On Saturday night, I was with a few friends in the restaurant and asked them what they thought was the most important factor that makes the restaurant successful. Most of them responded with the right answer ‘the food” - ‘In the end it all comes to food’.
The same night, a friend Arun Bery (who was seated next to me) asked me the same question, and I think I surprised him with my answer - ‘the buzz’. The food is important, but not the most important. You gotta have buzz.
Indian restaurants in Toronto have no buzz. They all follow the same menus and the same look. If one starts a new menu the others are quick to copy or to poach staff.
It is hard to find Indian restaurateurs coming up with something new. Since I opened my first restaurant in 2002, I have always maintained that the restaurant dies in three years, and if it’s really good then five years. It can last longer, but the buzz is bound to go down in three years. That is why, it is important to make sure that it is never far from the public consciousness: with events, book launches, festivals, special nights, winemakers dinner etc.
Reinvention of Amaya Indian Room: After 6 years of being in business, we all got bored, the kitchen team was trying to reinvent dishes but it was hard to pull people into the restaurant. I even tried a reboot with a major renovation, but it was hard to get the word out. It took me two years to make a decision about what to do with the space. After going back and forth with a few ideas, I hit upon the idea of Indian Street Food, with not only a buzz, but a sense of warm hospitality for all my guests.
I will open more restaurants in this city – not just happening restaurants, but happy restaurants – with my team with my new philosophy.