we made a conscious decision not to advertise and let the custom build with word-of-mouth publicity.  We were in remote East of Kailash, off a main road, but, luckily for us, word-of-mouth publicity worked wonders.  Although spreading information in this way takes longer than with an advertising blitz, it results in a more loyal and solid customer base in the long run.

We set up The Big Chill only seventeen years ago but now it seems like a different era altogether! One would probably have to approach it differently if one was setting up a new brand in this day and age.  In a way, social media plays the role of word-of-mouth publicity in a much more direct and instant manner.  Whilst we may not have an online presence, fans and customers have made sure that information is disseminated very quickly about developments such as the opening of new outlets.  Fortunately for us this has resulted in phenomenal turnouts and queues within the first few days of the opening itself! The opening of The Cakery in Khan Market is a case in point.

In terms of our lack of online presence, let’s just say that I really ain’t proud of our inability to even have a website! This is something for us to learn about – and work on!  We would, of course, do so much better if we did manage our social media and had an online presence. There is a great, untapped potential in this field but whenever we decide to do this, it will have to be done in-house – with our personal touch rather than outsourcing it to a PR agency.

Not just savoury, your desserts are becoming a rage as well – especially with the launch of The Big Chill Cakery. What is the way forward?

Desserts have always been a cherished and beloved part of The Big Chill.  Our desserts have always ignited passions in our customers. We felt that they needed to be showcased further and that they deserved an outlet of their own! Fawzia not only outdid herself with new creations, but also dictated very clearly her vision of a vintage English Cake Shop – all Amith and I had to do was follow instructions, and voila! – We had The Big Chill Cakery!!

Way forward? Oh I don’t know just yet – we will probably open a few more outlets soon. We are too happy-go-lucky to set serious targets for ourselves!

What have been your major learnings during your journey as a restaurateur?

Be honest about what you do – what finally matters is the food on the plate. Also, look after your staff, a cared-for and motivated staff team will do wonders for you.

What do you do to unwind yourself, to keep up work-life balance?

One can’t help but keep crazy hours in this business. Getting to spend time with one’s kids is always a joy! We have a huge collection of films at home – watching films late into the night is what we love doing!  The other love that Fawzia and I share is of travel – although we don’t nearly get as many chhuttis as we would like to!!

How is your association with the NRAI working out?

It has truly been wonderful. The NRAI leadership team has always been there when one needed help and guidance. NRAI has been doing a wonderful job under the very able leadership of Riyaaz and Rahul. Prakul has always been very prompt and patient while answering our queries. The team has been tackling every issue head on, be it the liquor licences in Delhi, the 500m highway issue or the transition to GST, to name a few. I firmly believe in the message that NRAI has been sending out of late – United we stand!

One tip for young restaurateurs looking to stand out in the sector?

Be original – Be yourself! And give it all you got!!

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