"I am not thinking of cutting down on my staff or their salaries," says Pune based-restaurateur Nisha Walunj

Short Description
In an interview with Restaurant India Nisha Walunj talks about taking her restaurant to 30 per cent growth in less than two years.
  • Nusra Deputy Features Editor
Nisha Walunj

Nisha a homemaker at 50, who has taken over a 20-year-old restaurant business and brought it back to life. This largest highway restaurant is growing by leaps and bounds, with the values and business strategies of this budding entrepreneur.

With new developments and enormous renovations, the profit is soaring to a new 30% high in less than 2 years. Excerpts from the interview:

Tell us something about your journey in the world of food. How it all began?

I was always very fond of cooking. I have been cooking from a very young age. I used to cook vegetarian, non-vegetarian, even continental food for my family and guests all these years.  My family has been my biggest support in this journey. They understood my love and passion for cooking better than me and asked me to take over this business as they think I have good management skills. I am happy to take charge. 

You took over your family biz and grew business by 30% in less than 2 years. How did this happen?

It was made possible because of great team bonding, equal efforts and the trust between the staff and me. I also believe the change in taste of food also played a major role. I did some experiments and changed some methods of cooking. It also involved adding some new Maharashtrian dishes to our menu. Our customers really loved the authentic Maharashtrian taste in our food.

What is the effect of Covid-19 in your business?

I have a staff of around 100 people on normal days of which only 35 of them are with me here. Others left for their hometown as the crises got serious. Rajratna Executive is currently shut down due to the pandemic. I am not thinking of cutting down on my staff or their salaries. All the working staff are being provided with all the necessities and have also cleared their dues. We are together in this, my staff is currently helping Repos Energy a diesel delivery startup owned by my son Chetan Walunj and daughter in law, Aditi Walunj in packaging food items for the needy.

How are you trying to bring your biz on the platform post corona?

I will definitely try to maintain better hygiene at my hotel for my staff as well as for the customer. Sanitizers and gloves are very important while cooking. I know things will take time to settle but I am prepared for that. To ensure the safety of my 35 staff who stayed back with me I have decided not to call my remaining staff before August even if the things get better sooner. We’ll make the best use of our available resources as much as possible.

Why did you think of reviving your old age biz?

I believe change is the only constant t and one should adopt the change with time. People like to experience something new every now and then.

It is said that Rajratna is one of the largest highways restaurants in India. What is the average footfall that you get daily?

We see roughly 250 -300 guests on weekdays and 400-500 on weekends.

What is your plan expanding the brand?

We have renovated our hotel recently.   The new arrangements include two five- star banquet of 500 -600 seatings, a fully veg quick service restaurant, live kitchen for my staff and some modifications in the dining area. This might enhance the customer experience in our hotel and might make them come over and over again

Who is your regular customer?

Local people in the area are regular ones. Also, we always cater to big groups of guests for corporate and doctor meetings at regular intervals. But since it’s a highway restaurant we are happy to see many new faces every day. The travelers are mostly our regular customers who plan their journey and make a sure stop at our restaurant.

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"I am not thinking of cutting down on my staff or their salaries," says Pune based-restaurateur Nisha Walunj
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