Hitting the Right Notes

Whether it is playing jazz or running a successful restaurant, Sudesh Shrestha follows a single rule - make sure you know who your audience is.

From playing in a band to owning one of the most successful restaurants in Kathmandu, New Orleans Cafe, Sudesh Shrestha has come a long way. Battles were fought on the way – some lost, some won. At the end of it all, victory came to he who who didn’t give up. Shrestha opens up about his transformation from a musician to a restaurateur.

Plans don’t always work out

As a business student, Sudesh stumbled into working at the reception of Kathmandu Guest House. That was far from what he had planned. His dream was to be in a band, doing what he loves doing best – playing guitar. In an attempt to pursue that dream, he gave up his job and started a band. But things didn’t work out that well and three months later the band split up, leaving Sudesh to discover a whole new side to himself.

The making of an enterpreneur

What most people fail to understand is that everyday is a chance to learn, to grow and be better than the day before. This stands true in every walk of life, for everyone, especially for an enterpreneur like Sudesh. He attained this knowledge when he was in the US. After the band broke up, Sudesh ended up going to America to work as a camp counsellor for a couple of months every year, for three years. He shares, “The experience humbled me. Contrary to the Nepali rudimentary mindset where doing only what the job asked of me was enough, I did everything in the camp. This was when I got interested in food culture.” He was a work-in-progress, so when he came back home he was ready to take on the challenges of running a company.

New Orleans in Nepal

Sudesh’s first restaurant was Thamel’s Himalayan Kitchen. The aim was to introduce western food to the locale, which was relatively new for Thamel then. He trained the chefs himself and even got involved in the kitchen. But an enterprenuer is always on the move, thriving on the execution of new ideas. Sudesh wanted an open space in the restaurant, which was not possible in the location where Himalayan Kitchen was housed. So he moved the eateria to a new spot within Thamel, and gave it a new name – New Orleans Cafe.

Know your audience

Sudesh’s main mantra of success is to know who you are catering to. About New Orleans he says, “The restaurant is targetted at backpackers. And so the ambience is set with a tone to make them comfortable.” He points at the worn out tables that have not been changed ever since the restaurant’s christening and says, “Many suggest me to get the tables changed or painted, but I don’t find it necessary. Say, I change the tables and put tidy table-cloth on it – a sweaty, dirty backpacker would hesitate to enter the restaurant.” The bottomline is that one needs to be clear who their audience is. The moment that clarity is lost, so is the business.

The ace card

Behind every successful business there is strong, supportive and trustworthy staff. “Two of the staff members that are working for me today have been with me since Himalayan Kitchen started,” shares Sudesh. He adds, “Other team members have been with me for atleast 10 years. They have earned my trust and I have earned their’s.” The staff sell your products for you, bring in more business and so its important to keep your staff happy and satisfied. A happy staff is always pleasant with the customers, which in turn keeps the customer happy. Along with New Orleans, Sudesh also handles three other ventures. How does he manage to do it? He uses this ace card.

Staying young

To remain fresh is important because after you have done something for a while, everyone starts to catch up to it. Sudesh learned this trick of the game with time. While previously, New Orleans used to have electric live band performances, it has been tuned down to acoustic. The reasoning is simple and smart, “There are live bands playing everywhere in Thamel; why do the same?” To keep the old eatery buzzing, New Orleans recently added a wine bar. They have a special “wine hour” from 3 to 6 pm.

You fall, you get back up

No one is perfect, everyone stumbles and falls atleast once; you are no different. Sudesh has seen many ups and downs throughout the years. But he isn’t going to whine over the failures he has had. He says, “You cannot take your falls negatively. Instead you move on, and learn from those mistakes.”

You recognize a successful enterprenuer not only by the revenue he earns, but also by the impact he makes on those around him. When Sudesh told me that a few of his staff today run their own restaurants, that is when it hit me – a successful enterpreneur is also a teacher and an inspiration to others.

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