Many a times, renowned chefs make great food but not successful restaurants.Yeshvin Mathew
Born and brought up in Chennai, the typical backbencher, Yeshvin Mathew definitely did not stick to the stereotypes. Having pursued Hotel Management from the Welcomgroup Graduate School of Hotel Administration, Karnataka, this gentleman wanted to set a mark in the industry with his own rules. Having worked in different restaurants under chefs for free, Yeshvin Mathew is proud to fall back on his self-made journey. He is currently, the owner of The Grub Food Company and has his brands set up in Coimbatore, Pondicherry, Chennai and Kuala Lumpur.
Having single-handedly built your career, what was the kind of support and upliftment that you received from your friends and family?
I grew up in a joint family. I was supported and accepted by them to give my ambition a shot at 22. We had friends and family members that would come and wait for tables in our restaurant, help with the billing and drop by on Sundays’. They would spread the word and call their friends for gatherings. Gradually, it snowballed into something much bigger and helped us grow.
Being the single-man army, how difficult/ easy is it for you to balance between your work and personal life?
I have been hustling for almost a decade – learning for the first 2 and then running and growing my businesses for the rest of the time. I come from a business family, who have been doing business for the last 3 generations. I’m not new to the concept of business, or seeing the success and failures of it. I was just creating my own niche with my business partner. It was not a family business, so I could not go back and clear doubts at home. I had to learn on my own. Then, I got married in Jan, 2020. It was almost a perfect forceful break for me, with people saying, “You’ve been working for a decade and now you are married. Take a break.” So, it wasn’t that hard to balance work and personal life. I think having come out of the pandemic, I’ll need to now learn how to create that balance, as a very high precedent has been set while I had been home for most of the time.
Being one of the firms providing food and beverage consultation in the South, where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
We’ve seen a hike in growth, more so now considering we are doing so many other things, other than managing the Grub Food Company (Hotel & Restaurant Consultation). The end of the pandemic has opened a huge basket of options. We have planned something huge. I believe over the next 5 years, we will streamline, grow our team and expand globally. And, take up different projects as opposed to the smaller ones we had taken in the past. I want to perform a meaningful impact in the nearing future.
The Grub Food Company has seen success in Kuala Lumpur. Within the coming years, where do you plan on expanding next?
We have just started our venture in South India. This is a big pond in itself, for which we are looking to move out globally and start up Indian inspired restaurants. We have one assignment in Kuala Lumpur that gave us a sneak peak, internationally.
Since you also own an e-commerce brand with your partner, how do you balance between your work and personal life?
Luckily for me, my partner is my wife, and we are still going through the pandemic and are working from home. It has given us a lot of time together. We’ve also been extremely productive because we aren’t wasting time on travelling to and back from work. So, since we work together, we take ourselves for granted and don’t consider the need for breaks. As anyhow, we are working together. But we’ve made it a point to unwind, take off on Sundays’, regardless of how busy we are, and continue to travel. We’ve been learning along the way.
What have some of the recurring challenges faced by start-ups and businesses been, for which you have provided them with solutions?
The Food Industry is complex. Most people think that if you hire a chef and find an apt place, you will have a packed and successful business. We guide customers to market feasibility, data from opening more than 40 brands, reports, inventory management, menu engineering and the smaller nuances of running a restaurant, apart from hiring chefs and service staff, making the menu, designing the kitchen and fully setting up the business for them.
Labor is a huge problem. Skilled labor is hard to come and even harder to keep. We come from a time when there was constant loyalty towards restaurants for 20 years. But now we don’t want to be seen in the same restaurant that we were in before. We are always on the lookout for new places. So, it is a challenge to give reason to your customers, in order to come back and stay back.
Since a lot of companies have begun consultations, do you see a market rise, with respect to consultation services?
Yes and no. A lot of people are trying to make a quick buck, with no formal industry-based education, two years of running a place and becoming consultants. The same applies to renowned chefs that try food consulting. Many a times, renowned chefs make great food but not successful restaurants. There is a lot more to restaurant consulting than serving great food. So, I think the market constantly weeds out people to make a quick buck and keeps the rest.
During the pandemic, since businesses and food start-ups were on a halt, what were the possible ways that you followed in empowering and supporting them to get back on track?
While the dine-out businesses were on a halt, it was a huge lease of life for delivery businesses. We scaled up delivery businesses for our partners who were not on delivery platforms. We also helped them with menu engineering, manpower management and cutting costs. During the pandemic, a lot of house helps were sent home and their travel expenses were cut to zero. People had money to spend on restaurant food delivery more than usual.
Being a part of the alcoholic beverage industry, which enterprise under it serves as a major competitor and how do you manage to stand apart?
We are creating brands with a difference. We have some of the biggest brands at the best locations in Coimbatore, Pondicherry and Chennai. Since Tamil Nadu does not have a brewery license, there are limitations with how much we can do over here. But I think we are standing out with the events and the quality of food. We are trying to serve in the bars we operate, put out food festivals, invite families on Sunday’s to enjoy a brunch and make a difference. People got away with selling oily food in pubs for a long time, I think the last half of a decade has switched things up considerably.
As a self-made man, what were some of the major challenges that you were exposed to?
I came from a business family but not a hotel business family. I took a small loan and a generator from my parents and a loan from my college friend as my contribution to the business which was a restaurant converted from a 3-bedroom house. Challenges faced were that we did not have the capital like some of the big restaurateurs that wooed customers with top class ambience. We knew we had to absolutely nail it, in terms of the food. It had to stand out.
We made Rs. 3000 and Rs. 4000 for the first two days and panicked. We needed almost Rs. 8, 000 a day to breakeven. Somebody shared a review on a famous food group and that Friday, we were booked out. The next month, we broke our sales record consistently. We went on to create 3 brands, a consulting company and now an e-commerce/ B2B interior brand, but not without a lot of challenges.