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Sky’s the limit



Priyank Sukhija has been missing his business flights. “Before the pandemic, because we have restaurants everywhere, I’d be taking around 10 flights a month easily, and I’d almost always be flying alone,” says the veteran restaurateur, who admits he loves his alone time on these flights.

“I don’t know, but maybe it is because you are so disconnected from the outside world, but I used to do all my thinking about the future during those few hours. I don’t watch movies or read magazines while flying, ever. I have my phone on airplane mode and out in my hands and I am just thinking and scribbling down notes. It could be a new brand concept, a new restaurant name, a new marketing campaign, but I have my creative cap on, while I am switched off,” says Sukhija.

The 41-year-old’s Delhi-based company, First Fiddle Restaurants, has 27 outlets around India under 10 brands, and presumably once he restarts taking flights there will be plenty more where those came from. “My best ideas and most successful restaurants have all been thought off on flights, and I start working on the ideas as soon as I have disembarked and reconnected with my team,” he recalls wistfully.

“I have an actual office, of course, where the team is but while there I am not doing any creative thinking. It is more management and clerical work. Besides, I have found that when you go to office, you have already thought about all the things you will be doing that day at home, and you just go do it,” asserts Sukhija, whose daily schedule revolves between home, office, and his many many restaurants around Delhi-NCR.

Having been grounded since Covid-19 became an everlooming presence, Sukhija, like the rest of us, has been forced to adapt.

“I had my own study at home with a very official looking desk and a painting of Mother Theresa, but we recently had triplets, so the kids have taken over that room. I have had to move all my study stuff downstairs to the basement,” says the newly minted father, not sounding at all upset.

“We have a patio in the garden, which is nicely shaded with a roof and has some seats, and that’s where I spend my brainstorming time most of these days,” says Sukhija, who like every restaurateur in the city, country, and world has had a lot to chew over these days, from figuring out the logistics of delivering gourmet home food, considering the recent lockdown and subsequent restrictions, as well as all the hassles of managing a business in an industry which has been among the worst affected by this global pandemic.

Given that Sukhija recently re-imagined and retooled The Dragonfly Experience — the high-end, high-energy Asian bar and dining space at Aerocity, as what might be the future of dining out, complete with pods for individual tables and a slew of other safety measures, the new thinking spot seems to be working.


Though Sukhija’s been grounded all these months, he will finally be  taking to the skies in December as he needs to be present for the openings of new brand outlets in Goa and Mumbai. “I’ll be gone for a good 15 days, and then will have to come back and stay in another part of the house or another house because of the kids and everyone at home for another 15 days. It’ll be difficult, but that’s something we all have to do to stay safe,” he concludes

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