Meet Foodlink’s Sanjay Vazirani, the catering hero of Deepika-Ranveer wedding
Bollywood actors Deepika Padukone and Ranveer Singh’s wedding at Lake Como, Italy, grabbed all the headlines in November last year. As lucky guests left with fond memories of the bash, the food served at the event had a story of its own. Keeping the Konkani and Sindhi themes in mind, Mumbai-based Foodlink Banquets and Catering curated a memorable selection of traditional Konkani and Sindhi delicacies for the wedding.
Foodlink, formed in 2002, had been given a simple brief: less is more. With only this to work with, it had to ensure the food was authentic. Foodlink flew in special chefs from across the country to help them curate the unique dishes. The Italian staff were also trained to work on their dialect to pronounce the Indian dishes right. They were made to wear dhotis and Mysore petas while serving the guests.
Overall, the food at the wedding was a big success. But this comes as no surprise considering the high-profile clients Foodlink usually caters to.
“We are renowned as a premier catering company that delivers gourmet dining experiences across the globe, and have an illustrious clientele, including the Ambani family, Adani Group, Bachchan family, JSW Group, and more," says Sanjay Vazirani, Founder, Foodlink Banquets and Catering.
“We also deliver exceptional dining experiences across Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bangalore under three restaurant formats: China Bistro, India Bistro, and Glocal Junction,” he adds.
The journey so far
Foodlink’s runaway success can be attributed to Vazirani’s passion for creating beautiful experiences with food. “I had humble beginnings and was a hospitality management graduate and an alumnus of Cornell Nanyang Institute of Hospitality Management, Singapore. At first, I dabbled in kitchen design consulting for a while but then decided to launch my own business,” he explains, “I feel I always had an entrepreneurial zeal and a passion for creating a beautiful experience with food.”
Vazirani envisioned a brand that would stand for the best of world cuisine and superlative service standards. “I understood each aspect of such businesses and immersed myself in learning both the theoretical and practical aspects through my education and varied work experience,” he says, “I finally established Foodlink with my own money. It was only later during the expansion phase that I diluted the stake and got private equity.”
Foodlink’s first major milestone came in 2011 when it won the Times Food Guide Award for Best All Rounder Caterer. The following year it won the Times Food Award for Best Multi Cuisine Caterer, awarded exclusivity at YMCA Banquets Ahmedabad. In the same year, it started the China Bistro restaurant in Thane, and in 2013, launched another in Worli.
“In the following years, we won more awards. We bagged multiple GIWA Awards for Best Food Art & Display, and another Times Food Guide Award for Best Caterer. In 2015, we became the preferred partners for Red Earth, Monte Cristo and Andaz Ahmedabad,” Vazirani says. “Over the next three years, we opened more China Bistros, launched Glocal Junction outlets, and won a few more awards,” he adds.
Foodlink found success in a huge Indian F&B industry teeming with opportunities. “The market size of the food and beverages industry in India is $30.76 billion. We differentiate from the competition by understanding each aspect of the customer journey in their interaction with our brands and keeping in sync with global F&B trends,” Vazirani says.
“My hospitality experience has made delivering a great customer experience almost intuitive. Over time, we have built a strong reputation in the industry and it is definitely a daunting task for anyone to replicate the trust and brand loyalty that our customers have gifted us with,” he adds.
Foodlink’s restaurants are known for high-quality dining with personalised service, where it delivers dining experiences at reasonable prices and create a comfortable space for people to socialise and bond. “Further, we believe in the three Rs - Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We implement the same in our kitchens. As part of our CSR initiatives, we also have tie-ups with certain NGOs, where we make sure that fruits and certain non-perishable items like canned nuts, beans, rice etc. are regularly donated to the underprivileged,” he explains.
Challenges and opportunities
An established player like Foodlink still faces challenges in the dynamic F&B marketplace. It is incredibly competitive with new players coming up and the need for rapid innovation. “Here, we try to constantly reinvent ourselves while keeping our brand promise for exceptional food and service intact. Over time, our reputation for reliable and superlative service delivery has earned us many loyal clients, who help the business grow through positive word of mouth and associate us with the best in the industry,” says Vazirani.
“The biggest advice I can give for anyone in this industry is to get your head down and work hard. It’s not about the money, just get on with the job and try and obtain as much experience as you can. Whatever job you’re doing and wherever you’re working, just absorb as much as you can. If you persevere with it, the rewards will come later,” he adds.
In the near future, the business envisions becoming one of the few homegrown brands with a strong international impact. For this, it is constantly reinventing itself to be up to date with global current and future trends.
“We invest heavily in our people and believe in providing the best environment for them to grow with us,” says Vazirani. “We are also digitising our processes to be more efficient and exploring technologies to be in sync with the global digital revolution. In the restaurant space, from discovery to booking, the entire customer journey is already being digitally mapped and seamlessly integrated via restaurant management software,” he says.