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Dining Unselfconsciously: Restaurateur Nityanand Shetty on his new foodservice venture

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Stereotyping is often shunned, not something to be proud of, society insisting that we all do things differently, but ironically, people who don’t conform are often mocked.
One person who has faced this bitter irony of the Indian society firsthand is restaurateur Nityanand Shetty. Thanks to his last name, he was often asked where in Mumbai he owned a restaurant during his college years. While that time he would get annoyed repeatedly telling people that his family weren’t hoteliers, something inside him urged him that this was the right path to take.
Cut to a few years down the line and Shetty launched his first fine dine restaurant in Juhu (Mumbai), Pebbles, whose standout feature was the tablets people used to place orders.
His other endeavour in the hospitality industry, Thyme Bistro, was a corporate style dining den in Kanjurmarg, which opened last month.
Building Blocks
Although trained as an engineer in industrial electronics, Shetty’s passion for restaurants led him to invest in a chain. He doesn’t really bother with the day-to-day administration though.
He says, “I am a man of numbers, and that comes with the vast experience I have had as a businessman, albeit in the software industry. Moreover, if I was investing in something, I wanted it to have a mark of me – a part of me that would reflect who I am.”
Shetty explains how the idea of Thyme took seed. It started when his son began visiting a book store called Oxford in South Mumbai. The store which let customers walk in and read a book along with a cuppa coffee and a bite.
“The bookstore helped me conceive the idea of Thyme, which has a library space stacked with hundreds of books. Being a businessman, I often interact with my sales managers and many-a-times they express their frustration of going back to the same old Café Coffee Day or Starbucks to kill time between meetings with the same old coffees and cold coffees. All because the time gap is long enough to catch up on some work with free WiFi but not long enough to come back to office – a modern day problem in Mumbai that several professionals face,” says Shetty.
Learning Lessons
“In my early days with Pebbles, I had some great learning experiences. One of the first lessons I learnt was to have a disciplined kitchen. The best way to do that was to have reviews every fortnight with my staff. I would actually look at the costs incurred by each department since Pebbles was a multi-cuisine restaurant. For instance, if I have an estimated cost of 13 per cent, I am okay if it goes up or down by a per cent or two, but not if it goes to 18 per cent. So I made everyone responsible and answerable for their actions,” he says.
Shetty also established system of how things worked at Pebbles – the kitchen would be allowed supplies by the vendor only two times a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.
Similar processes are followed at Thyme too.
“It is easier to establish practices earlier and to develop systems as an ongoing process from inception till the time they become foolproof and are deeply ingrained in the system,” says the Shetty who is a firm believer of the philosophy ‘Create, Manage, Replicate’.
Giving Back
At the entrance of Thyme one can see, well, themselves! The words Thyme written as ‘Thy’ on the board and the letters ‘me’ on the mirror gives customers a glimpse of what they are in for once they step into the corporate DEN, aka a place to drink, eat and network.
Shetty says it is a place where one can actually be whatever they are – a musician, a singer, an avid reader, healthy eater or junk-food lover. Customers can spend time with themselves or with loved ones peacefully. Waiters have been specifically instructed to not hover around the tables unless called. The idea is to provide a platform for people where they can meet like-minded folks.
“The restaurant, in many way is my idea of ‘being myself’. I host events where music maestro RD Burman lovers can come together to enjoy what they like. Where travellers can connect, where book lovers can discuss books,” says Shetty.
It is Shetty’s idea to provide people with a platform to get in touch with themselves when the world otherwise seems too demanding and perfect to live up to. And when that can happen with some food and drinks…who are we to complain!

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