The Little Door: A Chat with Owner Tanu Narang
Is it just us or are new restaurants/bars/lounges cropping up in the city literally every other day in the past couple of months? We decided to catch up with Tanu Narang, owner of the quirky resto-bar The Little Door, that is slowly turning into a favourite among young party-goers in the city. Let’s find out what inspired her to start this business, the story behind the funky menu, and a lot more.
Tell us about your career path. How did you get your start? What interested you about this particular kind of restaurant?
I was a successful brand manager in a well-known media firm when I decided to resign and invest some time in planning my own business. Though I loved my job, the thought of becoming an entrepreneur was more appealing. A regular job can get really dull, even when you’re doing something you love and with people you care about.
I have always loved to travel and the purpose of travelling has mostly been to try out new places, new cuisines and new flavours. On one of my trips to Krakow in Poland, I realised that a bar needs to be grungy, rustic and loud. It can be cosy, beautiful, simple yet stylish. I loved the designs of the restaurants and bars there and I loved the atmosphere. I imagined something like it right here in India and I would speak about it all the time, but no one took me seriously. I had a desire but no experience and no cooking skills and I was weary of doing it on my own. So one day, I called my brother (Bhuvan Narang) and said, “Listen I have thought of a business that we can start together. Let’s open a resto-bar, but something more stylish, trendy and fun!” And without hesitation he was like, “Ok, did you not know that my life-long personal dream has been to own my own restaurant. Let’s do it!” Talk about thinking like brother-sister!
The Little Door is the inspiration for our love of great food, drinks, music and activities. It was our desire to bring more depth and understanding of the international bar concept to India; and do it with a sense of style and fun.
Where does the restaurant’s name come from?
It is a really unique take on bars that India has never seen before. And so we decided that the name also had to be unique. We wanted to create a mystery about the hidden paradise that is on the other side of the door when people enter our Mediterranean-themed bar. After a few nights of brainstorming sessions with friends and family, we decided to take a poll on the shortlisted names. The names were posted on social networking sites and out of 1000 plus votes received by us, 812 liked The Little Door.
What makes your restaurant interesting/unique to other restaurants?
We love to believe that we are unique in every aspect. We are different to other bars or resto-bars in terms of decor, design, programming & music, food & beverage offerings and the casual games that we conduct – it’s so much fun to get random tables to compete with each other and compete fiercely but part as friends.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities as a restaurant owner and manager?
Most of my time goes in ordering produce, making sure that everyone is happy and working well, overseeing the cleanliness of the restaurant, checking inventory and rotation of food and drinks, making sure all equipment is working properly, chatting up with the customers and most importantly “being there”.
What’s your secret to keeping customers coming in?
The secret is to keep up with the changing times and changing demands of the customers. We keep doing minor changes to the decor, the programming, the menu and the service staff so that our customers always experience something new every time they visit The Little Door.
What are some of the challenges of being a restaurant owner and manager?
The biggest difficulty you face while keeping your business afloat is to deal with the people. It could be a local authority, an association, an obnoxious customer or a dishonest employee. It is a part of your learning course; you deal with them and you move on.
How can the reality of restaurant management as a career differ from typical expectations? What advice can you give to those who would like to open a restaurant of their own someday?
The reality of being in restaurant business is not as rosy as it looks like, but it’s a superb journey. My advice to those who would like to open their restaurant someday would be “Go for it” and don’t be afraid. Don’t let people stop you from dreaming big. The more you connect with people the more exciting the dream becomes. If you believe in yourself you can do anything.
Who have been some of the instrumental people who have really encouraged and supported you through the starting and maintaining of your own restaurant?
In my case, my dad has been my biggest support. He influences a lot in how I think, how I feel and the decisions that I make every single day. Things could be going wrong, the ceiling would be on top of my head, and his words to me are always “you’re a strong girl, you can do it!” My goal is to never disappoint him. It was a great feeling to see him smile proudly at his kids when we opened The Little Door. My husband also has been amazingly supportive. As a matter of fact, he is the greatest fan of The Little Door and also the biggest critic.
It has been said that the décor of a place often reflects a person’s personality. What particular accessory/accent, would you say, most reflects your personality? What aspect would that be?
I would describe myself as a determined, fun loving, fashion conscious woman who believes in staying simple yet stylish and I think the decor of The Little Door shouts the simplicity of my personality.
Where do the ideas for your food come from? What is the inspiration behind the masterpieces?
All the inspiration comes from my travel diaries. On every trip I make sure that I do a few tapas tours, cooking classes or just meet a few chefs to know their specials.
What are the most popular dishes among the customers at your restaurants?
Our star dish is Greek Nachos. The other popular dishes are Vodka Penne, Champagne Risotto and Drunkesserts (Drunken Desserts).
What are some of your interests/hobbies outside of the restaurant business?
The time I am not at The Little Door – Mumbai/Pune or I am not occupied with a few consultancy projects for my other business named Jamun, I go on short offbeat vacations to not-so-known places with my husband and a few friends.