The young and dynamic entrepreneur and restaurateur, Rajesh Dessai, who is responsible for the success of the restaurant chain, shares with NT Kuriocity his journey
Bringing the authentic flavour of Goan cuisines to the table, Ritz Classic, today is a household name. A Times Food Awards Winner for Best Seafood and Best Goan Fish Thali in Goa from 2011 to 2017, it has five outlets and many other awards under its belt.
Ritz’s story began in 1978 when Rohidas ‘Daad’ Dessai moved to Panaji from Cuncolim along with his family and began a quaint eatery, Café Ritz close to the Hindu Pharmacy. With just four tables, Dessai would serve the patrons traditional Goan fare prepared by his wife. Soon the popularity of his fish thali reached far and wide and before long there were snaking queues outside the tiny restaurant, all wanting to taste the mouth-watering delicacies.
From Café Ritz to Ritz Classic, the success of the restaurant chain is due to the able management and foresight of Dessai Jr, who took over from his father, nearly two decades ago. “Actually I was still in school when I would come in and keep an eye on the restaurant. I was fascinated by the business and would wait to finish school (which was luckily close by) so I could oversee the running of the place,” he recalls. With his father’s focus turning to social work and service, it was left to young Rajesh to keep a watchful eye on the business and he took to it like fish to water. “I felt it was my responsibility to manage the restaurant as my father was busy with his humanitarian work. Also running the restaurant became my passion; so much so that I used to be at the restaurant before lunch time and wait until closing.” For a youngster spending nearly 12 to 13 hours in the family business meant there was no time for anything else. “Yes, I definitely had to make many sacrifices and while in college, I would attend the first few lectures and rush back. The restaurant gave me practical knowledge that no college could offer. I had already started dreaming of what I wanted for the restaurant and the practical knowledge was extremely crucial to my plans,” he states. Besides compromising on the classroom sessions, he also had to give up many of the leisures and pleasures that youngsters his age would indulge in. “The restaurant left me with no time and believe me, I really did not miss hanging out with friends or partying. I was truly happiest in the restaurant amidst the diners and every time I got a compliment for the food, I was elated. In fact that still hasn’t changed,” he says.
Ritz is renowned for its fresh fish and as Rajesh says, it is the restaurant’s trademark. Hence every morning between 6 am and 6:30 a.m., come rain or shine, you can find him at the Panaji market procuring the freshest catch for the restaurant. “To get the best, you have to be there on time. Commitment is necessary if you want to succeed,” he adds.
Having a dream and making it materialise is not always easy and there is struggle but Rajesh says, he has been fortunate and the sailing has been quite smooth. “In the restaurant business, I believe the biggest obstacle is getting competent and reliable staff. So yes, in this area there have been some stumbling blocks but then you have to learn how to manage and build a rapport with your staff. People skills are extremely vital in this area and so is keeping a cool head. Not just with staff but also with diners,” he shares.
His mantra for success, he says, is hard work and determination and adds, “Nothing comes easy and there are no short cuts. Passion and commitment along with focus and toil are absolutely necessary to make a go of any business or task you put your hand and mind to.” Urging Goan youth to take up challenges and start their own business, he says: “There is a lot of potential in our State and the government too has various schemes available. You need to do your homework and research, find your niche and then check the viability of starting your own enterprise. Do not give up even before you start. Remember things start small but can grow to great size.”
(Pic by Hemant Parab | NT KURIOCITY)