More than three decades old, the Ohri’s group of restaurants has introduced a myriad of theme-based restaurants in Hyderabad, the city of Nizams. Innovative themes like dining with dummies of actors or sitting in a prototype auto-rickshaw to dig into scrumptious delicacies or getting a jungle feel while sipping drinks are just some hallmarks of dining at any of Ohri’s restaurants. Ohri’s culinary legacy was the vision of Ravi Ohri, who laid the foundation of a unique brand in the foodservice industry. Ravi Ohri was succeeded by his son Amar Ohri, who is currently the Executive Director of Ohri’s. An MBA from Johnson and Wales University, he spoke to FoodService India about his entrepreneurial journey and success story…
Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey in the foodservice business and the milestones achieved so far.
It has been a wonderful journey, which began in 2000. Now 16 years later, Ohri’s operates 25 restaurants and all of them with different themes. Be it 100 Degrees, 1857, 70MM, Ohri’s Boulder Hills, De Thali, Cafe Loop, Chowpatti, or for that matter any of Ohri’s other restaurants, all of them offer a sumptuous fine dining experience. In the course of this journey that holds many experiences, our restaurants have received numerous awards and widespread recognition.
What kind of a food person are you? What would you ascribe as the key strengths of your industry?
That’s a tricky one to answer. You should have asked what kind of a ‘food person’ I am not! I am a food lover at heart and anything which is cooked with love and soul, I am in for it. I always thrive to get the best out of the culinary team by pushing them to deliver something out of the ordinary with great flavour bursting in the mouth. My key strength is knowing what my guests are looking for and delivering it before they ask. Our success story in Hyderabad aptly proves it.
What are your favourite cuisines?
Pan Asian and western comfort food.
What did it take to establish your brand in the fine dining space?
For me Fine Dining is a very intense thing to be in. It requires lot of study and hard work by the team, and that’s where I think we have been able to play our game right – be it the ambience, furniture, uniforms, serve ware to food, R & D… every one of these aspects has been done in detail. For instance, when a guest comes to our restaurant, say, ‘Tansen’ in Hyderabad, he or she gets to feel the difference immediately. All these minute details have enabled us to create a niche for Ohri’s in the Fine Dining arena.
So how would you describe the USP of Ohri’s group, which makes it stand apart.
Happy Dining! This is our motto and the USP. It’s never a boring or sad day at Ohri’s. We make dining a happy experience and strive to delight each guest.
Food, service, ambience…all are important to a restaurant business. What’s your take?
All the three factors mentioned are very important. People today are well travelled; they have seen the world and they know all about food. For me, the dining experience starts from the moment a guest enters the restaurant till the time he leaves the premises. What touches the hearts of people more is the personalised service, which makes them come back again and again.
How frequently do you change recipes in the various outlets?
Our menu changes almost every year, and that gives variety to our patrons.
In your opinion, what is a decent profit margin for a restaurant business?
A decent profit margin is 20-25 per cent of the revenue.
Tell us about some innovative F&B ideas that you have implemented.
Oh so many! Among the many initiatives and innovations that we have made include: the very first Hyderabad’s grill restaurant with live tabletop grilling, the first sizzlers restaurant in the city with an interesting cowboy theme, the largest buffet restaurant of the city, first Persian themed restaurant, live Sufi music every day, innovative ice creams such as Guntur Chilli, Nolan Gur, etc. The list goes on.
How do you look at the evolution of fine dining over the years?
Industry wise, the concept of fine dining has, kind of, diluted. Any place with a good ambience and decent food is now considered good for fine dining. The classical approach to fine dining is diminishing in new age India.
What do you think of the future of food industry in India and how do you see it evolving?
Casual dining holds a lot of promise and will rapidly bloom in the future. No frills dining, value pricing with innovative offerings will find many takers.
Is there a shift towards micro cuisines/local flavours as opposed to regional cuisine?
Not largely. The popular cuisines still dominate and micro cuisines are still largely undiscovered and unorganised.
Which have been the popular flavours at your outlets?
For me, creativity is the flavour of all times. I spend a lot of time with my chefs brainstorming about different combinations, R&D, and try to get some unusual unthinkable flavours. For instance, our Guntur Chilli ice-cream (Sahibs) is the talk of the town currently.
At your restaurants, how do you address quality control concerns supply chain issues?
As we speak, my team is working on a state-of-the-art central commissary, which will be able to sustain the demand of various outlets for the next 10+ years. This will help in achieving more quality consistency in food, and give us a better control over quality and cost. Not to forget, it will also be HACCP certified, thus giving more assurance to our patrons about everything they eat in Ohri’s, where food is prepared under utmost hygiene guidelines.
What are the ‘mindful dining’ measures (sustainability, reduced food waste etc) that you have introduced and to what extent has it helped cut costs (before & after)?
We hoteliers have to realise that what we throw into the bin, without thinking for a minute, takes a minimum of 1-5 months to grow in the fields where our farmers put their work and sweat. We, as an organisation, are implementing processes and systems to reduce food wastage to a bare minimum. At the same time, we are also planning to use our daily food waste to be converted into bio gas – thus reducing our carbon footprint, using sustainable fuel for cooking, and producing organic manure, which can be given free to the local farmers. This will result in better cost with better profits. In this process, we have been able to control our overall food cost by three per cent in the last six months and eyeing for higher savings in the future.
What do you consider as the biggest challenge in your professional arena?
As an industry we are facing an acute shortage of skilled and trained manpower. And that’s the biggest challenge. Because for me, my people make the organisation and they make the most integral part. I am observing a decline in the number of students who are willing to join the industry after their Hotel Management. I am closely associated with IHM and so is my corporate chef. We encourage students to join the industry. I am also planning to adopt a classroom in IHM Hyderabad and remodel it as an Ohri’s restaurant so as to give the students a real feel of a foodservice outlet.
What do you look for in your business partners?
Choosing the right business partner is very crucial as it can either make or break the business. I also look at my vendors as my business partners. I am very particular about work ethics and professionalism. At the same time I believe in transparency. If all this is in place and the wave length matches, voila you get what you were looking for – a right business partner!
What are your plans for expansion, innovation and more? We are continuously innovating – be it with food or new concepts or brands – and this is going to fuel our expansion plan, which is to have a pan-India presence in the next five years with 100 restaurants dedicated to creating happy Dining!