How I Built a 6 Figure Business in Hospitality After Lockdown With Three Kids in Tow!
Welcome! Tell us who you are and a quick overview of your business.
I am Juslena Randhawa, I am the owner of Nashtaa Cafe, based in Langley, Slough.
I have 3 children who were aged 1,3 and 5 when I opened in May 2021.
I am a project manager by trade and was working full-time before covid and before I opened Nashtaa.
I have always had a corporate background and have never done business before. I have always had a passion for food and I love good-tasting quality food. I love cooking for everyone and it makes me so happy when people enjoy the food I have cooked for them.
Nashtaa is a fusion brunch and dinner cafe, we also do business launch events, private parties and catering.
All the menus and recipes are created by me, ideas from my home dishes and dishes my parents and grandparents have cooked for me or with me whilst growing up. The menu was created during covid lockdown, where I would repeatedly practice recipes and ideas and perfected my karak chai recipe!
How did you come up with your concept?
During the lockdown, I was put on furlough from my job as a project manager for one of the best tech companies in the world.
The hotel down the road from where I live was preparing to reopen. They were looking for someone to do breakfast for the guests.
I spoke to the landlord and offered to do it as I wasn’t working. He told me to come up with a concept, menu and brand. I created a vision board of how I saw my breakfast place, pink flowers, pink decor, beautiful crockery and rose gold cutlery. I still have that board today!
I went home sat with my thoughts and thought of a menu first — I had always been into my food coming from a family of massive foodies. I always used to like going to see my fellow mummies on breakfast dates but couldn’t seem to find breakfast with a decent punch of flavour and spice and just how we make it at home!
So that was where I started.
All my favourite breakfast and lunch items we make at home on the weekends.
Then it was so easy! I already knew the recipes as this used to be made every weekend when I was a child.
Then I brainstormed with my husband for a name. We came up with Nashtaa.
My next task was branding, someone very wise told me to create a brand that I can pick up and take somewhere else if I need to move premises. So next I had to find a branding person.
One of my closest friends Harps from baby brain memoirs recommended Bindu from Chocatee. We never met in real life as it was lockdown but we created this amazing brand together via the phone and emails!
I wanted to create a space for mums who could enjoy a lovely home-style cooked breakfast to see their friends and the best bit it’s local.
The only coffee place when we opened the area was Costa! My passion was also everything had to be fresh, freshly made on the day fresh ingredients and the taste had to be perfect.
This has now evolved into a family-friendly establishment which has something for people of all generations to enjoy! We have great grandparents to children in a family and all love it. Which makes it all worthwhile.
How did you actually launch? How were those early days?
We were initially supposed to launch in December of 2020, but the government announced another lockdown.
So we kept it on hold till restrictions were lifted but it gave me the time to perfect every detail by going to the cafe every day and adding the little touches.
It was announced in May 2021 that restrictions would be lifted, so I started looking for staff and found a morning cook who I had to train how I wanted the plates to look.
I trained him on every item on the menu, showed him the recipes, made him make them for me tried them perfected them made sure he had it how I wanted it.
Also, the presentation had to be how I wanted it. Then I organised a Photoshoot so we could use the pics to promote our new cafe on Instagram and Facebook.
I was on a tight budget so didn’t have money to advertise.
I managed to 2 kitchen helpers, one person for the bar, who I trained to make fresh coffees, and one staff for the floor and me!
That was my team to open with. We opened on 17th May 2021. We had two weeks of soft openings in which friends and family came, we had feedback forms which everyone filled in.
There were many mistakes made we were all learning. I was also trying to drum up business via Instagram. Suddenly people were posting pictures and tagging Nashtaa!
Then weekends came and our small 30-seater restaurant was overbooked!
I was overwhelmed due to saving money I had a manual reservation book where I was taking phone calls daily up till midnight sometimes for people desperate for a table!
Then I would be up early at the restaurant for 8 and be there all day till we closed at 2.30. 7 days a week I was there with my small team of 5, slowly had to get more people in for weekends as we couldn’t manage I had my family and my sisters come and help me regularly until I managed to get staff.
My sister was heavily pregnant and she was my floor manager for me!
It was a massive learning for me and showed me how unexpected this was. But it was so amazing to do so well so quickly. We were hitting 45k in revenue in our first full month.
It was exhausting and I got very sick after 6 months but worth it. I was living my passion.
What strategies have you used to attract customers or followers?
I really wanted my cafe to be Instagrammable, so I made sure I had beautiful-looking decor, and pretty crockery so the plates would look lovely in pics.
I wanted people to take pics and post them and then tag us.
That’s exactly what happened.
It was a domino effect.
In a year and a half of opening, we had 7k organic followers.
I put in so much work on my Instagram in the early days. Every post, every story.
After a year, I got a social media manager to now manage that side as it was very demanding and I had to focus on growing the business.
We have also had food bloggers in who have reviewed and posted. I also met some amazing people and influencers at events who have come to Nashtaa and tried the food and posted.
This has all helped the followers grow.
I am a bit camera shy so don’t like putting myself out there but I do get a lot of traction when I do so should think about doing more of that!
What has been your biggest hurdle? How have you dealt with it?
I have had many hurdles!
