From casual dining to fast food joints and specialty restaurants, pubs, bars and cafes, Kathmandu boasts more than 2000+ eateries and is a source of direct employment to approximately 60,000 people and an average daily turnover of Rs 100 million.
The traditional Nepali Dal-Bhat-Tarkari is a staple but more and more people are eating out due to the fast changing lifestyle and easy availability of food. Moreover, people are now exposed to more cultures and types of food through media, internet and travel. They are now experimenting with food and drink like never before. Harishwor Pokharel, the owner of Classic MoMo places high emphasis on the quality and nutrition level of the food he offers, catering to the health conscious consumer, something difficult to fathom even a decade ago.
“There has been a great upgrade in the eating habits of Nepalese. REBAN organises a food festival annually and in its 15 years we have witnessed a massive change in the types of food,” said Tejendra Nath Shrestha, IP President of REBAN, owner of The Third Eye and Ying-Yang.
From an occasional thing to do, now people are eating out almost every day. Restaurants and cafés are abuzz with people for work meetings and social get togethers besides simply catching a meal. “Eating out is fun. You do not necessarily need to have the ingredients or the time or the patience and skills to cook all these delicious dishes. You go to a restaurant and eat diverse cuisine. It saves time and is fun. And it breaks monotony,” shared Kabindra Dhakal, Owner and Managing Partner of Ventures Café.
Innovation and change are in demand and an indicator of progress. It’s the same with this industry. We now have emerging trends such as fusion food, pre-cooked meals, hot stone cooking, live music, unplugged nights, celebrity bartenders and chefs as points of attraction. “Ambience now plays a major role” said Tejendra Nath Shrestha, adding “Innovation is very important. Food delivery with Foodmandu doing an excellent job is a prime example.”
Restaurants are placing high emphasis on faster service. Clean and live kitchens are also on the rise. Digital order taking is another innovative move to eradicate the KOT system. “Innovation is essential to the sustainability of a restaurant. Maintaing standards is also key,” said Kumar Bhatta, Supervisor of Roadhouse.
TIPS for those in business from Tejendra Nath Shrestha
• This is a business with even a small investment one can self-employ themselves.
• The three most important things to consider before you start a restaurant are its location, location and location.
• You must know how to operate a restaurant. You can’t open business and start learning.
• You must know how to deal with people.
• Innovation is key whether it is the quality of food, the cuisine you offer or the use of digital menus.
• Customers are Gods. Every customer needs to be treated with utmost care and humility.
• Make a key distinction in your business that makes you unique.
With new entrants almost every day, the sector is still far from reaching a saturation point, feel experts. “This sector has great prospect for expansion. It is an extremely sensitive business. A little up and down can have a major impact on business,” shared Harishwor Pokharel adding “It is not only about profits but also about branding and creating goodwill for your company. With focus on creating an environment, good quality food and good service, profits will happen. Hospitality will ultimately drive the business”.
Ventures Café also serves as a networking hub for freelancers and entrepreneurs with its tagline co-work, chill and connect. With increasing numbers of entrepreneurial ventures and youngsters opting for different professions rather than the traditional desk job, Kabindra Dhakal believes that their venture is all about finding the right balance of great food, great prices and innovation.
The industry is still far from perfect though and continues to flounder through challenges of political instability, frequent inflation and constant power-cuts. Skilled human resource is yet another hurdle facing this industry. With nonexistent or marginal difference between skilled and unskilled labour, Kumar Bhatta believes that skilled labour prefer overseas employment where their experience and expertise is appreciated and remunerated well.
While the opportunities are great, there is also much room for improvement. From customer retention to complaint handling and using the freshest of ingredients, restaurapreneurs need to get more serious about the business.