For many restaurant owners, this isn’t just an industry; their restaurant is a family business built on generations of traditions. They want to build a successful business for themselves and future generations, but also want to share the authentic culinary traditions of their roots with their customers. For owners like Anju Kapoor, both sentiments lie at the core of her business.
In 1984, Kapoor opened Mayur Cuisine of India in Corona Del Mar, Calif., continuing — and building on — her family’s success in the restaurant industry in India. For 32 years, Mayur has been dedicated to bringing authentic Indian cuisine to Orange County with a consistently high quality of food and service. To learn from Mayur’s success, Kapoor shared her restaurant industry expertise in a chat with our own account executive Laurie Pincura.
After 32 years in business, what is Mayur’s secret to success?
I think the consistency and the quality of the food. Also the clientele is very appreciative of what I can do. But it’s not just what we do, it’s also how they perceive us and our authentic cooking. I don’t do fusion – it’s mainly, I’d like to say, home cooking. [Chef] Singh, who’s been with me for 45 years, who is the chef here now, cooked at home for years before we moved here. I brought him with me not knowing this was my destiny.
So I think [our success is] his creations, and I try to give the best service I can provide. Anything any customer does not like, I’m happy to take it back and not charge them, or give them something else that they’d rather try.
And [the restaurant] is what makes me jump out of bed – not get out of bed, but jump! I’ve got 10 things I need to take care of and this is what keeps me going.
Ethnic cuisine and authenticity are currently big trends in the restaurant industry, though many consumers have misconceptions about what authentic Indian food is. How do you change customers’ perceptions of Indian food?
I would say authentic Indian food is only known to maybe six percent of the general public. It’s not mainstream food yet. The perception that everyone has of Indian food is either that it is very spicy, hot, or curry running yellow in color, which is not true. Maybe one or two dishes that they have tried may have looked or been like that, and if they’ve had a bad experience, that’s turned them away.
So what I want people to really know is that there’s so much that goes into Indian cooking. It’s very labor intensive and time consuming. There are a lot of ingredients which are all of medicinal value. I want people to not be afraid of Indian food, don’t shy away from it. Come try, if you don’t like it, we won’t charge you for it. But if you like it, we hope you’d be coming back once a week to get your fill.
Once people try your food for the first time, how often do you think they come back to your restaurant?
There are some that come back once a week. Then there are some that crave it for a longer time and either they don’t have a dining companion, they do takeout instead of dining in, or they have children that are not still open to Indian food. At the same time, because I’ve been here 32 years, I’ve had customers that came in when they were pregnant, and their children grew up on this food. So they already have their taste buds wanting this from the beginning.
You know, Indian food hasn’t gotten much exposure and some people may have had a bad experience and shy away from it. You can’t possibly satisfy every palate. We all grew up differently with different circumstances and different exposures. I would love for those who haven’t tried to come in and try.
I feel that fusion may be the need for today’s clientele, but I think when you get used to the spices, the herbs, then your body wants it and craves it. Indian food, probably more than any other cuisine that I’m aware of, has all of those ingredients in it. Onion, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric powder, all of it.
Your goal of getting more people to try Mayur could add up, though, as it costs more to get a new customer to walk through your door than retain loyal ones. So how do you value seeing your restaurant on Rewards Network’s dining programs?
The more people know about us, the more people in the area are going to come forward. It’s also the fear of the unknown. Once the name is out there, people know where I am, what I do, and what they’re going to be getting. I think that definitely has an impact.
How have you used Rewards Network’s Comment Management System to engage with your customers and utilize their feedback for your business?
I get some very encouraging feedback. There are days when you think you work so hard and maybe the day didn’t go as well as it should have gone or you wanted it to. Then there’s a little pat on your shoulder when you read a review that says “An excellent meal, we loved it. We’ll be back again. Thank you for doing this and for staying here.” The [feedback] helps, absolutely.
Have you made any changes to your restaurant operations based on your customers’ feedback?
For 32 years I haven’t done single plating. I’ve done [everything] family style. So I’ve stayed with it, though I am in the process of adding single plating. I’ve seen some of the customers eating out of the bowl because that’s the only thing they want to try. They don’t want to try their companions’ food.
I’m always looking to get feedback to see what they really want because that’s what I’m here to do. To cater to their needs, not what I think it should be or how it should be.
You recently just added a bar and needed some capital for that improvement. Has having restaurant funding and marketing all under one roof been helpful for you?
Absolutely! It’s easier to work with the same people. It makes things go better for us versus going with someone that’s new. I’ve been with Rewards Network for over 10 years, and I’ve used your cash advance program and it does bring in more people too.
Want to hear from other restaurant owners about how partnering with Rewards Network has benefited their business?