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Cateys 2018: Restaurateur of the Year – Group – Kavi and Shamil Thakrar

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Cateys 2018: Restaurateur of the Year – Group – Kavi and Shamil Thakrar

Sponsored by Bunzl Catering & Hospitality Division

Dishoom hit the London restaurant scene in 2010, and it wasn’t long before customers were queueing round the block. Eight years on and the group has six sites across London and Edinburgh… and the customers are still queueing to get in.

Kavi and Shamil Thakrar, Dishoom’s founders, have declared they are committed to defying the common perception that as a restaurant group grows the quality of its offering will decline. They have set themselves the goal of ensuring each new Dishoom opening is “the best yet”.

Each restaurant’s design is individual and inspired by a carefully researched period of Mumbai’s history. The success of this story-telling in enhancing the customer experience was praised by the judges.

This year, Dishoom opened its sixth site, in London’s Kensington. The restaurant took its inspiration from Taj Mahal Foxtrot: The Story of Bombay’s Jazz Age, a book by Mumbai-based author Naresh Fernandes. His book paints a vivid picture of the glamorous art deco world of the city and its jazz scene in the 1940s.

The restaurant group celebrated the opening by immersing customers in this world through a partnership with Swamp Studios, which saw an ensemble of actors and musicians perform Night at the Bombay Roxy. Dishoom sold 2,856 tickets for the 21 productions of the show. The performances generated a huge amount of positive publicity, helping bring 41,000 guests into the restaurant in its first 10 weeks.

The reviews demonstrated that despite the business’s growth, the appetite for Dishoom is as strong as ever, with Evening Standard critic Fay Maschler declaring: “I don’t think I have met anyone who doesn’t have a good word to say about the Dishoom group.”

The financials reflect Dishoom’s expansion, with revenue of £35.5m in 2017 and EBITDA of £3m. A staggering 50% of this revenue is secured every day before 6pm. It’s a testament to the enduring appeal of the restaurant’s innovative breakfast offering, which attracts 11,000 people a week.

The company also demonstrated commitment to staff. Ranked the 36th best place to work in the UK by The Sunday Times, the business offers its staff a variety of rewards, including a preloaded card for food purchases, a gala dinner for those who stay with the company for two years or more, and a trip to Mumbai for those with five years’ service.

Staff development was in evidence, with 15% of the workforce being promoted in 2017, more than 55 employees attending external management training, and all the managers at the restaurant’s newest opening being recruited internally. Dishoom has said that 82% of its staff would recommend working at the company, and more than 86% are proud to work for the business.

Dishoom also takes charitable giving seriously. For every meal it serves, another is donated through its charity partner. Since 2015 the company has donated more than 3.5 million meals to children in the UK and India.

What the judges said

“What a wonderful business. Dishoom has excelled since launching a few years ago and most of its peer group are in admiration at what it has achieved.”
James Horler

“Everything is outstanding: the restaurants, the ideas, the storytelling, the openness. Just first-rate. A true winner.”
John Nugent


The shortlist

Will Beckett and Huw Gott Hawksmoor

Des Gunewardena and David Loewi D&D London

Pranee Laurillard Giggling Squid

Kavi and Shamil Thakrar Dishoom

The judges

Jason Atherton Chef-restaurateur, the Social Company

Iain Donald Director, Iain Donald Restaurant Consultancy

James Horler Chief executive, 3Sixty Restaurants

Noel Mahony Chief executive, BaxterStorey

Peter Martin Vice-president, CGA Peach

Kate Nicholls Chief executive, UKHospitality

John Nugent Chief executive, Green & Fortune

Jeremy Roberts Group commercial director, Living Ventures

Mark Selby Co-founder, Wahaca

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