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Ranjit Mathrani - Delivering profit from business intelligence.
Entrepreneurs Forum Special Report
May 2011

Ranjit Mathrani is the co-founder and Chairman of “Masala World” which encompasses the fine-dining restaurants Veeraswamy, Chutney Mary and Amaya as well as the chain of 7 Masala Zone outlets. At the entrepreneurs forum on 27th May, Ranjit spoke with great authority and conviction about the importance of having good processes in place in order to succeed in industry.

Hosted at the Commonwealth Club and proudly sponsored by IndiCater, the event was informative, thought-provoking and insightful. Ranjit is a unique individual, holding degrees from Cambridge, Manchester, London and Delhi Universities.

After spending 15 years in the higher echelons of the British Civil Service he moved into the private sector becoming director at Lazard Brothers; managing director at Standard Chartered Bank and then WestLB. In 1993 he created his own international financial advisory business before moving into the restaurant industry in 1996 when he, his wife Namita Punjabi and sister-in-law Camellia Punjabi took full ownership of the restaurant Chutney Mary.

With such a strong background in finance, being accustomed to working in large corporations with stringent processes, checks & controls, and with a successful career as a restaurateur Ranjit was well placed to speak to a group of inquisitive hospitality professionals about the importance of systems and CRM in today’s world and their effect on the bottom-line.

Customer feedback, is highly regarded and actively sought after. The group welcomes around 18,000 guests each week and receives between 800 and 1,000 comment cards, all of which are carefully analysed and examined. Though this daily process is undoubtedly time-consuming, it is, according to Ranjit, a vital part of his business.

The comments and suggestions from clients are taken on-board and seriously considered. Taking a case in point, in 2000 “Chutney Mary” underwent a £1.5 million refurbishment based purely on the fact that customer feedback indicated their clientele thought the décor unsuitable for the product being offered.

Besides the food & beverage offerings, the service experience is carefully managed in both the fine-dining establishments and the Masala Zone Brasseries. Against what many may see as the norm, Ranjit has removed reporting, budget control and P&L management from the remit of his restaurant managers. These processes are all controlled in head office, freeing up the operators to focus on the product, service and guest experience. His reasoning behind removing these from the operations team “on the ground” is that he views interaction between the management team, the service team and the guest as an essential part of running a successful restaurant.

“Managers are there to deliver a product. They manage the environment which enables the team to operate”

Having systems and processes in place which enable the restaurant managers to enhance the customer experience is an example of how and why Ranjit places such an importance on them. In the fine-dining restaurants there are strict systems in place and the SOP’s are rigidly adhered to

* Managers on the floor must visit 100% of tables and at the end of the shift write a minimum of 2 lines on the customer feedback & experience

* Bookings for VIP guests are noted and Head Office instructs the venue as to what special treatment, preferences or instructions are to be followed

“One of the most important words in hospitality is “again” – Nice to see you, again!”

In order to stand out from the crowd, a degree of competitive intelligence gathering is as crucial to a business as customer feedback. Ranjit is continually examining other players in the industry and what they are doing, the services they provide and the products thy use.

Managers are encouraged to dine in competitor’s establishments regularly and then “report back”, not on what the competition are getting wrong but ideas and services that can be imitated by Masala World.

“The integrity of a product is crucial to the company’s success”

Having the right systems in place has enabled Ranjit to more thoroughly understand both the guests and employees. This, in turn, has a positive effect on the bottom line as the group can accurately quantify all aspects of the dining experience.

These systems allow a greater scope for the analysis and management of customer & employee data; food & beverage costings; return on investments; stock control; financial reporting and supplier details.

Towards the end of the forum, Ranjit was also asked for his observations on what changes have occurred since he entered the industry in 1996, and what he sees is the future of the restaurant business. His observations were in line with many that EP have heard before:

* There has been an explosion of mid-level high street chains onto the market

* Consumer dining-out trends are vastly different to previous generations – the experience is a more “every day” event than something reserved just for “special occasions”

* Customers are much more knowledgeable about product offerings

Article taken from EP Magazine.