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Sameer and Sheetal Malik are making their mark with a North Indian food offer at the Zan Zi Bar, in Middlesex. Humayun Hussain reports Why my food...

Sameer and Sheetal Malik are making their mark with a North Indian food offer at the Zan Zi Bar, in Middlesex. Humayun Hussain reports

Why my food business is a success

Two key things that make our food such a success are authenticity and fresh preparation. We employ specialist chefs from India who spend several hours a day preparing and marinating our meats, poultry and vegetables, which are supplied to us daily. The food is cooked according to the degree of spicing customers have requested. We check the presentation and standard of the food being sent out to the table and encourage customer feedback.

My best promotions

Our monthly changing chef's specials menu works very well. Specials include salmon Zanzibari, made of subtly-flavoured chunks of spiced salmon; kalmi kebab, chicken legs marinated in yoghurt, cream and light spices; and kathi kebab, diced chicken enveloped in a soft egg roll. Vegetarian options include dahiwala kebab, mildly-spiced yoghurt fritters coated in gram flour and stuffed battered mushrooms.

How I recruit and motivate staff

We are very fortunate as we don't have a large staff turnover - we make sure they feel part of the family business. Celebrating their birthdays and special occasions in our pub motivates them individually and as a team. At regular staff meetings we discuss our progress and look at ways of helping the pub to perform better.

My best-selling dishes

Our three best-selling starters are tandoori aloo (£5.95), garlic chicken (£6.95) and kathi kebabs (£5.95). For mains, the butter chicken (£7.95), sag gosht (lamb with spinach) (£7.95), and the dal makhani, made with black lentils (£6.95), sell very well. Our best-selling desserts include gajar halwa (£2.95), ras malai (£3.45) and kulfi (£3.95) - all three are very traditional.

Our menu

The idea is to have something for everyone, but also to be more than just an average Indian place selling formulaic curries such as chicken tikka masala. Our menu is designed to cater for customers who just want a beer or cocktail at the bar and appreciate accompaniments, such as spicy peanuts or sizzling tandoori chargrill kebabs, while our robust curries and freshly-baked breads attract those seeking a full dining experience. We are very proud to offer items that aren't always seen on Indian menus, such as the home-style asli chicken curry, served on the bone for extra-juicy flavour, as well as masala lamb, a Punjabi-style dish of lamb chunks in a richly-textured north Indian masala sauce, and sarson ka saag, made with mustard leaves.

My best investment in the last 12 months

We have refurbished and redecorated our walls with traditional yet subtle Indian artworks, which attract plenty of positive comments. We avoid overstating the Indian theme because we welcome customers of all backgrounds and don't want to alienate anyone.

So what prompted the pub name Zan Zi Bar?

When we took over this pub, our idea was to serve flavoursome Indian food in a pub atmosphere. This has worked very well. We wanted a name that evoked the spice-producing island off the coast of East Africa, which is very well known for supplying spices to the UK.

My top tips

Offer excellence at affordable prices. As the pub and restaurant business is a very service-oriented profession, your food must be good, but you must also create an atmosphere that encourages customers to return. Do everything to the best of your ability, serve with a smile and leave your problems at home.

Pub facts

Tenure: Scottish & Newcastle leasehold

Turnover: £500,000

GP food: 68%

GP drink: 65%

Covers a week: 600

Food sales as % of turnover: 70%

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