It’s been a decade since the iconic restaurant opened its doors in Colaba, Mumbai and introduced a concept that has since made The Table synonymous with fine-dining in the city.
It’s a weekday afternoon in Mumbai’s Colaba, and with most workplaces switching to remote operations, the streets of the business and tourist hot-spot, usually abuzz with a throng of professionals, are unusually muted.
The signs of recovery though, are evident if you look closely. As we step in through the doors of The Table, we’re pleasantly surprised to see quite a few tables occupied. We are here to meet the founders of the restaurant as they mark a rather enviable milestone, especially in a city as busy and fickle as Mumbai. In fact, there are so many reservations that we are relegated to one cosy corner for our meeting; an encouraging sign if there ever was one.
Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf met in San Francisco in 2008 and it was their love for travel and food that sowed the seed of inspiration behind setting up the unique space that is The Table. “We wanted to create the kind of food experience that we had in San Francisco, with The Table in Mumbai,” says Jay.
“The one thing that strikes me about any restaurant is the kind of memory it creates with its food and experience. And that’s what The Table has always been about, creating a memory that stays with a diner long after they’re done with the meal,” adds Gauri.
This focus on ensuring a top-notch experience is what fuels Gauri and Jay’s business approach. “To ensure consistency in the quality of food, sourcing the best ingredients is crucial. Our team provides feedback to our suppliers about what works or doesn’t, on improvements that can be made, so as to get the best possible quality,” says Jay.
While they engage with a host of local growers and producers, a part of the ingredients are also sourced from their farm at Alibaug. “It’s a limited space, so it might not be a huge proportion of our supplies, but what we do manage is organic and most importantly, a right step in the direction of sustainability. It will only continue to grow,” adds Gauri, with a touch of pride.
As the bustle of customers grow, naturally, the conversation veers towards loyalty. “While earlier, nearly half of our customers would be overseas tourists, since the lockdown, we’ve managed entirely with local patronage. And clearly, it’s what is keeping us going,” says Jay.
Gauri understands what keeps diners coming back. “We’re grateful for the support we’re receiving. We realise that this love is a result of what we strive to provide to all our customers – a quality experience.”
The focus on quality is not lost on the staff. Some of them have been part of the fold since inception, and this is something that is pointed out by the chef and the restaurant manager too. The freedom to operate so as to ensure the best possible customer experience, not bound by concerns of budget, is greatly appreciated.
The team, in fact, is one of prime driving forces of the brand. “Consistency is one of the brand’s key strengths. And this consistency is made possible by having a dedicated team, one which has been part of our journey for such a long time. In fact, our lead chef also catered our wedding, which was right before we opened up the restaurant,” explains Gauri.
While the pandemic presented its own challenges, the industry is fraught with age-old issues and many a lesson has been learnt over the course of a decade. One of them, especially relevant after last year, was the diversification of the business model. A few other brands, focused on delivery, have taken off and today, account for a fair bit of revenue.
Completing a decade in the restaurant business, especially in a dynamic market such as Mumbai is no mean feat. And completing it on a high, having established The Table as an integral part of Colaba’s identity, with its loyal band of patrons, is quite the achievement, especially for two people who didn’t even have a background in the industry. But Gauri and Jay aren’t folks who rest easy on their laurels. A milestone is simply an opportunity to pause and consider the way forward.
“We don’t have all the answers yet. But reaching this milestone makes us review our trajectory and plan the path ahead,” says Gauri.
As we wind up our conversation, it’s time to ask for advice. What can those looking to make a mark on the restaurant industry learn from their collective wisdom?
“You have to be really passionate about what you do and keep at it. There will be plenty of bumps along the way but you have to take it all in your stride and ride it out.”
Watch the video to catch the full conversation with Gauri Devidayal and Jay Yousuf as they speak about their inspirations, learnings and more.