Inception of Shiraz Golden Restaurant
The restaurant was rechristened in 1956 as the ‘Golden Restaurant.’ By that time, the eatery had already started exploring the possibility of expanding the food business. The most recent avatar ‘Shiraz Golden Restaurant’ formally came into being in 1970 as a partnership business between Ali and Shamsul Haque Zaved. Another legacy that Shiraz has been carrying forward is certainly their breakfast offering for the Pathans of Kolkata.
Over the years, Shiraz Golden Restaurant has evolved tremendously and its popularity has crossed boundaries. For more than five decades, the intersection of Park Street and Mullickbazaar remained the only meeting and eating point. In 1995, it started proliferating with its first franchisee located at Jadavpur, following which eight outlets have come up and the brand has also opened an outlet in Durgapur, West Bengal.
The reason Shiraz has opened only eight outlets in the city over a period of almost six decades is because they want to maintain quality. Moreover they believe that a limited number of stores gives them a fair share of exclusivity. According to them, they were the first ones to introduce Awadhi and Mughlai cuisine in Kolkata and the rest simply followed them.
Initial Hiccups and Consequent Remedies
Shiraz claims that the biryani they serve is the most famous and has somehow still managed to keep its charm alive. “The best-selling product would undoubtedly be our biryani, which is an institution in itself. The lightly spiced biryani and its consistent quality that we have maintained over the years are the factors that have made Shiraz such a big name in Kolkata,” claims Ahemed.
Of late, Shiraz has also expanded its range of vegetarian delicacies to further appeal to the customers who prefer vegetarian food cooked in Awadhi style. They have included popular dishes such as paneer shashlik, vegetable pulao, dal makhani and paneer butter masala. Keeping in mind the inclination of Kolkatans towards fish, the brand has also included dishes such as ‘pomfret tandoori’ in its menu.
To maintain the quality of food across all its outlets, Shiraz has maintained a central kitchen, which serves all the outlets. The central kitchen has a staff of 15 members and standard industrial equipment is used in the kitchen. It is located off Park Street, and since the main outlet is nearby, it is convenient to transport the food and other goods back and forth without spending too much time.
According to Ahemed, few of the operational challenges that they are currently facing include day to day competitors and retaining manpower in the times of financial crisis. “Price hikes in labour, food items, and transport do hamper growth,” he adds.
Spreading Awadhi Cuisine’s Aroma
According to Ahemed, the food lovers in Kolkata have always been loyal supporters of their restaurants. Stating the fact, he says: “From the beginning, Awadhi cuisine has hit the palates of people in the East. The light fluffy biryani and the royal chaap have been received extremely well. No other restaurant can claim a 100 percent brand recall and research reveals more than 70 percent Kolkatans have tasted the food of Shiraz. Chef Shammuddin, a direct descendant of Wajid Ali Shah’s royal kitchen, was the first to introduce authentic Awadhi cuisine in Kolkata and introduced ‘Shiraz ka Biryani’. A few well-known names who have visited us include Amjad Khan, Faroque Sheikh, Javed Akhtar, Asrani, MF Hussain, Shatrughan Sinha and Shabana Azmi.”
Ahemed is also ready to take the franchising route for expansion. “We are looking for franchisee stores all across India and we have targeted franchisee operations in Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Guwahati and Siliguri,” he reveals.
The average investment that goes in each outlet of Shiraz is almost ` 9-10 lakh, excluding the interior, kitchen equipments, hoardings, etc.
Talking about the ideal location for his restaurants, Ahemed states: “We would prefer residential-cum-business areas. It’s difficult for us to set shop in malls since rents are higher, which will force us to increase the price of the items, and we don’t want our customers to face such problems.”
Speaking about the business margins in the food service business, he says: “The margins of profit are not that high; however, centrally operated outlets are profitable including having a central kitchen.”