Business Confidential: From a Bus Boy to a New York City Restaurant Legend
Every week here at Bundle, we highlight a business that has a Bundle score close to a perfect 100 on our rating system. To calculate a score for a business, we use data to determine the popularity of a place compared to its peers, the loyalty of its customer base, and how much people spend there. We know these places are doing something right to be a member of the Bundle Hundreds.
While some ethnic restaurants immitate, other rare gems duplicate -- and then innovate. That's where Tamarind comes in.
WHY IT'S DIFFERENT
Because it’s not your typical Indian restaurant, but familiar enough that the gourmet home cooking-style cuisine is recognizable and comforting, Tamarind is simply unbeatable. Its food is consistently top-notch in terms of taste, innovation, and presentation; and its die-hard local and international fan-base shows its gratitude by coming back time, after time, after time.
Tamarind's cool, elegant space is modern and inviting, and the staff is eager to please. Here at Bundle, we wanted to know what makes people come back to Tamarind time after time, year after year. We wanted to understand the method behind the stellar numbers.
Tamarind Score Breakout
"At 2 a.m. I got a call from Tokyo," said Tamarind's founder and owner, Mr. Avtar Walia, who got his start in restaurants as a busboy in 1977. "The lady said she wanted to make a reservation for six people on Saturday night, because their Secretary of Treasury was coming. She said, ‘Please make the reservation—otherwise I will lose my job!' Those are the people who keep us in business. We have a great love and respect for them."
The restaurant opened its first location in New York's bustling Flatiron district in January 2001, and three years ago, Mr. Walia expanded his family and opened Tamarind TriBeCa.
WHY IT DOES WELL
On the challenges of opening a new location, Mr. Walia put it plain and simple.
"These things are necessary for opening a restaurant: Good location, good place, good quality food and a clean ambiance," Mr. Walia said. "And a personal touch," he added. Mr. Walia's personal touch can be seen all over Tamarind, from the decor to the quality of the wait staff. "We train our staff like military: Sometimes, they have a written test, and they must score above 95 percent in order to be on the floor," he said. "We train them, and educate them. We demand that kind of service."
Mr. Walia attributes Tamarind's enduring success to great food, a great atmosphere, and excellent customer service. "I learned one lesson: If you want to make a place successful, and operate it the way you want, you need to be a solo owner," he said. "This is true for any business."
According to Mr. Walia, the failure of any business can be attributed to:
- The finances
- Disagreements between partners
- Poor management
If you can get over and above these three, he says, you are fine.
WHY PEOPLE LOVE IT
Mr. Walia, who is on the floor from open to close, every day except Sunday (his one day off), gleefully boasted his best practice of sending a dish straight back into the kitchen if he doesn’t like the looks of it. He knows his Tandoori Chaamp like the back of his hand, and he knows exactly what shade of brown those lamb chops should be.
This attention to detail and unfailing focus on guests' overall dining experience has made Tamarind a stand-out restaurant that has endured the test of time.
When is Tamarind busiest?
A late lunch customer stopped by to say hello to Mr. Walia; but before he could get a word out she was reveling in the coconut barfi she had just relished. Mr. Walia assured her she could always order it by special request, regardless of whether it was on the menu.
Editor’s note: We returned to try the coconut barfi. Now we get it.