If you are looking for an unusual combination of trading and drinking, then the Bar Stock Exchange is for you. Based on a novel concept of the stock market where drink prices change in accordance to real-time demand and supply, the duo behind this wildly successful chain tell Shweta Mehta Sen how they got it right.

 

  • We are childhood friends, and we started off by doing events together in college. We didn’t go to catering college or get any relevant experience before venturing into the F&B space. A friend’s family was in the hotel industry, so they guided us here and there.

 

  • A degree does help, but we’ve been doing this for so long now that we get by with the practical knowledge we’ve picked up on the job.

 

  • For us, there are no pros and cons as such when it comes to having a partner. We have a mutual understanding and look after two different things – project development and operations.

 

  • On most occasions, we agree on everything. When we don’t, an old fashioned toss of a coin makes the decision for us.

 

  • Bar Stock Exchange has been our biggest success, because while everyone was opening themed venues, we chose to focus on a concept. We picked stocks because everyone has made an investment at some point. Plus, it was easy for us to market it.

 

  • It was important for us to define our target audience, which in the case of Bar Stock Exchange is the corporate crowd. So we try and pick out properties that are close to offices and corporate parks. Of course, everyone else is free to come over too.

 

  • When it comes to menu testing, we do simple trial with a group of friends who we know will share honest feedback.

 

  • It is very important to trust a few responsible employees to take charge, and for us to oversee all of it. We have one person who looks after just the software for our app, another to handle stock, purchases and so on.

 

  • The opening of Big Bang Bar & Café in 2012 marked a sort of turnaround for us, and it was doing very well. So to shut the place and open an outlet of Bar Stock Exchange there was a very difficult decision. We would have been competing with our brand, and it didn’t make sense. In such cases, it’s vital to put your emotions aside.

 

  • We’ve faced some low points too. There was an Indian restaurant called Kebabish that we had opening in Phoenix Mills Mumbai. We lost Rs 2 crore in  just 6 months. It taught us that you win some and lose some, but giving up is not an option.

 

  • There are lots of new players in the market now. The stock market is down, so people are experimenting with the F&B business. They can look at one product, better it and launch their own improved product. We feel we have our own niche in the market, but at the same time, it’s good to have competition to keep us on our toes.

 

  • We don’t have mentors and don’t like seeking advice from people. The more advice you seek, the more confused you get, and as a result, you consult even more people. Instead of getting too many points of view, we just take our decisions ourselves.

 

  • The best tip we were given when we were starting out was a set of thumb rules that we still work with. For instance, we ensure that real estate is not more than 10-15 per cent of our expenditure. As for the worst tip we’ve got, it was from a friend who advised us not to enter the business.

 

  • To freshers who are interested in opening a restaurant or bar someday, always work under someone first. Learn the ropes before you venture out on your own, because the stakes are very high. Also, those college seminars — definitely attend them. People who have firsthand experience in the industry will always give you valuable advice. We’ve spoken at some of these lectures too.