How Dishoom, London’s beloved restaurant group, scales with quality
Co-founder Shamil Thakrar on designing a culture and world — “from Bombay with love.”
Arriving in London last Saturday night via Eurostar, our first thought was dinner: Oh, yes! There’s a Dishoom at King’s Cross.
We rolled our bags up the hill, excited by the prospects of grilled chicken tikka and gunpowder potatoes, and turned the corner at Coal Drops Yard — to see a massive queue. A 90-minute(!) wait, we were quoted, even as coronavirus anxiety had started to set in. (Business had only declined slightly that week, but — like all restaurants — it’s in for unprecedented times now.)
Dishoom, founded in 2010 by cousins Shamil and Kavi Thakrar, has become one of the UK’s top modern brands. Its restaurants, serving a smart take on Indian food and drink, always seem impossibly busy — the group serves 50,000 customers per week. Walking into one, such as the giant King’s Cross location, with a long marble bar and multiple balconies, feels like entering another world — the sign of effective interior design and storytelling.
And over more than half a decade of regular visits whenever I’m in London, even as the group has added more restaurants — it’s now opening its eighth in Birmingham — Dishoom seems to have maintained, or even improved, its quality, while generating a profit.
After a morning chai at Dishoom’s Shoreditch restaurant, Shamil Thakrar (pictured left, with Kavi right) and I walked across the street to the company’s headquarters to chat about running a hospitality group in 2020, how Dishoom builds its company culture, tells its story through design and media, how it responds to the changing consumer, and whether it will ever open in the US (perhaps eventually!).
Thakrar, a former Bain consultant with a Harvard MBA, seems an unlikely restaurateur. But I found his approach genuine and unique, and appreciate the results.
What follows is a lightly edited, condensed transcript of our conversation.
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