Food startup

111 days

The Story of these 111 days

We have successfully been open for a little over one hundred days.

Its been over 2 months since I wrote here...well, its true that I've had NO time for anything. But I just met this amazing couple that stopped by for some street food this past Sunday. And while discussing our life, vocation and the whole 9 yards...one of them (Jonathan) said this: "If writing is so important to you, why don't you just spend 15 minutes each night before you go to bed and share what you feel like writing about?". What a brilliant piece of suggestion. The inertia behind not writing for all these weeks has been lack of time and more importantly my need to be detailed and perfect about every blog I write. And that ends here and now.

I am taking a silent oath to write something of value if not every night, for at least a few times a week and share my work, moments of elation and most importantly my struggles with all of you. Because, that means something to me, hopefully its of some value to you too.

I sometimes look at all the amazing FaceBook posts and photos and think - if everyone is really as happy as they seem on FaceBook, this world is just a paradise. But if everything I hear from my near and dear is a fact, then I am not so sure about all the upbeat FB posts and pictures :)

The point is, I'd like to not just share my moments of absolute elation in this pursuit of my passion and labor of love - but, I'd also like to be naked and vulnerable and share all my struggles too. After all, isn't that what community, and sharing is all about?

So here goes:

What's working been working so far?

1. Clearly the food is attracting a lot of attention. Which is fabulous! 

What still needs work is doing a better job at communicating via signs, social media and content marketing the concept of Indian food as bar bites along with some good wine.

2. The customer feedback on food and wine quality has been positive. In my mind that's half the battle - because, product quality is key for everything else to follow.

3. Finally there is some sort of a trend that I can observe with customer dining patters. We see Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest. Week nights are slow - and we need to have interesting events and something that will add value for our customers to come in on nights that they'd rather stay home and unwind.

And the pain points?

1. I have to be brutally honest about 2 things that IP has received some negative comments about.

A. Our price points - there has been some yelp reviews which mentioned that while our food and wines are quite delicious - the cost is quite high. My personal response to this is: our wines are very inexpensive, period. But, there are delicious nevertheless. Its my primary goal to be able to showcase amazing wines from around the world to my customers, without costing them an arm and a leg. So I have a feeling there is not much truth to the comments about the wine prices.

The food however is another topic. Again, I would not want to sound like someone in denial, without paying heed to my customer's most important feedbacks. I would point out though, the perception of cost of the food could be because of 2 reasons:

-- The fact that there is still room for improvement regarding the messaging of the concept could be one main reason for this. People may be walking in thinking of a typical Indian restaurant, dining buffet style. Which is NOT who we are.

-- Or, it could be because of the work yet to be done on our part to communicate the amount of work it takes to prep every chutney from scratch and about 90% of the dry masalas that are made in house.  

But, that said, I am definitely introspecting about addressing this specific aspect of the business that has some negative connotation. I am a big proponent about not being a thief. I hate being robbed. So, I am going to address this in one of the following ways:

1. Communicate what goes in to making each dish and message clearly what can be expected when people walk in.

OR

2. If portion is really the issue - I'd like to survey more customer feedback on this topic and address this by increasing portion size.

B. The second aspect receiving some negative points is the time it takes to get food out between orders - especially the crazy busy weekend nights.

Fundamentally this is because I am the ONLY person doing the cooking, assembly, plating and delivery of food. I have been thinking hard about this and as a first step, I have acknowledged that this is a problem that requires fixing asap.

While I have put some ads out to get some help in the back, I have started to get help from the lady who helps me clean, chop etc. during service hours. I have started training her on assembling, plating and serving a couple of items on the menu. This has already starting to ease up some stress for me. Now I am working to be more agile and optimize orders as much as possible.

I can hear my front of the house already observing that food is coming out sooner than usual. A small victory for now, but still a long way to go!

That's it for now -

Also, here are some captures of some amazing moments I've had the pleasure of experiencing these past 111 days...

111

 

With that, I bid a temporary farewell.

Until next time, happy eating and drinking my dear fellow homo sapiens :)

 

 

 

+Kavitha

When a dream becomes real

The Story of the past few months...

The story of the past few months began around May 2015...right around the time when the entries here started to dry up....and for good reason.

My life was slowly starting to look more and more crazy - with an infant who was few months old, a day job that I was getting back to after maternity, one pop-up at 18 Reasons in May and another in the works at Fat Angel (I love this bar!) in August...but then of course, I had to pile more than that, right? So I added to the list 'shop for space' to go brick & mortar with Indian Paradox.

The process of shopping for a space to transition from a pop-up to a permanent brick & mortar started to take shape sometime around the turn of 2015. However, the thought has always prevailed during all stages of my pursuit - from wine exams, to working in wine bars to (most recently) pop-ups.

For the past 4+ years, obtaining the space for a permanent Indian Paradox in my beloved city of San Francisco, in a neighborhood of choice was the "be all and end all" of this journey.

But, like most journeys, when I arrived at the so-called destination, everything was so surreal. And, there was a sinking feeling in the stomach - echoing questions like: 'What the heck have I done?'

'You have got to be kidding me' - I chided myself. And before I know it, I was done on the last leg of the nerve wrecking negotiations to sign the lease for a cute space at my favorite SF neighborhood

The much awaited day had arrived, to sign the lease...and I was still in a daze during my travel via Uber to the landlord's office. 'Wow - I am actually doing this!', I thought. And then it was done...just like that. Surely, there were mixed emotions, that felt like jumping off a cliff and jumping up in joy - all at the same time. But, this is what I wanted and strived so hard for...for so many years.

Slowly but steadily, everything that I believe in and live by came to my mind - led by the words of the author of this book I've been reading: 'In the Sphere of Silence', where he so aptly states: "Change requires risk. But how much are we willing to risk? The irony is, the things we are so scared of risking are like chips in a casino, useless unless they are risked'.

It then dawned to me  that, this means I've attained the first goal of this long arduous journey. A pursuit that was always on the side of a day job, an actual paycheck and a busy personal life. And now it has become real - very real. 

So all fears aside, I could not wait to take this project that I was longing to become real, in full swing now!

Earlier this year, even before I started 'shopping' for a space, I had found an architect  (after a lot of searching & interviewing) who has turned in to a trusted resource to bounce off ideas  in not just architecture and interior design, but even build-out tips and other helpful referrals.

I am so fortunate to have met so many great, resourceful people during this journey. And I have reached out to with so many of them with questions during these last few months. Now, I am in the process of interviewing general contractors to start buildout of the space. This has been another exhausting and yet interesting task - now I am pushing hard to find someone who will help complete this project within the budget and timeline (both very tight!) in plan. 

Oh, and did I mention that there has been a parallel effort on going to interview and hire my first and most important employee? The Indian Paradox lead Back Of the House (BOH). I have started to talk to some interesting folks in the industry - stay tuned for more updates on this.

Last but not least, how can any startup food/beverage experience be complete without the (friendly?) intervention of the dear most city officials of San Francisco? Thankfully, we have building permit to start build out from the SF Building Department. But, there is still permit to be obtained from the SF Planning department to sell alcohol (wine & beer). And so it goes...

That is it for now. On the finishing note, I have to say that when I received the poster to put up the ABC notice on the window of the space, I caught myself smiling smugly and thinking....the next few months are going to be one heck of a roller coaster ride. Almost immediately I also thought, what is life if we don't roll the dice at some point?

Before signing off,  if I'd like to leave you with one image of 'my life in a nutshell', then here it is... :)

Anika_ABC_Poster

 

To all those who dream and strive everyday to make them real....Sante!

 

+Kavitha