This Indian restaurant is defying the odds in a pandemic
MOST restaurants have been faced with several challenges this past year. Some restaurants had to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a new Business Report feature, we look at a business that has remained open despite all the challenges that the coronavirus has brought the Cape Town restaurant industry, and how its owner has tried to remain afloat in these tough economic times.
Vintage India, owned and operated by Parth Vichare, has a rich and diverse history in South Africa.
Sudhir Vichare, Parth’s father, first opened the restaurant in Durban in 1994. He was an entrepreneur who left his family and home of India in the early 1990s to start a small business in South Africa.
According to Path Vichare, his dad knew that the burgeoning democracy in South Africa at that time meant a wealth of opportunity for him and his family.
“My dad took a chance on South Africa and over the years the people of South Africa have never let us down, especially in tough times,” Parth said.
Sudhir Vichare decided to expand his business and opened another restaurant in Cape Town in 2001, in the Gardens area. The store was then moved to the corner of Mill Street and Hiddingh Avenue in 2012 and has remained there to this day.
“The store has stayed open for 11 years and that is thanks to our loyal customers.
“We always knew that the food and service was the most important commodity at our restaurant,” Parth added.
“My dad always instilled in me the notion and reality that we had a responsibility to maintain a great standard of cuisine and ensure that our service is always on par with the rest of the great restaurants in Cape Town.
“We take pride in the fact that all chefs are from India. We wanted to have authentic North Indian cuisine predominantly. That is not to say we don’t have some popular South Indian pop dishes, but we knew that required authentic cooks and spices from India.”
When his dad passed away, Parth took over the family business. He was 27 at the time.
“I had no formal culinary or hospitality education, but my dad made me start at the bottom with the business to learn everything.
“That is one of the biggest lessons I think my dad taught me, to humble yourself and never be afraid to learn. The restaurant space is constantly changing and you have to be able to bend and weave with these changes. The Covid-19, I think, has illustrated this for everyone.”
Parth said he has learnt valuable lessons after the pandemic hit. He said every entrepreneur should know his or her product and business and know what they are selling.
“The most important thing for Vintage is great products and spices. I travel two to three times a year to get spices and important ingredients to ensure that the restaurant is still producing my dad’s dishes even after a decade. I want to make sure that if you ever visited the restaurant 10 years ago, the food is still great, if not better. I knew I had to still maintain these standards even in this pandemic.
“While Vintage is about great cuisine, it is also about ambience. When you enter the restaurant, I want our guests to feel like they have walked into or have been transported to a bungalow in North India.“
Service, Parth explained, is a huge part of the Vintage India experience. For his staff to maintain the best service, they have to want to come to work, which should be reflected in their salary and how they are treated.
While Parth said it has been hard to maintain his staff’s salaries, he said he hasn’t retrenched anyone. He added he has been able to continue paying his employees the same salary throughout the year.
“It’s been tough but I know my dad would say that our staff are the real assets of this business,” Parth added.
KEEPING UP WITH WHAT IS TRENDY
He maintains that every business has to evolve. “With the influx of markets and food trucks in a food city like Cape Town, you have to evolve with the community and what they want.”
Parth believes it is important to sustain a brand that is recognised as a staple on the Cape Town culinary scene and then you have to branch out.
With this in mind, he decided to branch out into the Mojo Market in Sea Point. The pop-up stall was created to introduce new people to the restaurant’s cuisine in a smaller and more informal way.
“We wanted to create a space where you could get the same great food from our main restaurant but in a market feel,” Parth said.
“The market is run by my sister, Jonaki Vichare, and that helps. I know the standard of quality is on point and that allows me to run the main restaurant.”
WHAT IS NEXT?
Parth maintains that he just wants the restaurant to flourish.
He wants to continue his dad’s legacy and, hopefully, as things get better he hopes that he has learnt enough to continue growing the business.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE