You started your career as the Managing Director of an Interior Design firm and quickly became known as one of the prominent restaurateurs in the city. Personally, what title do you resonate with most? Interior Designer or Restaurateur?
I would say neither. I am more of the creative director for both these aspects of business. It’s the ability to seamlessly integrate all the aspects of the business from interior design, kitchen design, lighting, f&b concept, mixology, table tops and uniforms into a compelling experience. That’s really my role…to lead that effort.
If you had to choose one, Just one, what would you say and why?
I would choose restaurateur. As an owner and operator of my own restaurants I have the autonomy to bring all of my ideas to fruition without anybody interfering.
Did you always want to be a restaurateur? How did you get your start?
No, not at all. I never thought of ever starting my own restaurant. I was a very passionate consumer during my days in New York city and in hindsight I guess my career path has been building up to this. I got my start upon returning to Bangkok and visiting the rooftop of Fraser Suites Sukhumvit, I looked out at the beautiful views and right there and then I just knew that it would be a perfect site for a rooftop bar and restaurant. The site eventually became home to our flagship outlet – Above Eleven.
The success of Above Eleven took us all by surprise. It exceeded our expectations and ambitions and that got me thinking. If I could just use the same DNA that made Above Eleven successful, I could replicate this for other concepts as well. We had an under-performing all day dining at Fraser Suites Sukhumvit and that set the precedent for the conceptualization of Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology!
Above Eleven, Charcoal Bkk, Havana Social, Cantina Wine Bar & Italian Kitchen and upcoming French Brasserie Cordonnier all have completely diverse themes and cuisines, where do you get concept inspiration from?
First and foremost, my concepts are inspired by an understanding of the consumers that eventually will occupy the spaces for our restaurants. We know that in order to be successful we need to create concepts that are compelling, innovative and emotionally connecting. We need to tell a story and to create a compelling customer journey.
We’re a product of what we see and experience. It is about finding inspiration. I find inspiration from anything and everything. It could be a travel experience, the presence of a certain materiality, it can come from a place, or perhaps even something fictitious such as the The Service 1921 at the Anantara which was designed as the HQ of the Royal Secret Intelligence Service of the British government in 1921. I can’t define where it all actually comes from, but it definitely helps being observant and sensitive to your surroundings and life. A Lot of it comes from my past experiences…travelling around the world.
Your restaurants are hot favourites’ in the city, what are your favourite types of cuisines and restaurants?
I’m not a big fan of fine dining restaurants. I really don’t quite understand them to be honest. I’d rather have a whole hearty meal served with love in large portions on a plate and the unpretentious-ness that comes with it.
So if you were stranded on an island and only had one go to dish for the rest of your days, what would it be?
Kraphao Kai ( Chicken and Basil Leaf stir fry) on rice with egg. I don’t know. It’s a weakness. It’s been my favorite all my life!
What would you consider your star restaurant? Why?
Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology. Not to say that the other ones are not dear to me and spectacular in their own ways… but Charcoal was our biggest challenge. I was starting an Indian restaurant in Bangkok, adding on to the pile of already popular and established Indian restaurants in the city. Also, I was envisioning a menu without curries and a spice infused cocktail programme. It is unique and it is breaking every stereotype there is about Indian food. It was a huge risk but it paid off. Today, we’re one of the top performing Indian restaurants in Bangkok and I’m very proud.
What do you love most about Charcoal Tandoor Grill & Mixology?
The overall experience at Charcoal is unparalleled. Whether it is the overall concept, the spectacular service, the amazing quality of the food or the deliciously unique cocktails, there’s nothing not to love about Charcoal. Even if it was not mine, I would have given it just as much credit and love. It’s a great place with great food, great drinks, great service.
All of your restaurants get rave reviews and continue to do so. To what do you attribute your success?
My passion. There’s no substitute for passion in this world. My passion, my ambition and my desire to continuously improve in everything I do while staying grounded has brought me here today and I hope will continue to drive me forward.
You currently manage 4 restaurants in the city with upcoming restaurants as well international chains, how do you manage your time?
It’s very challenging, I won’t lie. I don’t think I’ve mastered the art of time management as yet but I’m trying to manage my time better. There are so many places that I have to be and things that I have to do that at times it gets difficult to juggle. As we grow as an organisation, I’m trying to create a team of people around me who can help me to better manage the expectations of our business. It’s a work in progress but we’re definitely getting there.
