On the up · 2 December 2015

Family business series: Brilliant Restaurant demonstrates recipe for success

Brilliant Restaurant
Brilliant Restaurant has expanded to now cater for over 200 covers

If you’re a small family business looking to take advantage of Small Business Saturday, of which American Express is the principal supporter, on 5 December, then you may be interested in our special series of features looking at companies run by a family unit.

Here at Business Advice we’ve already heard from Leoframes and A Hume Country Clothing, and now it is time for a company from the hospitality sector – Brilliant Restaurant.

Data from the Institute of Family Business suggests that 16 family companies open every day, but what makes a functioning and successful firm staffed by loved ones?

Brilliant Restaurant is a third generation, family-run Indian restaurant in Southall – operated by Dipna Anand, her father Gulu Anand and brother Shanker Anand. The restaurant has been on Western Road for over 30 years and as a history steeped in family heritage.

Dipna’s grandfather, Bishen Dass Anand, opened the first Brilliant Restaurant in Kenya in the 1950s. His sons and daughters helped in the running of the restaurant and enjoyed growing up in and around its customers and its food. Not only was Bishen Dass a master of his trade but he was known to many as being the head chef and was frequently cooking for the Maharaja’s and chief ministers in Kenya.

When Bishen Dass passed away in 1970, his family continued the legacy of The Brilliant. In 1973, the Anand family moved to the UK and two of Bishen Dass’ sons, Kewal and Gulu Anand decided to carry on the tradition and trademark of the Brilliant and in 1975, Gulu opened the Brilliant Restaurant on Western Road.

The restaurant started as a 30 seat venue and ever since has extended seven times and is now a 220 seat establishment. It has grown organically and also is a cookery school and sells its own brands of pickles and chutneys – alongside a recipe book released by Dipna.

Both father, Gulu, and daughter, Dipna, cook in the restaurant while Dipna’s brother, Shanker, manages front of house but they all like to take turns.

Dipna said: “Customers walk in and they see us all together and feel a part of the family and that’s what keeps them coming. When you visit a place you don’t only want good food you want the whole experience and we are able to engage and as a result, 70 per cent of customers are regulars because we have built that personal relationship with them.”

Gulu added: “We are as authentic as you can get, which attracts our customers. Some of the food we cook here is exactly what we’re cooking and eating at home, which is what they want. It’s fantastic that my children are now working in the businesses that I’ve started – they’ve brought in their own ideas and improvements across the whole restaurant. We’re third generation here, and we’re starting to see third generation customers coming into our restaurant!”

To find out more, we put some additional questions to the family.

(1) How has it changed over the years?

In many ways. We continually tweak and make changes to ensure we keep ahead of the times and also stay competitive in the market place. Over the 40 years we have been open we have gone from being a 40 seat to a 250 seat restaurant and extended the restaurant six times and are still short of space. Although our menu has been the same in regards to my grandfather’s recipes dating back to over 65 years that still continue today, we have also introduced a few “new” menu items over the years and this includes a range of healthy option dishes for the health conscious punter.

Over the years, as we have grown organically, we have also had to increase the number of chefs and waiting staff to cope with demand. We also now have a cook book written by chef Dipna who also runs the Brilliant School of Cookery. We have also had lots of television coverage over the years and this has attracted even more customers to visit the restaurant so we now attract an even wider market.

(2) What is enjoyable about running a business with your family?

The way in which we can all work together to achieve the common success motive is most enjoyable about running a family business. We are a close knit family and each of us adds value in out own way to the business. We all have different strengths and together once we piece all of those together as a family we run a slick restaurant operation which has gone from strength to strength. When one of us is unsure of something we ask each other and can then come to a suitable outcome which we all agree with. Working as a family is what makes us so Brilliant!

(3) What unique advantages are there that other businesses, which aren’t family run, don’t have?

The fact that one of us, if not all of us, are always present at the restaurant is very important for us, if we are there our customers feel they are looked after. When they walk in, they acknowledge us and feel part of the brilliant family and culture and thats very unique. We do not leave the running of the restaurant to managers nor staff, we always ensure we are there to oversee the entire operation. We are also all very hands on and when it gets busy we are not reluctant to jump in and get stuck in.

(4) Are there any draw backs?

No drawbacks as such because we are all working towards a common motive and the secret is to work from the heart. There are however times all three of us have disagreements and different views and there may be a few conflict, however these don’t last very long and we soon resolve the issue by just discussing together the most suitable answers.

(5) Have you given any thought to succession plans, or are they already in place?

They have and still are in place. We are now going to be refurbishing our banqueting suite and making it more retro and modern. We are also looking to open up a new restaurant under the Brilliant umbrella but with a market street food type kitchen concept. We are also supporting Chef Dipna in making a cookery series showcasing Brilliant delights to the nation.

(6) What advice would you give to anyone considering going into business with their family?

Its important to understand there is no competition when you are working with family as you should all be working for that common motive of success. There will be disagreements at time which can also be healthy as you realise you must look at a situation from a different perspective but you just need to discuss the issues and together come up with a suitable agreement.

(7) Why is Small Business Saturday so key to the promotion of family businesses throughout the UK?

It’s important to recognise that small businesses play a key role in UK’s economy and make a big contribution in many ways, helping with employment together with the success of the UK as a country. The smaller businesses offer the quality products that may not be stocked by the bigger chains snd giant players and especially in the food world, its the smaller shops and restaurants that go that extra mile to offer a more authentic quality product. Its important to recognise and support SMEs as much as possible.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.

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