Reaching Out

In order to provide relief to those most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic, restaurateurs like Kabir Suri and Rahul Khanna are doing their bit to help their community. We speak to Kabir about their latest laudable project, feeding the less fortunate, as well as future plans, once normalcy returns.

In these times of uncertainty, with the COVID-19 crisis impacting the globe, there are thousands who are not fortunate enough to have a roof over their heads and food on their plates. As a measure to stand together, Azure Hospitality's co-founders Rahul Khanna and KabirSuri have taken a step forward to do their bit to help the community. Azure Hospitality, in association with Project Why, has taken up the initiative to feed as many of the less fortunate as possible and provide them with essential groceries, to ensure their survival in these harsh times. (Project Why is a flagship program of the Sri Ram Goburdhun Charitable Trust, a New Delhi based NGO. It focuses on the after-school development of children, teaching them life skills, character and confidence building, and nurtures all-round development.)

We speak to entrepreneur and Co-Founder & Director, Azure HospitalityKabirSuri about his initiative.

KabirSuri and Rahul Khanna, Founders, Azure hospitality (Kabir Suri and Rahul Khanna, Founders, Azure hospitality)

At what point did you decide you wanted to reach out and help the community?

I believe everyone wanted to step in and help once we realized that this was an unprecedented pandemic situation. Our aim was to reach out to people in need, and ensure they had access to basic necessities. Since we are in the food industry, our goal has always been to ensure no one goes hungry.

At times like these, when restaurateurs are busy trying to stay afloat, here you are, doing this remarkable deed with Project Why - do you think it is your duty as a citizen that prompted you to do this, or do you see this as something long term that you wish to continue down the line?

Having worked with Project Why for over five years, it has always been Azure’s dharma to help feed the needy and ensure no one goes hungry. Over the last five years, we have helped feed 120 children every month, this amounts to nearly 2.16 lakh meals! With the pandemic, it felt natural to extend the same principles to the many people having to face hunger due to the current scenario. Our goal is to provide an impactful and innovative solution to help reduce poverty and hunger, with compassion.

Azure Hospitality X Project Why have provided over 30,000 meals (Azure Hospitality X Project Why have provided over 30,000 meals)

What has been your association with Project Why for the last five years - how did you get connected, and what do you like about their work?

As luck would have it, I met Anu, the founder of Project Why, at a dinner party. We connected over our similar passions and our humanitarian need to help those who don’t have access to bare necessities. Post our meeting, I contributed to her cause by helping them rebuild a school, and as the founder of Azure, I used this platform to help them feed people in need, on a larger scale. We always believed that our efforts not only change the lives of one person but entire families. In fact, we have seen some of the families who we have helped, raise children who have been amongst the first to go to schools and college. This to us is a true sign of success.

So you would be feeding 200 families as well as the 60,000 meals - where are the meals made and transported to govt shelters?

These are transported in Delhi NCR.

Azure Hospitality X Project Why; making meals (Azure Hospitality X Project Why; making meals)

What are the meals being provided?

We are providing basic meals of rice, dal and vegetables along with staple groceries.

On the restaurant front, Kabir, I know these are difficult times. You have such an array of hospitality ventures - what is your game plan for the next few months, in broad terms?

In the immediate scenario, there is a lot of disruption and we will reboot and adapt our business to meet the needs of the hour. However, we believe that in the long run, customer behaviourand food consumption will return to what it used to be, and in terms of Azure, our core values will remain the same: making sure our customers have the best experience in our premises and that there is no change to the quality we are known for.

Do you think that online food deliveries work for all rests? Would that be the case for Mamagoto, Sly Granny, Foxtrot, and the rest?

Delivery is never a case of one size fits all, and different brands have approached this vertical in different ways. With a brand such as ours, which has a great deal of customer loyalty and brand equity, we are confident our delivery sales will see an uptick in the coming days as people know when they order from us, they will get the quality and experience they are used to. However, in the long term, we do not think delivery will subsume in dining, and there will not be a paradigm shift in the way consumers eat.

For Azure, the delivery has always played a role, with 15% of our revenues coming from this vertical. However, we are looking to increase this to 30% of our revenue, not only in the immediate future but in the long term. This situation has served as an opportunity for us to explore new ways and options for delivery, such as creating personal portions for Mamagoto fans or combos that are great value for money, in the case of DhabaEstd. 1986. With our resources, the amazing chefs on our team and the variety of cuisines we have to offer with our brands like Sly Granny and Foxtrot, we are looking to actualize the often overlooked potentials of our delivery vertical and make it a much stronger vertical going forward.

Currently, we are delivering Mamagoto and DhabaEstd. 1986 food in Delhi NCR and hope to expand to other cities and our other brands soon.

Would you introduce any social distancing measures?

All hospitality companies will have to adapt post the lockdown, and Azure will follow all guidelines and measures laid down by the government and other major agencies like the NRAI.

The restaurant industry on the whole - what do you feel must it do to stay healthy, and what should be our role as consumers?

We must stay united and focused while looking after the welfare of our staff and the safety of our customers. Consumers should support the industry in any way they can during the lockdown, one great example is buying vouchers to their favourite restaurants on, where you spend just INR 250 which can later be availed at INR 1,000. Post the lockdown, we need our loyal customers to take the leap of faith and step into our restaurants, knowing we have their experience and safety as our top priority.

Lastly, how do you remain upbeat during these days - what are you looking forward to, when things are back to normal?

What keeps us upbeat is knowing this too shall pass and we will bounce back stronger than ever. When you look at other cities and countries who have opened their restaurants gradually, and before India, the signs have been promising and there seems to be a gradual return to normalcy. I look forward to serving my customers again and being a fixture of their daily lives.

Tags: Kabir Suri; Rahul Khanna; Azure Hospitality; Project Why; Mamagoto; Sly Granny; Foxtrot; feeding the hungry; meals; feed the needy; restaurant industry; COVID-19


Priya Kumari Rana

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It’s an exciting time for brands all over the world. With change comes opportunity. With the global ‘reset’ and uncertainty on many fronts, there is a chance to write a new script. Let’s be those pioneers.

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A luxury and fashion journalist with 25 years of experience in publishing and magazine journalism, I have edited some of India’s top fashion and luxury magazines. I got my BA in Comparative Literature from UC Berkeley, and went on to receive my Master’s in English and French from the University of Strasbourg, France. I have also studied German and Film. I live in Gurugram, India, and look forward to once again exploring our world with a new-found freedom.

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