As An Operations Manager

Posted on Front of House May 2008 - by Tandoori Magazine
As An Operations Manager

Hasan Chowdhury, operations manager of the successful Spice Merchant restaurant group tells Tandoori.

My role is to oversee the day-to-day running of the four Indian restaurants in the Spice Merchant group as well as our Home Counties delivery service, Feast, and the Henley Bar and Grill in Henley-on-Thames.

All of these – although not all under the Spice Merchant branding – fall under the same umbrella, of which I am in charge.

Restaurant and hospitality work means early mornings and late nights. I may start as early as 6am depending on where I need to be and what needs to be done on a given day. I will then prioritise certain things I need to do and deal with a certain number of staff relations, all on a daily basis.

I may be an operations manager, but the post is more on a directorial level. What this means is that I act as an in-between for everyone involved with the restaurants. This kind of co-ordination is important; otherwise, it’s very difficult to keep track of things.

It’s key for me to work closely with the different managers and support them so that they are able to perform their own roles or run the operations more smoothly. Other responsibilities include collecting reports on a day-to-day basis as well as taking care of deliveries, looking at the quality of the services we provide and also visiting each site at least once every two days.

Where my job differs from the branch manger is that I must look at the overall picture, identifying different people’s skills and using them in the right place at the right time.

When you are running a number of different venues at once, there are obviously a lot of challenges involved. Emergencies will arise, which you have to deal with even if it requires you to be there in the early hours of the morning or late at night. Of course, you have to have an emergency plan, but usually what I do is what is actually necessary at the time.

It is definitely very different from running a single site. One of the most difficult parts of it is dealing with staffing issues, especially with multiple restaurants because you still need to get the best out of the staff as well as getting the best results for the business and this might involve moving people around; you have to have the right people doing the right jobs.

At Spice Merchant, we treat each restaurant differently because they are different. Each restaurant has a different feel and theme to it. The whole idea for us was that we didn’t want our customers to feel as though dining at one of our restaurants is like dining at them all.

This is why we hire people locally as well as for their expertise. In fact, the owner, Mr Bashir Islam, physically went to New Delhi and has stayed there a number of times in order to find people with expertise in the sort of cuisine that we wanted to create at each of our restaurant.

Of course, you can’t fly 5,000 miles away every time you want to recruit so most of the time you have to rely on your in-house training and your ability to train and ‘create’ chefs and this has been an ongoing process for all these years, which is how we’ve been working.

It’s important to remember that the restaurant and hospitality world will always vary from one day to the next, no matter how much you plan it. In one sense, it is difficult, but at the same time it’s very exciting as well, purely because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

My advice to anyone who wants to become an operations manager would be not to get your hopes too high work hard, never stop learning and, not knowing where you will be tomorrow, be lucky!

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