One of the youngest restaurateurs in India, Varun Puri is a true visionary. The food connoisseur is known for introducing innovative concepts while churning out deliciously creative dishes to his discerning customers.
This dynamic youngster, with his go-getter’s attitude finally decided to establish his own brand, Viva Hospitality, after nurturing big names like Punjab Grill, Masala Library, and Made in Punjab both in India as well as overseas.
Viva Hospitality has till date come up with many unique concepts – including Molecule, Lights Camera Action and their latest offering a vegetarian paradise called Imly. With his strong sense of food and his fusionistic vision, Puri is all set to revolutionise the restaurant business in India.
In a personal tete-e-tete session with Indiaretailing Bureau, Puri spills his professional secrets…
Take us through your restropreneur journey so far – what have been the major milestones, and how they shaped your career?
I started my career with Oberoi’s and then joined Lite Bite Foods, which has restaurants spread over Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, Singapore and Dubai.
After learning the basics of running a business, I decided to fulfill my dream of opening multiple restaurants in my favourite city – Delhi. I kick-started my restroprenuer journey by opening Lights Camera Action – Air Bar in Rajouri Garden.
My next big step was setting up my new company – Viva Hospitality. Under the brand I introduced Imly – Delhi’s chatpata stopover that serves street food from across India. I also established Molecule – Air Bar. Currently, there are three functional outlets of Imly, but we are planning on opening a few more very soon.
I take pride in revealing that I have also been involved successfully in launching numerous restaurants like Masala Library, Made in Punjab, Shawarma Point, Punjab Grill, Street Foods of India and many more.
Apart from this, I have also received many awards for excellence in the field of food and beverage and strict implementation of standard operating procedures.
What is a better approach to menu planning – having 100 dishes on the menu or just a few compelling ones. From the perception of customers, do restaurants with more number of menus score higher than a place which may have lesser number of dishes?
Absolutely not. It is not at all important to have 100 dishes on the menu, but what matters is that a restaurant should have a quality menu that includes all the signature dishes. I also believe that these selected dishes should be presented properly as the first thing the customer does is savour food with his eyes. The taste factor is, enjoying flavours comes next.
Like at Imly, the menu is not vast, instead it has selected dishes from different parts of India. This gives the customer an opportunity to try the best of street food from everywhere.
How many restaurants are you operating currently and what is their market positioning?
As of now, I am running three outlets of Imly, one of Molecule – Air Bar in Gurugram and one of Lights Camera Action – Air Bar in Rajouri Garden.
All three outlets of Imly are based on different themes – a train concept in Rajender Nagar, a double decker bus in Rajouri Garden and a food kiosk in DLF Mall of India, Noida. All have been positioned as vegetarian restaurants serving street food from all over India.
Molecule – Air Bar is based on German-USA war theme. It is known for giving an ultimate experience of finest air bar, molecular kitchen and freshly brewed beers.
Lights Camera Action – Air Bar is a Bollywood-themed restaurant serving global cuisine based on molecular gastronomy.
What are some innovative F&B ideas that you have implemented in the past year?
I believe in a saying – Old is Gold. I have kept all the traditional dishes on the menu at Imly and have given them an Imly touch. With the launch of Imly, I am looking forward to modernizing street food by presenting it in a clean, hygienic, healthy and sophisticated way.
Please share details of revenue for the last fiscal and forecast for current fiscal.
The last fiscal has been really good for my company. The revenue of Imly stood between Rs 50-60 crore. We are aiming a double the revenue this year since the number of outlets have increased.
What is your strategy for engaging customers?
Customer satisfaction and serving the best quality food is the best way to engage the customers. My strategy is simple – to serve food one can relate to. The customer should have a wow experience at an affordable price – and this strategy is working for Imly.
What are the hurdles and problems that restaurant industry has been facing in general to run a smooth show?
I don’t call them hurdles, I call them challenges. Every problem that arises in running a restaurant helps you in evolving as a better restroprenuer. Creating best dishes as affordable prices and upgrading the restaurant as per new trends are a few challenges that every restaurant faces.
Location plays an important role in the success of any restaurant. Tell us the process of finding the right location.
Location definitely plays an most important role in making or breaking the restaurant. Proper R&D is required before finalising a place. The apt place is where you can draw the maximum footfalls while satisfying customer palate.
According to you, what are the food trends that are going to rule in the future?
The industry has evolved from the more traditional concept to more international concepts. All thanks to the much-evolved customers. Nowadays, people love to experiment new things and paves a way for restaurants to introduce new concepts. In future, one can expect international cuisine with an Indian twist.
What are your future plans?
I look forward to opening 12 Imly outlets over the next 12 months. I am also working on another unique concept that will leave Delhi craving for more!