When Ajmal Mushtaq returned from London to take over the family restaurant last year, he had big plans to put in place. Chris Fitzgerald met him to find out more.
The chance to combine his business acumen with a passion for catering was too good an opportunity to ignore for Ajmal Mushtaq when he was asked to take over the family restaurant in hamilton last Christmas. Having spent 8 years in London with a global management consultancy Accenture, he felt the time was right to put his own business model to the test.
Rather than merely keeping things ticking over at the Taj Mahal he was determined to revamp the business from head to foot starting with the name itself. “my father ran the Taj Mahal successfully in his own right but it was a different generation of business.He told SLTN on a recent visit “I wanted to do it my way and grow it by 100% within 18months and I wanted the restaurant to have the family name - Mushtaqs” Total investment in this transformation cost 500,000 according to Ajmal which covered taking over the property next door which now serves as offices) developing an operating model devising a food hygiene management system and refurbishing the interior which was designed by his wife Nisreen. “We wanted something completely different with the interior Ajmal explained, in the end we opted for a design that you would get in a trendy London West End restaurant. The cost was very high because everything was bespoke, nothing was done on the cheap or even at a reasonable cost but the rewards it would appear have been instant with business said to be up around 40% in the five months. The new look restaurant has been operational staff levels have also risen from 12 to 32.
The food hygiene management system has also earned Mushtaqs an Eat Safe Award, a prize claimed to give it the cleanest kitchen in South Lanarkshire. But it’s the quality of the food that’s responsible for the 26 cover restaurant oing up to 500 meals per day. Mushtaqs is said to only use natural ingredients and Grade A natural Produce which is all prepared by skilled chefs brought in from the Indian Sub continent “when my mother and father opened their first business in 1973, they never know of any of the shortcuts, additives, cheap processed meats etc. He said all they knew is how to make great tasting natural indian food and that is what I have maintained”
Having worked in the industry for 5 years before going to university Ajmal decided to personally undertake the development of Mushtaqs Menu which offers a 3 course buffet for 9.90 orselected ala carte choice including family dishes like Roshan Deen and Desi (prices range from 10-14 per dish) “fresh food from us means you are eating it within an hour of it being prepared he said the food is designed to run out every 2 hours so that we are constantly cooking a new batch. It is very labour intensive but the customers can tell the difference and although the accent is firmly on quality he maintains the prices are competitive “ we make gains on the competition because we offer quality at 10 – 15 pound per head” He said restaurants like us would usually charge around $40 per head. Margins are boosted by taking close control of costs by driving efficiency we maintain our margins. We source produce very carefully and eliminate waste – for example, we only use bottled beer instead of draught. With Draft you are forever cleaning pipes incurring wastage or getting too much of a head. Bottles allow you to drive your profit margin much more accurately. “even our marketing is cost effective” We have three minis which we use for our home delivery service. They are painted in the restaurant colours and branded with our name. We have had so many customers come in just on the back of seeing them about town.
It is these developments that Ajmal believes allows Mushtaqs to stand out from other Indian restaurants in Hamilton. “Gone are the days when a customer walks into a restaurant and simply accepts the food and décor. He said a lot of business are stuck in the past. We have moved with the time and I reckon that is why we have so much market share. Your food needs to be different. ‘ it can get too similar and that is why only I can prepare the family recipe spices here before service so that when my chefs leave to progress their own careers or open their own restaurants my recipes don’t crop up else where”