"Contactless dining is here to stay", says Sanjay Mahtani of Hard Rock cafe

The journey started off as a hobby when Sanjay Mahtani was very young and then turned a little more serious in 2000 in Bangalore post which he formed JSM in 2005. “The industry has grown to new heights since we started our journey and we have seen the industry go to new highs as well as be impacted by major corrections due to over saturation of the market in the last few years,” shared Mahtani co-founder and Executive Director, JSM Corporation, handling some of India’s most versatile hospitality brands who before moving to India in 1994, had already established himself as a businessman with a successful food and dairy trading business in Nigeria. Once in India, he diversified the family business portfolio and set up a sourcing company in Bengaluru. JSM was Sanjay’s brainchild along with Jay Singh, which was conceptualised at one of his parties. Today, he runs a company that has an ever increasing foot print with brands such as Hard Rock Cafe, Shiro, California Pizza Kitchen and Asilo among others. Excerpts from the interview:

You are running restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe, Shiro, California Pizza Kitchen and Asilo among others and most of your concepts are casual dining places. How do you see the future of such restaurants post covid?

Hard Rock Cafe and California Pizza Kitchen are casual dining concepts, however Asilo and Shiro are luxury dining formats. While the near future looks extremely challenging, we anticipate that things should get to some form of stability in about year, possible by the first quarter of 2021.

How much has covid affected your business? (in terms of losing employees, closing/lowering store counts etc)?

Cleary the situation is unprecedented and has impacted everyone in the industry negatively. Whilst we are facing severe challenges, I am hopeful that with the support and understanding of our patrons, partners, management team and JSM family, we will get through this. 

Are you also doing online deliveries? Who is your regular customer during this time?

We are gradually starting deliveries from our venues whilst keeping the safety of our patrons and the team as our absolute priority. As for customers during this time, while a lot of our regulars continue to order from us directly, we are leveraging third party platforms to create demand from new users. 

We have seen that online food business has been badly affected by the lockdown because of customers doubting about safety and hygiene. How are you trying to focus on safety & hygiene during food delivery during this pandemic?

All JSM restaurants have followed the best practices laid down by NSF/HACCP since inception. We have also incorporated additional international safety standards as provided by the brands to cover every department with focus on ensuring the safety of our employees and guests. That said, we will continue to comply with any other measurement that the Central or State Government implement for the re-opening of the hospitality sector. 

We have built thorough pre-opening and operational checklists that cover social distancing, regular sanitization and use of proper protective gear. Some of the practices incorporated in day-to-day operations also include temperature checks of staff and delivery riders, health declarations of all guests or partners, in-store communication/posters to remind everyone of safety procedures to be followed at all times, among others. Several frequent internal audits will be conducted to ensure that all such practices are followed diligently. Prior to opening, the same practices will be shared on our social media pages to keep guests updated of all our safety measures in place.

What is the future of contactless delivery going forward?

It is here to stay till things normalize.

How have you designed your menu because I think going forward people will look at more fresh, healthy and local ingredients?

We are adding local flavours for some brands and new dishes for others. We have priced our menus competitively to offer the best value and quality to our guests. Any new dark kitchen brands will have specialized menus to target niche consumers with specific cuisines at affordable prices.

It is believed that staff is an important part of any business. How are you helping your employees during this time?

We have always considered our staff not only as our strength but as part of our family. We are doing everything in our capacity to support them and to ensure their safety. From casual online meet ups to tips about how to stay focused& productive while maintaining work-life balance, we're trying to keep them happy during these trying times.

What is your plan expanding the brand?

We have a few new openings in the pipeline between August and the end of this financial year. These are across all brands, with the exception of Asilo.

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