Sunil Aggarwal, Owner, Dramz Whiskey Bar & Lounge has been in the business for almost four decades. Talking to Restaurant India, he shares his stint to open his first restaurant.
When and how did you decide to foray into the restaurant business? Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey.
It all started few years back, to be exact- in mid 2012. The idea sprang up when I was sitting in a luxury bar in Singapore and sipping my whisky. I realised that there is no such place in Delhi, which can offer good beverages and equally good food in a luxurious setting with family and friends. I realised that there is a big gap and that’s when the idea of opening an upscale bar and restaurant struck me first. Since then it kept coming in my mind. My journey as an entrepreneur started quite early in life. In my early 20s, I was involved in the family business but later on I decided to take my own route with my brother. In the voyage till now I have started various trades ranging from medical devices to garments & now a restaurant. Yes, I have seen my own highs and lows; but that’s what has made me what I am today- financially as well as emotionally.
What inspired to open a restaurant cum bar in a fine dining environment?
As mentioned earlier, there was a gap which became a reason of motivation for me to open a restaurant. But if I’m asked that did I intend to create a fine dine and formal place? I don’t know. However, the inspiration of opening a good place came from my experiences that I had while dining in various Michelin star restaurants, high end bars and salons. I decided to create an environment where customers come and place their orders and that’s it! I understand that when we go out to dine or drink, we don’t want to be bothered about anything else and we just want to enjoy the experience. The chairs have to be comfortable, the lightings have to be soothing, the place has to be spick and span, the staff has to be courteous, products have to be best in quality, , the washrooms should be spacious and there has to be a nice waiting area. If all these things together make Dramz a fine dine place; so be it. I am not concerned about the tag that we get, but I am definitely concerned and particular about the experience that we provide to our customers. What was the initial challenge?
Oh! The initial challenge was to convince myself that I have to open a “Whisky major place”, it was like being a man on a mission to get a place like this with so much bureaucracy in the system.
Now let’s talk about funding, how did it happen?
I funded the entire project myself.
Who do you see as your major competitor in the segment today as there are number of restaurants coming in the city these days?
I believe in creation, collaboration and cooperation rather than competition. I believe that we all possess a creative wand and we should use it to create something new and worthwhile. I always see myself at a global level. Whatever I am doing; has got potential to stand apart globally. Is my vision adding something to the economy of the physical location where I am situated? Whatever I am doing, is it going to make people come to my place or city? I am not talking only about the intra city customers but I am taking about international customers as well. To me competition with my peers is such a waste of time, energy, efforts and money. Rather, I would prefer e to invest these resources in creating something new. Moreover, I have my own favourite places, which I venture a lot and I always want those places to do well. I have my memories attached to them. I want all of us to come together and make this city a destination on global gastronomic map.
What according to you is luring the industry to come up with these large format restaurants?
Today everyone is better informed, travelled and knowledgeable as compared to yesteryears. People have higher disposable incomes and they are demanding. Also, the market wants places which are world class.
What are the design elements that you have kept in mind while setting up this restaurant to match the Scottish theme?
As whisky is in the forefront, what could have been better than a Scottish chalet? Also I wanted to give a feel of warmth, comfort and luxury. And all these elements are reflected in the architecture and the interiors.
Tell us something about the extended menu that you are offering at your restaurant. How is the pricing done?
Our endeavour is to be a place which stocks and sells maximum labels of whiskeys from different countries, that’s why one can see an extended beverage menu. Not to forget, we also have a huge stock of alcoholic beverages like wines, high end cognac, gin and rum. As far as food is concerned, we try to give ample choices in terms of bar starters, mains and desserts. We have kept our menu simple yet attractive. No two things in the menu taste or look similar. Pricing has been done keeping in mind what the market can shell out. Also, we have done our back end calculations. We all know that older the whiskies costlier it becomes, so one can also see few costly stuffs on the menu but I want to inform you that our margins are inversely proportional to the cost price of the whiskeys or any other product.
How much are you involved in the social media marketing?
Dramz is a result of my passion so I am actively involved in the social media marketing of Dramz. But more than anything, it is the word of mouth publicity, which does the trick.
As we have seen restaurants these days tying up with online aggregators to fasten their delivery model. Can we expect something similar at Dramz?
I want Dramz as an exclusive club kind of place, and for that word of mouth publicity is more fruitful. I would want the Brand to get strengthened, so I refrain from tying up with online aggregators for, you might get categorised in a generic nomenclature.
What is your expansion plans in taking the restaurant forward?
Right now I want to concentrate on this outlet only. It’s first of its kind and requires lots of my personal attention and involvement. May be in future I shall open something different not just Whisky.