Get to Govinda's
The home-grown restaurant has been catering to vegetarians since 2001, and recently opened its second branch and expanded its menu to cater to vegans as well.
When Mahesh Advani became a vegetarian in 2000 he decided to open a vegetarian Indian restaurant, called Govinda’s.
“There weren’t many good restaurants where you could find clean Indian food that doesn’t have too much oil or spice. We serve Sattvic food; this dietary style nourishes the mind, body and soul, and has no onion or garlic. It is cooked and prepared in the old, traditional Vedic way,” said Mahesh’s son and Govinda’s Business Development Manager, Sanjit Advani.
The business was opened Karama in 2001 as a buffet restaurant that offered a variety of vegetarian options. The restaurant ran at a loss until 2005, but was sustained by the family’s textile business, Blossom Trading LLC, that has been in Dubai since 1988. It was only in 2006 that the restaurant broke even when it became popular with local residents and a portion of the Indian expat community that follows a Sattvic diet, and the Indian community could provide valuable feedback on the food.
One of the problems faced during the set-up of the business was Advani’s lack of knowledge of the restaurant business as well as his lack of experience in terms of putting the correct systems and procedures in place. This was mitigated by working closely with the Dubai municipality to create the proper infrastructure for the restaurant.
The second branch was opened in Jumeirah in January 2015 to cater to the western expat and Arab communities. The biggest challenge, which is still being overcome through media and PR activities, is educating the public on what sets the restaurant apart.
“We are not just another Indian restaurant. We pride ourselves on being one of the few Indian restaurants provide vegan, gluten-free, and oil-free dining options. We created the oil-free menu for people who are watching their diet, but still want to enjoy the delicacies of Indian food,” said Advani.
He added that the recipes were designed by his parents to give diners the feeling of having a home-cooked meal, with hearty flavours. Feedback from customers prompted the Advanis to expand the menu by creating Govinda’s vegan and gluten-free options.
The family operates the business on a franchise model and is currently looking to franchise more outlets. Each franchise will be franchisee operated with full support in site selection, recruitment and training, and performance consulting. Franchisees will also have access to the restaurants contact list of suppliers, as well as assistance in getting the best rates for equipment and supplies.
“Regarding the store layouts, there are a few things we want to keep uniform, such as the corporate colours of pink, blue, and white, as well as the design of the lotus and the peacock feather. Other than those factors, the stores will adapt the look and the feel of each restaurant according to where we open our outlets,” said Advani.
Advani added their franchise system was developed with the view to being able to expand into many cities and countries. The franchise fee is an upfront payment of $25,000 in the UAE and 15 lakh rupees in India, the business’s other target market, owing to the country’s high vegetarian population.
The annual royalty fee, charged from the second year, is six per cent of the gross revenue. Finally, there is a marketing fee of two to five per cent of gross revenue, with half being paid to the franchisor for national and international marketing. The other half has to be spent by the franchisee for local marketing, and they will have to be able to prove that this is where those funds were allocated.
There have already been inquiries and requests for the family to open more restaurants in Dubai and to enter the Abu Dhabi Market.
“We see the UAE as a great market for this concept as the food industry is still growing at a rapid pace. With veganism on the rise, we always have new customers coming to our restaurants to try our food,” he said.
Although there is great potential for growth across the UAE, the Advanis plan to open 12 new franchises in India in the near future, predominantly in pilgrimage areas, where devotees go on a spiritual journey for a number of days. These sites have a demand for Sattvic food, and that is the gap the family plans to fill by catering to that niche demand.
Advani added that the larger metro cities in India also have great potential for the restaurant, so they will be included in the company’s future franchising agenda.