Recently Café Krishna, a restaurant specializing in South Indian cuisine, closed its Chandler location on Chandler Boulevard. Café Krishna joined a long list of other Indian restaurants like Bawarchi, India Paradise (both in Chandler), Pasand, Priya (both in Tempe) that closed in recent years. A few other restaurants either moved to different location aka India Grill from Mesa to Tempe and Copper Kettle from Mesa to Chandler or changed their names like Matka to Kamat (in Chandler). That let me to the question: Why do a lot of Indian restaurants fail in Metro Phoenix?
Researching this question led me to a couple of studies that have looked at this issue. Why some restaurants fail and others do not. Here are a couple of factors.
1. Lack of enough capital: Most mom and pop restaurants (and most Indian restaurants fall in this category) do not realize that you need to have enough capital to pay for the initial start up and then run it for one more year without profits. According to the article http://www.leaderherald.com/page/content.detail/id/523549/Why-some-resta…, a general rule of thumb is that a restaurant operator should plan for enough money to cover the initial expenses of the property and the business plus have enough money to cover all expenses for one year. Too often, new restaurateurs think that restaurants are an easy way to make fast money and often forget about having to pay expenses: labor, taxes, utilities, maintenance, food, equipment, advertising, laundry.
2. Lack of Management skills: Just because you have a great recipe for chicken tikka masala or can make crispy dosas does not mean you can run a successful business venture. Running a successful restaurant needs skilled management that is knowledgeable in finance, labor relation, purchasing, marketing, service, competition, sanitation and more. A restaurant owner should be a manager first http://www.leaderherald.com/page/content.detail/id/523549/Why-some-resta…
3. Ability to hold on to clients: Most people go to restaurants for three things “the food, the ambiance and the service.” Dr H.G Parsa doing research on restaurants in Ohio State Univ. is quoted as saying, “Every 10 years one of the three get old. Service changes. Habits change. Technology changes. Old clients start looking for other things to do.( http://www.rsgmag.com/public/135.cfm)
Been to an Indian restaurant lately? Chances are there you and another family would be the only customers that evening. Most Indian restaurants have less regular clientele than American restaurants. Indian food is still considered too hot or too spicy by majority of Americans.
4. Finding and holding on to good Chefs: This problem is quite prevalent in Indian restaurants in Metro Phoenix. The menu and quality of food drives any good restaurant. But most mom and pop restaurants do not pay high salaries to their master chefs. This results in the chefs leaving the restaurant after a while or being offered better remuneration by competing restaurants. Phoenix is still not a very ethnically diverse place. So if your chef leaves your restaurant, Los Angeles or New Jersey are the nearest places to look for replacements.
Looking at all the factors listed above, it looks like it is tough running a successful Indian restaurant in Metro Phoenix. But we do have success stories here. Maharaja Delhi Palace in Phoenix and its sister restaurant, Guru Palace in Gilbert have been around for years. So has The Dhaba, Little India, Udupi Café, Jewel in the Crown and Tandoori Times. So here is three cheers to “the Indian dining experience in Phoenix” and good luck to all the new chips off the old blocks.