Food can be bad, but if served with a smile a customer may not react with fury and the chances of them returning to a restaurant are higher than if they were not treated well.
Sarath Chandran believes that customer service is paramount, a reason that has contributed to the growth of the food business from a single branch of Ponnus Restaurant, along Kampala Road, in 2008, to another in Muyenga, then Old Kampala, Bunga. and Munyonyo.
Out of the blocks
It’s a 10-year journey, with its share of challenges, lessons learned and resilience that has kept Chandran on course in business. Chandran is an accountant by profession and when he decided to found Ponnus he was still employed. There was a cost to pay for absenteeism from business.
The workers did not pay attention to the growth of the business, and as such, he suffered losses. The rent was high. At the time, he paid $ 17,000. In 2013, her rent climbed by $ 32,000, almost double the cost of rent. He weighed his options, whether to stay employed or quit and focus his energies and accounting knowledge on his business.
“I had not found a manager who would replace me and produce results. I decided to quit my job to be in my company, ”says the 44-year-old businessman. He introduced the stock system he taught employees. They recorded opening stock each morning as they prepared to start their business, then took stock of sales during business hours.
From the difference between the opening stock and today’s sales, they would make the closing sales. And beyond the transmission of accounting knowledge, Chandran was keen to cultivate confidence and passion among his employees.
The retention of its employees is evident. There are employees he has worked with for almost a decade.
When looking for an employee, he says education level doesn’t matter.
For him, personality is the key. He prefers to have a trusted and passionate chef rather than a qualified chef who will mechanically compose the meals. It also promotes teamwork by trying to match workers to share roles so that they can learn from each other as well.
“If I employ someone, I also continue to know their family. I wouldn’t want to hire someone I don’t know. We are a family. If one of us gets sick, I step in to monitor their treatment. If we are having a happy time, we celebrate, ”he explains.
What’s in a name?
Ponnus is the nickname for his eldest son, and as such the company has attracted children to occasionally visit restaurants to mingle and learn from the workers.
Ponnus specialties are Indian tandoori, Arabian and continental cuisine. Consistency, food quality and standards are three key elements on which the company has been supported.
Muyenga, as the oldest branch, sits between the big competitors. It is close to Mama Mia, Pizza Hut, Fuego Bar & Restaurant, Kahwa Coffee Shop, among other restaurants. “It’s competitive and we’ve chosen to stick with serving good food, being clean and maintaining good standards of customer service. The girls on duty control the business, so they have to be polite, ”he further explains.
He adds that before a customer part with their money for a meal, they must be satisfied with the service and the meal itself. He cites incidents where customers complained that the food was not up to their expectations and asked them not to pay.
For Chandran, the business is not only about making money but about satisfying a customer so that he can trust a restaurant to serve him. He has developed many recipes served in restaurants.
To this day, he purchases the items necessary for the operation of the restaurant’s four branches. Over the years, he has established a good working relationship with the suppliers.
He uses gas for cooking and studied the periodic use of gas. In a month, he will use an average of a 45 kilogram bottle which costs around 220,000 Shs. He buys chicken in Kuku and deals with grocers in Nakasero.
His contact person there is Ismail Serunjogi. He says he doesn’t rely on one person for fear of getting stuck and trying different people to taste different varieties and qualities of groceries. Chandran has created a system where his restaurant chain is self-sustaining. Each employee knows their role and can deliver adequately.
He divides his time between Uganda and India, where his family is based. He lives two months here and a month in India. He has a cousin who replaces him to supervise.
“I don’t believe in coaching people but in enabling them to realize their potential once they are trained. You will never find me yelling at my employees because they know what is expected of them and deliver, ”he explains.
Its marketing is unconventional. He relies on satisfied customers to refer friends and relatives to restaurants.
He also relies on friends to publicize restaurant offers. In his review on TripAdvisor, Husein Esmailji congratulated Ponnus on his varied menu, adding that the prices are affordable.
“The food was fresh and very tasty. Not a very wow but correct atmosphere. Good place for an informal lunch, ”he adds.
“We came to the restaurant with a group of 13 without a reservation. Fortunately, we were invited. The menu has an incredible amount of choice (pizza, pasta, curries). The food is good, but nothing too special, ”writes Jorrit B, on the same platform.