Unfortunately, Women Entrepreneurs Are Not Taken Seriously, Says Restaurateur Shikha Pahwa
Unfortunately, Women Entrepreneurs Are Not Taken Seriously, Says Restaurateur Shikha Pahwa

Shikha Pahwa, an International Business post-graduate from the University of Leeds, had never imagined opening a restaurant or anything related to hospitality. She tried her hand at a desk job for a year and realized it wasn't for her. It was during here University days that she had developed an interest in coffee and cooking. With a simultaneous interest in fitness/distance-running, she was keen on doing something where she could incorporate her passion in both these fields. With Cafe Qahwa, she has created a unique space, which offers a very trendy, feel-good menu as well as a great coffee blend. 

Shikha has also pursued her other passion, distance running, alongside and with that niche, personal experience, she was able to incorporate the health aspect into the Qahwa menu. For instance, a recent addition has been the Qahwa Activisers’ menu, which is specially designed for anyone who loves being active and energetic. She has always tried to utilize her knowledge and perspective as an athlete to add a special touch to her culinary contributions. 

In an interview with Restaurant India, Shikha Pahwa, owner of Cafe Qahwa, talks about the challenges she had faced as a woman restaurateur.

The Love of Coffee Led to the Opening of Cafe Qahwa 

Pic Credits: Cafe Qahwa, Delhi

It was primarily for the love of coffee. I used to look for places with good coffee and, slowly, ran out of options. Another reason was the rarity of restaurants with early breakfast.  It was also quite hard to find healthy options – being an athlete, I have a more energy and health-oriented diet since the usual Delhi food is quite heavy. I wanted to create a unique space where foodies could also enjoy a fantastic coffee blend, apart from freshly-prepared quality food (even early in the morning!), and of course a more well-balanced menu. 

A Self-Taught Chef 

Apart from the research and time spent on finding the perfect location and people to set up the place, I wanted to learn more about the product I wanted to sell. I attended some workshops on coffee – I studied coffee processing, roasting, preparing, etc to acquire as much knowledge as possible. I also took up a temporary job at a cafe to see how a kitchen functions, as I had no background in hospitality. Since then, I have spent most of my time in the kitchen, experimenting and perfecting food recipes. I am a self-taught chef and there is always much more to learn! 

Key Things Shikha Pahwa Figured Out During Her Entrepreneurial Journey  

Pic Credits: Cafe Qahwa, Delhi

- It is important to be able to fill into any position in the business. Unforeseen circumstances occur sooner rather than later and doing that could save time and money. 

- Changes are always welcome. Whether it is for the customers or the employees, anything different or new can help in giving new perspectives. 

- A team works better if they’re given a little flexibility. It may not be exactly as per the books, but sometimes ignoring smaller things can help achieve something bigger and more impactful. 

Must Read: Approach Investors With A Clear Business Plan: Michelin-Star Chef Garima Arora’s Advice To Restaurant Startups

Business Sense and Food, Both are Equally Important for a Restaurateur 

It is difficult to pick one, both are equally important. Food is the core, the foundation of the restaurant; while the business sense drives it forward. 

Cafe Qahwa’s Menu is Especially Crafted for Energy Lovers 

There is a great mix of people that we host at Qahwa. It’s not just restricted to families, students and working people- we also have groups of runners, cyclists, board-gamers, poets/writers, motorcyclists& many more. Being a marathon runner myself, I know many of our regulars who are athletes or even active individuals. In fact, I, recently, launched a Qahwa Activisers’ menu for just this kind of audience; this menu is specially crafted for energy lovers. 

Cafe Qahwa is an Urban, Feel-good Restaurant  

Pic Credits: Cafe Qahwa, Delhi

An urban, feel-good restaurant where we serve fresh, delicious and unique soul food and aim to combine the casual cafe atmosphere with a diner style menu.

Qahwa's ambience is casual and laid-back, plus the menu offers freshly-made meals for any time of the day, including all-day breakfast in Delhi. In addition to that, the coffee menu is extensive and creative. In fact, we have many unique flavour combinations/recipes, that are rarely seen, in our menu. We have a well-balanced menu that focuses on flavour as well as on health and well-being.

Footfall at Cafe Qahwa

Approximately 200 people on weekdays and 350 people on weekends visit Cafe Qahwa.

The Expansion Plans

We serve a full-fledged food and beverage menu daily from 7 am to 11 pm. We also specialize in group reservations and cater to a variety of organised groups/events. I do plan to expand in the near future.

Also Read: Effective Restaurant Marketing Strategies By Chef Anaida Parvaneh

Favourite Item on the Menu

Pic Credits: Cafe Qahwa, Delhi

The latest addition to the menu – Biryani. Having had no professional training per se, it took a lot of time and patience in getting this dish right. It was a learning experience, but it was definitely worth all the effort. In the end, what I achieved was a flavourful, yet, relatively healthier Biryani, with a completely unique and in-house blend of spices.

Cafe Qahwa is one-of-its-kind

Definitely another Qahwa, if I have to open another restaurant! I believe Qahwa is one of a kind and would like to continue on the same path.

About the Location of a Restaurant

Location is key for any restaurant. We would have to look at the possible accessibility it would have to the clientele we would like to target.

Challenges Faced as a Woman Entrepreneur 

Unfortunately, women entrepreneurs are not taken seriously, whether it is sourcing raw material from vendors or acquiring the licenses/permissions from the government authorities. It is a harsh reality, but one which has to be accepted in practicality. It is only determination and perseverance that has allowed me to get this far.

In Pics: 7 Women Changing Food Service Scene In India

Key Learnings

Something or the other will always go wrong. It’s better to be prepared with back-up/alternatives.

- Product quality is extremely critical and deserves ample attention.

- Staffing will always be a challenge and your key strength.         

- Be open to criticism and develop a thick skin! 

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