Almara’s Modern Indian

Posted on In Focus Apr 2011 - by Tandoori Editor
Almara’s Modern Indian

Almara Miah is a rarity, a successful business-woman who owns and runs a restaurant in a male dominated sector. She talks to Tandoori.

It was your husband Sadique who started what was then the Gatwick Tandoori before it became Zari. What made you join him in the business?
You can’t but help get involved when your partner is so involved in the industry.  You get pulled into sampling the food, designing the menu, and generally advising on all aspects, from inception of a recipe to the final product. I was also lucky in having a good palate and a creative eye for design.  In the end, I was so involved that I decided to give up my career in the NHS.
The 80 cover establishment has undergone four refurbishments. What has been the total expenditure on the restaurant to bring it to its current level? 
The reasoning behind the refurbishments was that we always wanted to be at the cutting edge of design and innovation. In total, I think we have spent around £1 million on the design of Zari.
The takeaway became a bone fide restaurant but what made you not want to change location altogether and open on a new site?
My husband had an established customer base, and people knew us so well. We felt loyal to them as though they were friends. I would say that around 80% of our service is for repeat customers and through recommendations. 
What is the cost per head for dining at Zari?  
Around £20 per head.   
What are your best-selling dishes?
Our speciality is authentic Indian cuisine with dishes like chicken lababdar, and the modern fusion dishes such as pan seared monkfish tail in Bengali kasundi mustard, which are our trademark.  
How many staff does Zari employ?
About 16.
What made you want to offer fusion and regional Indian cooking in the menu as opposed to traditional food?
I took it as a personal mission to introduce regional and fusion cuisine locally as I felt people were missing out on the current trend on fusion cuisine and the true taste of authentic Indian food.  
What has been your one key business decision over the years which you and your husband have made at Zari? 
We made it a personal mission to transform our small local business into a fine dining Indian restaurant.  It was a huge risk since we couldn’t guarantee that our investment would be returned to us and we had to close business for the refurbishments for nearly a year. 
What do you think it is that makes Zari such a success?
I think that it is the constant innovation in terms of food.  
It’s rare to see a woman working in the Indian restaurant sector. What advice would you give to any women wanting to enter the industry?
Go for it! But only if you’re passionate about it. It is such hard work. If you are determined, you can do it and I think it is great to be a role model for young women. I had two children by the time I was 20 and it has been difficult to balance our family life with the business – but we both wanted to inspire our children to work hard and to enjoy the success of the restaurant. 
What does the future hold for Zari? 
Ultimately, our goal is to achieve a Michelin Star or Michelin Bib. The dream is that our efforts in providing excellence will be recognised far and wide.  
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