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Big Fish's Umang Tewari on concept dining, 2016 plans

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He’s the big fish in Delhi’s hospitality business. Big Fish Ventures’ founder, restaurateur Umang Tewari – who began his journey in the hospitality industry more than a decade ago – has changed Delhi’s dine-out culture.
Several popular restaurants later, Tewari is known as the man who has introduced deliciously innovative concepts in the casual dining space in the Capital city.
In an exclusive interview with Indiaretailing, Tewari talks about his company, expansion, upcoming food trends and the future of food.
Tell us about Big Fish Ventures and its journey over the past few years.
Big Fish ventures runs some of the largest premium dining lounges in Delhi like Vault Café, Garam Dharam, Public Connection, Junkyard, Three Pegs Down and more. The journey so far has been smooth and we plan to open more outlets and also multiply the existing ones. With these brands in operation and new launches in the pipeline, Big Fish is expecting to clock sales of over Rs 50 crore in FY 15-16 and over Rs 150 crore in FY 16-17. Big Fish currently employs over 500 people.
Can you elaborate on your business model.
Concepts play a pivotal role for us. Based on the concept, I focus on the entire execution and operations. Once everything is in place, we seek investors support and divide profit on the basis of shares.
Why do you think there was a need for another mobile app when apps like DineOut and WowTables and Zomato are available for bookings? Does the app bring in something more exclusive on the table?
I am a tech addict, right from checking layouts to reports to movie tickets, I do everything online. That’s where I got the idea of creating an app that has all the information about our outlets. In my mind, this would help us connect more with our audience. At present, the app caters to its 60,000 customer based on who frequent the restaurants every month. We plan to increase the number to over 1 lakh by end of 2016. Right from table reservation to loyalty offers to discounts and all other information regarding the outlets is available on the app.
In the next phase we are also planning to launch a digital wallet which will give more value added services to the customers for every rupee they spend.
What makes your restaurants different from other concept eateries in Delhi?
All existing brands are based on different and unique concepts. The Vault Café derives its inspiration from the colonial world. This transformative café, lounge and bar has rustic interiors and architecture to give it a colonial era look.
Bollywood veteran Dharmendra is everybody’s favourite and has been ruling heart since his young days, His movies, his dialogues and his songs are legendary, keeping this in mind Big Fish Ventures has given the Capital its first restaurant inspired from the veteran actor. Garam Dharam is a first of its kind in Delhi. Fun, quirky, lively and innovative are just a few words to describe this restaurant.
Junkyard Café is made from junk yet it is pure funk!
Meanwhile, Café Public Connection derives its inspiration from elements which help in connecting public while 3 Pegs Down is based on Texas Salon concept.
I travel and research a lot. I don’t like to introduce concepts which are already present in the market. I have ideas and have been blessed with the means to execute them.
Is location important for the success of a restaurant?
Location is the most important factor for any restaurant. It is necessary to be placed in the right market to have good visibility and attract footfalls to run a smooth show. After deciding the location, it’s the service and product that keeps on bringing in the customers.
What is your target audience?
People who like to dine and wine in style are my TG. Actually, we don’t divide the target audience on the basis of age as we have offerings for all age groups and tastes.
According to you, what food trends will rule the roost this year?
The food and beverage industry is always in a  state of evolution – new dishes, new menus, new concepts and a new ambience every year. Since customers have matured, the industry too has evolved from traditional concepts to more international concepts. People like to experiment with their palates and this paves the way for new and exciting food and restaurants.
In this world run by the social media, international trends are available online and the domestic market has started taking its cues from there. While 2015 belonged to international flavours, 2016 will belong to more wider audience as the exposure to international cuisines has also increased.
I strongly feel 2016 will belong to concept restaurants. Apart from the quality of food, the concept and interior of the place will play a pivotal role in making a restaurant a hit. We believe, furnishings, music, lights, décor – whatever you choose should make the customer feel like he is in a particular surrounding. This is the world of show off.
2016 will also see a growing importance in plating and presentation. One just can’t do without the art of presentation which simply serves to enhance your appetite and adds to the overall dining experience.
Do you see a future for concept restaurants in India?
For sure, our customer today is much evolved and traveled. They are all set to embrace the innovations in form of concept restaurants.
How do you view changing trends in the food industry?
Gone are the days when people used to have only paneer and dal with breads in a restaurant. Today’s customers are open to the idea of tasting other cuisines. This is gives us the strength to take more risks and open innovative new outlets. I view this change and phase as the most dynamic in the food industry.
What steps are you taking to match the pace of the evolving food service industry?  
Customers love to experiment and try new things. We are definitely doing more experiments to match the pace. The sort of restaurants and lounges we are coming up, they introduce customers to a variety of elements from different parts of the world. Food is the fundamental reason to dine out and experimentation holds a special importance in making your food memorable. We are making sure that each product is different from the other. We present food differently, we make sure our interiors are above the regular, and at the same time our services is pocket friendly.
Many global chains are entering the casual dine business. Are they a competition to your outlets?
Not at all. In fact, the entrance of global chains is improving the market. They encourage the Indian market to raise food and nightlife standards and motivates people like me to do so much better. They are helping us raise the bar.
What are your expansion plans for 2016?
Currently, the food service industry is in a very dynamic state. Food, drinks, ambience and events are four major elements which contribute to the success of any restaurant. We plan to go bigger and better in all the four dynamics – location, pricing, unique concept, and offerings are a few things which we have in mind for 2016.
Big Fish Ventures is planning to launch over 40 outlets across India and overseas over the next two years. One of our upcoming cafés is OMG – Oh My God! We are also planning to expand our existing brands to other locations. Biggest Vault will soon hit Punjabi Bagh. Then we have plans to open Junkyard in Saket. I have already signed two properties in Mumbai also. I think 2016 will see at least 10 restaurants coming from my side.

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