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Here’s how ‘Impresario’ Riyaaz Amlani built a restaurant empire


While walking through the alleys of Mumbai, the young Riyaaz Amlani, who was on a date, could not find a cozy cafe. Cafes, so ubiquitous today, were absent then and it was the first taste of an opportunity for Amlani. Years later, while working as an executive and helping set up bowling alleys, Amlani decided to land the Entrepreneurship Cup.

In 2001, he launched Mocha, a cafe inspired by Moroccan public cafes. Twenty years later, this cafe called Mocha near Churchgate in Mumbai has evolved into a brand house — Impresario — which now operates a network of 57 restaurants in 16 independent cities.

The list of brands launched by Amlani is too long to name all at once. From the popular hangout for millennials — “Social” and gourmet restaurant Smoke House Deli to even a cafe run by hearing and speech-impaired staff “Iishaara”. Amlani has mastered the psychology behind how young India wants to eat out.

In 2017, L Catterton, a global private equity firm backed by luxury multinational Louis Vuitton, acquired a majority stake in Impresario. The investment helped Amlani grow faster, especially in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. But, the pandemic arrived to pull the tablecloth from under the plates, and she did!

However, as home delivery kept the taste buds going, Amlani has set up cloud kitchens for delivery-only brands She, Lucknowee, and Goodness To Go. More such brands are on the way. From hiring dabbawalas in Mumbai to delivering food to homes to launching a point of sale in Dehradun. There is a lot of cooking at the Impresario.

When asked over the past two decades, what have been the big changes that have shaped the current state of the industry? Amlani said there had been a sea of ​​change, “When I started in 2001 when you couldn’t find a really good restaurant outside of five star hotels. So if you wanted to go somewhere in between the lunch and dinner, your options were either going to a five star cafe or going to Udipi restaurant, there was nothing else around.There were maybe one or two fine dining restaurants that existed outside of the five stars.

However, in the last 20 years there has been a revolution and now customers are spoiled for choice. There is more of everything. There is a super specialization in every kitchen you can think of, said Amlani.

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Regarding the ease of doing business, he said, “This is still one of the most regulated companies that you can hope to be or not be. We still need around 26 different licenses and NOCs just to be able to sell one. A few years ago we were dealing with around 36, but now it’s around 24-26 depending on what city you are in.

“One of our challenges is that we don’t have a uniform code for restaurants – it differs from state to state, city to city, from a municipal boundary to a municipal boundary. a little easier in the future as we continue to push as an industry to get one-stop-shop authorization and relax the regulations a bit, ”he said.

For all the interesting conversation, watch the video.

First publication: STI


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