Restaurant Rebels

Forget about ordering momo and chowmein wherever you go; a new batch of restaurateur-entrepreneurs are breaking all the rules and changing the entire experience of eating out. Bon Appétit!

how to sell sekuwa at a posh restaurant

A homegrown and deep fried success story, Bajeko Sekuwa’s journey started from a small stall and now rests comfortably in swanky restaurants in some of Kathmandu’s most posh locations. What does it take to pull off such a rags to riches story? What entrepreneurial skills does it require?

Text Kapil Bisht

Backstory

The idea for Bajeko Sekuwa came to Dina Nath Bhandari when he went to watch the planes at the Tribhuvan International Airport. Bhandari felt the place could do with an eatery. This was in the 1970s; the area west of the airstrip, where today buses drop off passengers who arrive on domestic airlines, was just a grassy expanse. It was there that Mr Bhandari began selling sekuwa out of a small stall. As he was a Brahmin, customers called him ‘baje’. This eventually led to his place being known as Bajeko Sekuwa, a name he happily took on.

What

Bajeko Sekuwa has been selling sekuwa for nearly four decades. Besides their trademark barbecued meat, they also specialize in other
meat items such as mutton and chicken taas, as well as mutton and chicken momo. Chetan Bhandari, Dina Nath’s son and the restaurant owner, says the secret of their popularity is the recipe his father created.

Early Days

The original restaurant’s location within the airport premises meant the police came regularly to chase Chetan’s parents away. It was that painful sight that made Chetan change the location after he took over the business.

Tipping point

Although it was Chetan’s father who identified a niche and laid the foundation for the restaurant, Chetan turned it from a roadside stall to arguably Nepal’s most successful sekuwa restaurant. Bajeko Sekuwa is now a restaurant chain. Asked about the turning point in his business, he relates an incident. A customer came in one day and asked for a plate of fried goat brain. Apparently, the restaurant was out of goat brain. Chetan was surprised. The restaurant used two to three goats every day; there ought to have been enough brain. He found that the brains from those goats were boiled in the same cauldron used for making soup. If no one asked for it in time, it just melted away. “I calculated the cost and found that we were losing quite a bit of money,” says Chetan. “I addressed this and a few other issues and soon we were making good money.”

Going International

In a couple of months Bajeko Sekuwa will have its first restaurant outside Kathmandu, in Pokhara. Chetan wants to take Bajeko Sekuwa further, by turning it into a franchise. To realize that goal he has assembled a research team. “I have also read a lot of literature on international franchises such as McDonald’s and Starbucks,” he says. One of his chefs recently won an award at the Macau International Beer Wine and Spirit Festival.

Food, Talk, and Pricing

Chetan believes in catering to the customers’ need for attention as much as their appetites. “We are more social in Nepal. We like to talk a lot. It is an aspect restaurants in Nepal cannot overlook. I always tell my managers, ‘Talk to the customers.’” Maintaining high food quality is something he believes every restaurant needs to do in order to succeed. He also believes in the old strategy of lowering prices to increase sales.

Game Changer

Bajeko Sekuwa has changed how people perceive sekuwa. Chetan doesn’t shy from taking credit for it. “My father opened his shop nearly 35 years ago. I think we are in a position to say that Bajeko Sekuwa took sekuwa from a dish served in crude eateries to the menus of Kathmandu’s famous restaurants.” A bigger journey lies ahead for Bajeko Sekuwa, one, if successful, will take it beyond Nepal

Take it easy – Easy Khana

Coming back to Nepal after having lived abroad for several years, both Arniko Singh and Sushant Bhattarai were overwhelmed by the large number of restaurant goers in Kathmandu. They noticed a large number of dining establishments in Kathmandu and that the concept of eating out had now become common place. While there were a great deal of restaurants to choose from, a lack of information made it hard to determine which establishments actually provided good food and service.

With the aim of providing restaurant goers in Kathmandu with a credible information platform, the duo created Easy Khaana. Their website allows restaurant goers access to restaurant menus, pictures of dishes and restaurant locations, and read interviews with restaurant owners and chefs. Currently, many rely on their social network to discover and try new places. Easy Khaana’s objective is to help Kathmandu locals make informed dining decisions

More importantly, Easy Khaana also has privilege cards that give members access to exclusive discounts ranging from 10% to 15% numerous restaurants in town. “At the end of the day, we want to build a brand that people can trust. By providing reliable information on restaurants alongside great off ers to all our members, we hope to be the leading information site for restaurant enthusiasts in Kathmandu.” (Lizbeth Lucksom)

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