The Art Of Winning Customers – Mansi Reddy

New Food Entrepreneurs – A Special Roundup, Ox & Tomato ,Old Madras Baking Company.

Chennai’s foodscape is brimming with innovation and vigour. From new cooking techniques, to quirky interiors and fusion based menus, every restaurateur worth his salt is doing something different to keep his restaurant at the tip of everyone’s palete. RITZ meets six of the most avant-garde entrepreneurs in the food business.

While one maybe be jaded with the number of cafes and restaurants that keep popping up in the city, there are some places that turn into iconic hangouts. It may be their easy to grab bites or the sweet treats that pack a punch, but the city’s much loved Ox and Tomato and Old Madras Baking Company certainly have the best of both worlds. RITZ catches up with the woman at the helm of affairs, Mansi Reddy, for a pow wow on all things biz in the restaurant market.

Though cafes now are a dime a dozen, Mansi Reddy is confident that Old Madras Baking Company and Ox and Tomato are here to stay. “It most definitely is the food that brings the customers back, but I think that expertise in handling the business end of operations has allowed us to expand and maintain our market share despite competition,” she says.  Unapologetic about the fact that her strengths lie outside the domain of the kitchen, this high-spirited entrepreneur and restaurateur loves the perks of getting to talk to customers and is always on her toes.

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A commerce graduate from Stella Maris, this 28-year-old certainly has got her business sensibilities all sorted out. “We follow kitchen hierarchy to the letter. Our core team at all our restaurants – Sandy’s, Ox and Tomato and Old Madras Baking Company – have been part of the family for a long time. My husband, Sandesh, feels that the head pastry chef is the most important.” That certainly explains why customers love this place.

With outlets of Ox and Tomato and Old Madras Baking Company sprinkled across the city, there has always been a steady flow of customers. Mansi tells us that the largest Ox and Tomato restaurant has about 60 walk-in customers on a daily basis, while Old Madras Baking Company handles about 250-odd bills a day. “There are a lot of people who love to buy bread – from baguettes to croissants to danishes and braided bread. It is true that our prices are a little on the higher side but, we deal with artisanal and all natural products.” Mansi divulges the fact that most customers at the Madras Baking Company are repeat customers who, “once have eaten our bread, always come back for more.” The bakery at TTK road makes about 700 units of bread a day. Backed by the loyalty of her repeat customers, Mansi says that the menu is not tweaked with, that often; however, customising is something they are open to. “We are known for our specials. At Ox and Tomato I recommend the Spanish Fiesta as a vegetarian option and the Kitchen Sink for the meat eaters.  If you are heading to Old Madras Baking Company then give the Banana Bread and the Danish Custard a try.”

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As a hands-on entrepreneur, Mansi travels between at least three Ox and Tomato stores a day. “I’d like to think of it as my pet project,” she smiles. Though interiors at Ox and Tomato are not intended to be plush and luxuriant, the initial investment that went into setting up the first Ox and Tomato, including equipment and interiors, was about

`25 lakhs. “That’s a pretty decent figure, since setting up another Sandy’s would cost about a crore and a half,” she says laughing.

Speaking about future plans, she says, “We are looking at setting up a couple more Ox and Tomato and Old Madras Baking Company stores in areas that we have not yet explored.” The husband and wife duo of Sandesh and Mansi Reddy also recently set up an Old Madras Baking Company in Hyderabad.

Looks like the enterprising couple are taking a bit of home grown nostalgia to distant lands too.