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Zorawar Kalra on Massive Restaurants

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After setting up and successfully exiting the critically acclaimed multi-award winning brand Punjab Grill, celebrity chef Jiggs Kalra along with his entrepreneur son Zorawar Kalra has opened a chain of fine dine and a casual smart restaurant along with a chain of luxury mithai shops through the venture Massive Restaurants with one of the leading hospitality brands Mirah Hospitality. In a tell-all conversation with foodService India, Zorawar Kalra, Managing Director, Massive Restaurants, speaks about the venture, yet-to-be-opened restaurants and what Indian food means to him.

How was your journey with Punjab Grill? Why did you exit that business?

Since its inception in 2007, our journey with Punjab Grill has been fabulous. We started the restaurant with the aim of putting Indian food on the global palate in the correct way. Punjab Grill started expanding very quickly since the whole idea was the brand’s quick growth. We opened seven restaurants including the one in Singapore, which has been rated one of the best restaurants there. In March 2012, we decided to exit. We got a very strong evaluation, so we sold it. Another reason was that I did not have the majority stake in that business.

Why did you choose Mirah Hospitality as you partner to start Massive Restaurants?

I was looking for a partner who shares the same vision and found Mirah to be perfect. Gaurav Goenka of Mirah Hospitality is a very good friend of mine and we both share the same vision. I also wanted to leverage the economies of scale. Mirah takes so many locations across the country. There is a lot of synergy. We are experts in operations, running the restaurants and the cuisine aspect, and they are good in finding the locations and giving us back-end support.

Tell us about your fine dine restaurant and casual smart restaurant concepts.

The fine dining restaurant is known as the ‘Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra’, which is a very fine dining concept. The second format stands for smart casual dining and the concept is called ‘Made in Punjab’. Here very high quality Punjabi food is served at a lower price band. For the ‘Made in Punjab’ concept, we are also looking to open in tier-I and -II cities.

We do not have many successful fine dining restaurants outside five-star hotels in India yet. Where do you think the problem lies?

The biggest problem that we face today is consistency. A beautiful and expensive restaurant cannot be termed as a fine dining restaurant. Anyone can spend that much money. The idea behind fine dining is to have very high-quality food and service in a luxurious environment where the service staff knows exactly what they are serving, are very well trained and they know your need even before you know it. So if your glass becomes half empty, they will fill it again. You get up from your table, they will fold your napkin and put it on the side of the chair. Although stand-alone restaurants serve better food than the five-star hotels, the service standards are never that good because of lack of training. This is why the former is not able to attract the right talent. My entire opening team comprises people from five-star hotels. In the kitchen, I have all my old guys but the entire front staff is from the big hotels.

Your third concept is a luxury mithai shop, which seems very interesting. Can you please brief us on that?

The third concept is very close to my heart. It is called Mithai by Jiggs Kalra, which is a premium mithai concept. Mithai by Jiggs Kalra presents sweets in an altogether different way. The shops are beautiful, there are very well-trained personnel behind the counter who know the product inside out. Also, every single thing in this mithai shop is going to be organic.

They also have a lassi bar where we will serve flavoured fresh lassi. Fresh fruits cut in front of you, put into the mixer with the lassi, stirred and served.

Where do you see Massive Restaurants five years down the line?

In five years time, we see Massive Restaurants as a Rs 300 to Rs 400 crore listed business with the best performing Indian food brands in the country with massive international presence for Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra.