Raghav Kansal of Indian Summer, Ludhiana

Whether one lives in a big or a small city, the need to have good food and a great dining experience is something that everyone looks forward to. Indian Summer in Ludhiana seem to have crossed all their T’s and dotted their I’s in ensuring this remains the case for whoever visits their restaurants. Geetanjali Iyer from Chef at Large spoke to Raghav Kansal, Managing Director for Indian Summer Hotels to find out more…

Geetanjali Iyer (GI):What is Indian summer all about? What is the concept, the aim and the promise to the patron?
Raghav Kansal (RK): Indian summer is a multi cuisine restaurant chain in Ludhiana delivering unmatched excellence in food, service and ambiance to the people of Ludhiana. Indian summer operates in services related to fine dining, banqueting, home delivery, lounge bar, cafe and accommodation. The very difficult fine art of cooking authentic Mughlai cuisine was developed and perfected under the patronage of Mughal kings and queens. Compiling chefs together to get nearest to the royal food once spread in the royal courts and banquets was our aim and today at Indian summer our recipes are in their purest forms. We promise to delight the palettes  of the severest critics amidst a royal set up.

GI:Given how many restaurants open and close each year, all over the country, why did you choose to enter this business? How did the idea come about?
RK: The above is true to all businesses across the world. In today’s highly volatile, digital and demanding consumer market, it is the survival of the fittest. We at Indian summer recognize the challenges our industry faces and we constantly adapt, improve and deliver the best to our patrons making us the market leaders for the past 10 years. It is our endeavor to innovate and pioneer daily to retain our market position. The idea to open a fine dining restaurant was the brain child of our father, Mr. Rakesh Kansal. We are just instruments of his great vision.

GI: Is this your first hospitality venture or have you done others in the past? Did any begin after Indian summer’s success?
Indian summer branch at RK road, Ludhiana was our first venture a decade ago. After that we have diversified into banqueting, coffee shop, accommodation, lounge bar and home delivery. We opened our second branch in 2011 at  BRS Nagar, Ludhiana.

GI: What is your background? Did you study for this? Has your education helped you in running this business?
Yes, I have completed my degree course in hospitality management from Vatel Institute in France. I have interned and worked at the best restaurants and hotels of the world; Taj Mann Singh, Imperial in Delhi and Conrad Hilton in Brussels. My education has helped me tremendously to broaden my mind and skill set by working in all departments of the hotel industry be it service or production. It has also helped me to understand better the 250 employees who work so hard to make Indian summer what it is today.

GI:We hear your food is brilliant! How do you ensure quality that is comparable to the best establishments in the country?
We have the strictest quality measures followed in all our outlets which are audited and checked by the best staff we have recruited. I take personal interest in all departments. It is only through consistent quality over the last decade that we have maintained the position of market leaders.

Sid Khullar, from Chef at Large was delighted with his experience at Indian Summer and this is what he had to say,

I visited Indian Summer in Ludhiana and was pleasantly surprised by the level of finesse they’ve achieved in customer follow up processes, plating and service standards. Those points are of course moot if the quality of the food isn’t up to the mark, which it certainly was, exceeding expectations. Those of us residing in metropolitan cities take a fairly condescending attitude towards F&B ventures in non-metros, and usually for good reasons. If Indian Summer becomes a benchmark for non-metro F&B standards, I believe the metros will soon have competition, again, for one very good reason- Raghav Kansal.

GI: How do you ensure customers return happy each and every time and how do you deal with grievances?
We take all measures to ensure best food and service is provided to customers every time they visit Indian summer, there are times when we are faced by grievances and complaints due to the highly labor intensive and human aspect of this industry. We follow a thorough feedback system and ask fearless questions about our products and services. Every suggestion is taken seriously. I ensure personally that all suggestions which can be realistically achieved are taken care of and the same problem does not occur twice in the brand.

GI: Restaurants can be an all consuming business. How do you maintain optimum work life balance, given you recently tied the knot?
Indian summer is more than a business to me. It is my passion. It is a brand made for the people by the people who expect excellence every time they dine with us. Work is leisure for me as I enjoy what I do. I also run and meditate for an hour everyday as it clears my head. I take mini vacations whenever I can. My better half is supportive of my odd times of work. I guess I am just plain lucky in that aspect!

GI: Does your partner share your passion for the restaurant and food business? Tell us a little more about her plans?
My wife supports me in everything I do. She comes from a finance background but is the severest critic of food as you expect any patron to be. I value her advise. She is a good baker as baking is one field which I hope she will help me out with, so that Indian summer can explore this aspect of hospitality.

GI: Where do you see Indian summer in 5 years time? Have you considered franchising?
I see Indian summer becoming involved in more CSR opportunities and giving back to the community. We have so far completed two, Ludhiana city beautification projects under the Swachh Ludhiana Abhiyaan and hope to do a lot more. I see Indian summer spreading its wings all over Punjab in the next five years. I am a bit of a control freak so franchising scares me. But we do get many offers from people all over the state to have a presence in their city.  I hope I will grow out of this fear and have Indian summer restaurants outside of Ludhiana in the coming years.

Chef at Large wishes Indian Summer and Mr Raghav Kansal the very best. Raghav Kansal in conversation with Geetanjali Iyer.