Richmond’s unsung hero

Posted on Business In Focus Dec 2011 - by Tandoori Editor
Richmond’s unsung hero

Swagat is a very popular local in Richmond. Its owners chef Krishnipal Negi and front of house manager Sudden Alberts talk to Tandoori.

What made you want to open a restaurant?
Negi: Both Sudden and I had worked in restaurants before. You get to know a lot of people who are also experienced, but in addition, they have financial resources as well. We didn’t have that luxury. What we did have though was a track record and that has really helped.
Why open in Richmond?
Alberts: To some extent, you could say that about any area. There are now so many areas in and around London which are saturated with Indian restaurants. Richmond seemed like an area which we could really make a go of, particularly as there were no existing quality Indian restaurants here. 
Negi: I had been the head chef of Tangawizi, in Twickenham, nearby. So I had a fairly good idea of the kind of customer base that Richmond has. This is not only an affluent area people are discerning and know what quality food is all about.
You opened Swagat in 2007. After four years in business, do you feel that you made the right decision?
Negi: Absolutely. We have no regrets. Swagat is an earthy restaurant with only 38 covers. We are not trying to be fancy. All we are doing is ensuring that we offer familiar though authentic cooking and that has worked very well for us because the locals have really taken us to their heart.
Alberts: I can’t deny that we took a risk opening up and going it alone together, but no business venture is without its risks.
What was the initial investment you made to launch the restaurant?
Negi: In excess of £120,000.
How would you describe the cooking style at Swagat?
Negi: If you look at the menu, you’ll notice that it has very familiar dishes on it though there is also a great emphasis on regional items. We also didn’t want the menu to be too long. Above all, the strongpoint of the menu is authenticity and flavour. It’s the classics that form the mainstay, but we also tend to offer some plated dishes as it gives customers an element of choice. We are well aware that Richmond is an upmarket area and we want to be able to offer a level of sophistication.
What is the cost per head of dining at Swagat?
Alberts: It’s about £30 per head.
What are your best-selling dishes?
Negi: Aloo tikki chaat, grilled sea bass, masala liptey murgh and saag, among others. We also do a range of specials including murgh kalimirch tikka, jhinga pardanashi and sheikh kebab jahangiri.
How many staff does Swagat employ?
Alberts: Nine.
What makes Swagat such a success?
Negi: I would say it’s 80% about food and 20% about service.
Alberts: As part of the service we offer, I make sure that my staff and I interact with customers. I want to know if they are enjoying themselves, whether they like the food they are having and generally ensuring that they are happy with everything. It’s what makes them come back to us.
What has been the one key business decision that you have taken?
Negi: making sure that we offer food which is familiar, but made with quality and care. We don’t add artificial colour nor make the food unhealthy in any way.
What does the future hold for Swagat?
Alberts: We are looking to expand and currently looking for a second, much larger site.
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