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A chat with the lady behind three F&B brands in South City Mall

What makes Lord of the Drinks click, and what’s working for Kolkata’s eating-out and party crowd? Vanita Bajoria expounds

Aatreyee Mohanta | Published 31.12.22, 04:54 PM
Lord of the Drinks at South City Mall and restaurateur Vanita Bajoria

Lord of the Drinks at South City Mall and restaurateur Vanita Bajoria

Park Street is the party pad, Sector V is the hub of pubs and breweries, and Southern Avenue is the cafe corridor of Kolkata. Until recently, malls were never considered a ‘party place’. Lord of the Drinks (LOTD), which opened in 2019 in South City Mall, slowly changed that perception. The Prince Anwar Shah Road pub sees an average footfall of 500 on its busiest day (Saturday) and the single highest billing is a whopping Rs 82,567. As LOTD turns three, My Kolkata takes a deep dive with restaurateur Vanita Bajoria into what makes the brand click with the Kolkata audience. Vanita and her husband Amit also handle two other properties on the same mall floor — Warehouse Cafe and Veneto. Here’s an assessment on the F&B and nightlife scene by someone who seems to have ticked most of the boxes.

My Kolkata: Three years ago, what made you say yes to restaurateur Priyank Sukhija to bring LOTD to Kolkata under your company, Amit Hospitality LLP?

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Vanita Bajoria: It was a daunting experience to bring such a well-known brand name in the F&B industry to Kolkata. I was excited, happy and looking forward to celebrating the food and culture the brand encompassed! Opening the third outlet of Lord of the Drinks gave me sleepless nights, jitters and the zeal to make it even bigger and better. With the constant guidance of Priyank Sukhija and his team, we are what we are today. It’s only been three years in Kolkata and I’d like to believe we have 30 more to go.

Your entrepreneurial journey started in 2014 with 11D theatre experience in Quest Mall. What made you enter the F&B space?

One thing we were very sure of at the start of the journey was providing guests with a comfortable and memorable experience. However, what we were missing out on was living the experience with them and getting to know them personally — that is what made us branch out.

Your first franchise ownership was Hard Rock Cafe on Park Street in 2017. Then came LOTD followed by Warehouse Cafe, both from Priyank Sukhija’s food stable First Fiddle. What are some of the innovations you brought into the fold despite them having pre-set models?

Since Hard Rock Cafe is an international brand, there were a set of rules we had to comply with. With LOTD and Warehouse Cafe, we got some much-needed flexibility and could explore our menu options as per festivities and what local people prefer. During Durga Puja, we had a full-fledged Bengali menu and during Christmas, we had a Turkey Festival. Hence, via LOTD and Warehouse, we could be more flexible and offer new options to our customers.

In March 2022, you opened Veneto, which was your first independent restaurant (not a franchise). What made you take this step?

We took this step when we noticed that there was a gap in the market for Italian cuisine. With an extensive menu of handmade pastas, Neapolitan pizza and turkey dishes, and the experience of an open kitchen, Veneto has become one of the most-talked-about places to eat Italian food in south Kolkata.

Vanita with her husband, Amit Bajoria

Vanita with her husband, Amit Bajoria

How do you and your husband, Amit Bajoria, divide responsibilities?

We are a team and brainstorm together. And through social media, PR and creatives, decide what will work best for the brand. My husband Amit looks after systemised management, which includes operations, logistics and employee relations among other things. But in the end, one thing that is really needed is the passion to be successful and we both give it our best.

What is your view on standalone restaurants vs restaurants in malls?

Our outlets are strategically placed for large shopping crowds. It draws folks who wouldn’t have thought of stopping by on their own. The advantage of being in a mall also reduces the need for in-house marketing or advertising.

Why is south Kolkata your preferred location?

South Kolkata is our preferred location because we have observed residents here prefer to visit nearby places instead of travelling to areas like Salt Lake. The spending power of south Kolkata, as compared to other areas, is on the higher side as per our observations.

What are the top 3 trends in food and nightlife in Kolkata right now?

Live music has taken Kolkata nightlife by storm. Sports screenings, too, have seen a huge surge. There are changes in eating habits too. The key is achieving nutritional value and environmental sustainability, which is a trend that is slowly picking up in the city.

Has the hookah ban had an impact on business?

Since we are leaning more towards the food and ambience, it’s fortunately working out well for us. It is not affecting the business too much except for the eateries that exclusively depend on hookah sales.

How LOTD is celebrating its third birthday in Kolkata? What is the new menu like?

We are absolutely thrilled to celebrate LOTD’s third year in the city. The love and support we have received from the people keeps us going. The new winter menu is a combination of large and small plates with different flavours put together. There are new cocktails on the menu, too.

Fun facts about LOTD

Most ordered cocktail

  • LIIT

Busiest day of the week

  • Saturday

Average footfall on that day

  • 500

Highest single billing

  • Rs 82,567

Best-selling dishes

  • Veg Dumpling and Beer Battered Chicken Chips

Most popular selfie spot

  • The signage on the bar counter

A team member most in demand by customers

  • Willies
Last updated on 31.12.22, 04:54 PM
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