Still on the topic of time, do you still have time for family and social life?
Yes. I think it’s so important to have a work life balance. I do many things outside my work. I’m an avid squash and football player. I started yoga almost a year and a half ago followed by meditation and I’ve seen an incredible difference in my life. It’s very important to be able to switch off and have ‘me’ time, you don’t want to be burnt out. My down time is sacred to me as it gives me the sanity to recuperate so that I can come into work in the morning fresh and ready to go!
Many entrepreneurs look up to you as you are set to create an empire in a very short span of time, what would you say sets you apart from the rest of the restaurateurs out there?
While i’m very ambitious in continually growing my business, I keep a very close eye on the details. Whether it is looking at the overall financial performance of the business, customer feedback, changes in the menu or staffing, I am constantly keeping a close eye on all critical aspects of our business. Even in the creation of my concepts, if you notice – it’s all about the little things, all in the details. I’d say my eye for detail is what sets me apart as a person and as a businessman.
In this age of aggressive competition,What’s your secret to keeping customers coming in?
Creating compelling, innovative experiences that emotionally connect with our consumers and making sure our food and beverage concept is exceptional. I believe that if the food is not good, people will not come back. Regardless of how good everything else may be, food quality is the ultimate driving factor.
You have countless people working for you and with you, what’s your management philosophy?
Genetically I’m a do-er but I’ve had to become more of a thinker and that’s something that I constantly battle with. I don’t like to micro-manage but because of my perfectionist nature, sometimes I feel the need to do so. But I’m trying to continually be more responsible for the overall vision and strategic direction of the organization while identifying the right individuals who can be held accountable for the various other aspects of the business. Again, it’s a work in progress…
Let’s talk about you now… What would you say is Rohit Sachdev’s biggest strength?
My integrity and principles are deeply embedded in everything that I do. It’s a rare quality in this day and age, especially as a businessman. I’d say that’s my biggest strength.
And your biggest drawback?
I’m not the best operations person. I’ve been told that I’m a visionary, but honestly, I feel that when it comes down to organisation, I have a lot of room to grow. I’m also very impatient. I’m a ‘now’ kind of guy, If I want something, I want it immediately – I’ve got to work on my patience.
Where are you? In terms of headspace, career, personal life?
I’m humbled by the success that we’ve achieved. I’m grateful to my family, friends and colleagues for the support. Career wise, I am excited…I’m excited for where this company is going and for the visions I have for it. Personally, I’ve found inner happiness after a traumatic divorce and I would say I’m at a good place – mind, body and health. My biggest goal for 2017 is to find a life partner, I want to focus a little more on myself now that I feel like things around me are falling into place.
What would the closest person in your life say if I asked them, ‘what is the one characteristic that they totally dig about you, and the one that drives them insane?’
My loyalty. I’m sure they’ll say that. What drives them insane?… I’m sure everyone that’s close to me would say that they hate the fact that I’m a terrible listener and I have ADD tendencies. There’s always so much on my mind!
If you worked in a restaurant, what role would you want?
It’d be boring if I said restaurant manager so I’m going to go ahead and say the Mixologist. It’ll be cool to be able to create awesome drinks off the menu – even though I have no skill whatsoever in the field but it is a fictitious answer to a fictitious question! *haha*
Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?
I failed in my first two technology companies and have had to give them up twice. There were many days that I did not want to get out of bed, having nothing to look forward to career wise. I got through it because I always believed in myself, I knew deep in my heart that one day my ambitions would take me where I wanted to be and I’m lucky enough to say that they have.
Many people look up to you and take inspiration from your journey. What would you say to those struggling to get to where they want to go?
To everyone that’s on the verge of giving up, whether it’s in their career or personal lives, all I would say is the future lies in your own hands. Your ambitions,your goals, they’re all just a step away if you just pick yourself up and move forward. You can’t change your past, you don’t know what the future holds but you do have control over your present. What you do today CAN and WILL have a positive impact on where you want to be – you just have to keep going.
So where is Rohit Sachdev headed? What’s next?
I’m far from done. I think we’ve established ourselves as an up and coming player in the F&B space, now it’s all about scalability and identifying the right investment partners that come with the knowhow and expertise in order to set the precedent for our growth within Thailand and our global expansion. We’re currently in the process of restructuring our organisation to gear up for that growth. Lots more exciting things coming soon…watch this space!