One of which has definitely been having the right staff. It is so important for a hospitality business to have a strong staff and it is really difficult to find. I wasn’t experienced in staff and training so it was whole learning for me too.
The hardest thing is trying to get your staff to follow your ethos and your passion and believe in it. The people who come to work for a job just don’t fit in the business.
Nashtaa is supposed to be a social and friendly place. When people come in they love a good chat with my staff. Along with that, they have the expectation from the beginning of the standard I had set of perfect-looking plates, food should always be on point as well as great service. But I do feel unless I’m there all the time the staff just don’t take responsibility themselves and this is the biggest hurdle.
They will try cutting corners and do things like not being bothered about wastage because it’s not coming from their pocket.
Also being away from my kids has been another hurdle and trying to juggle mum life and being a wife, daughter, and friend as well as now being a business owner and managing a big team of staff.
My family life suffered a lot because I was so focused on my goal.
I tried to juggle everything and I’m so lucky to have an amazing husband who not only handled the kids and the home but also was helping me with Nashtaa stuff and doing a lot of running around for that. He put his own career goals and ambitions on hold so I could live mine.
So our kids always had one of us with them, I would be present sometimes but either so tired or doing work like taking bookings or on the laptop or phone. But after I got sick and managed to get a manager on board and more staff I took some days off and we even managed a holiday to Dubai for Christmas in 2021, 7 months after opening.
What were you doing before this?
I have always been very academic and as soon as I graduated from university I got a job at PwC. I was there for a few years before moving on to Ernst and Young, where I started doing more project work. I really enjoyed this as I was always very good and managing a lot of projects simultaneously. I was good with my time management and people management.
These would be the skills that would help me with my business.
After EY, I took time off to start my family.
After having my second child I started working for an AV company and we were doing projects contracting for Google. This was a project management role too. I was handling projects all over the world in different Google offices.
During this time I fell pregnant with my third child, I was on maternity and then due to come back to work however I was put straight on furlough due to the covid lockdown. Then I got the opportunity for Nashtaa and just as we opened in May 2021 I got a call back from my workplace about coming off furlough and returning to work full time.
This was a massive dilemma for me because either I go for the security of a job where I know I will be able to pay my bills comfortably or I take the risk and go for it. This was also the time I started getting into meditation and manifesting. Something told me that you know what the universe has your back Juslena and just go for it.
My husband was also so supportive and asked me what is the worst-case scenario. Will you have to find another job? You can do it.
So I did, I quit my job and went for my passion. But this was the catalyst for me to give it my ultimate all.
So it sounds mad but I quit my job before I even knew how well Nashtaa would do.
What are your competitive advantages?
A massive competitive advantage Nashtaa has is our taste and quality of food have stayed the same.
Our core kitchen team has been the same since we opened!
We have added to the team and maybe had one person leave the kitchen but they all know what we need to do to keep the taste the same.
If you tried the parante when we opened and try them today they taste the same if not better!
I think the best thing we do is quality control, every day there has to be a test done by the supervisor on shift or the taste of tea and food to make sure it’s consistent.
This is the key to our competitive advantage consistency.
Also, we have a strong presence on social media and the way we branded ourselves in our early days has pushed Nashtaa to another level.
Everyone has heard of us up and down the country which is mad.
We get people and even celebrities who come to Nashtaa of their own accord because they have heard how good our food is.
This is a massive statement in itself.
Where are you today and what are you most excited about in the future?
Today I have had many opportunities and offers for expansion, be it franchising or opening a Nashtaa abroad — which I would love to do.
These are my next steps however right now because I have a young family I have to take one step at a time and so I’m growing the businesses’ arms instead.
We have a catering arm now where we can cater for small weddings or events at people’s houses or even venues.
We have an arm for business launch events or influencer events and now even private parties within Nashtaa itself we are also doing.
I have started monthly bottomless brunches with different themed music.
Next on the agenda is we have teamed up with a company who is a singles/dating site. They will be holding events at Nashtaa which is super exciting!!
So we have a lot happening!
Watch this space!
What are your three top tips for others looking to follow in your footsteps?
- Always do something you have a true passion for. You will never truly be happy otherwise. You may be successful to a certain extent but you won’t get that fulfilment that money can’t buy. So always follow your passion as you will definitely excel in that.
- Never think you can’t do it without trying your utmost best because chances are you can always do it. Utilise the tools and people around you, don’t let having a low investment put you off, you can use things like Instagram and Facebook, TikTok and push your business and market it that way which saves you a massive amount of money. Have that confidence in yourself believe in yourself.
- You can be successful and have a family, just make sure your partner is fully onboard and supportive. A strong support network is essential because business comes with so many stresses and pressures you need those people around you to ground you and keep you together.
What platforms/tools do you use behind the scenes?
- Instagram — this has helped us reach so many different people and showcase what we do, people look at our tags and posts and get FOMO if they haven’t been!
- Canva — has been amazing to create graphics for our marketing and socials
- OpenTable — When I opened Nashtaa, I had no clue and I had a reservations book in which I wrote each table booking every day! Took phone calls and returned every single message. Then I discovered OpenTable for table bookings which saved me so much time!
- Professional photography — it was worth investing in this for the stunning pictures that we have managed to use for socials