TKD Talks with Saili of Yolkshire, Aundh

18:07:00 Sudipti Singh 2 Comments

Yolkshire board

Comparatively a new kid on the block, Yolkshire has since established a reputation for itself in the last 6 months since its inception. A reason, probably why it clicks might be its concept of an all-egg menu. You heard it right, Yolkshire has all things eggs under one roof. Right from the delectable egg benedict to the humble masala egg bhurji, it has it all. How diverse could the menu get if it's just eggs you say? Well you are in for a surprise. A pleasant one if you enjoy eggs. There are a large variety of ingenious meal omelettes with sides such as hashbrowns, salami, sausages and mushrooms. You can customize your meal with your choice of sides.

The avant-garde venture was first conceptualized by a trio about 5 years ago and the first ever Yolkshire opened up in Kothrud. Despite the slow start the cafe started picking up a clientele, mostly owing to it's innovative menu and fresh concept. Only when Saili joined the management that she started contemplating an expansion of the brand. She took on the tough job of acquiring the location and managing the process of setting up the new branch. The toil and sweat weren't in vain, because on the October of 2015 the Aundh branch of Yolkshire opened its doors to public.

The seating area

Seating area

Though they were prepared for a slow start too, it was a revelation when the turnout on the first day itself was more than they expected. They haven't looked back ever since. Headed by Saili, Yolkshire Aundh runs like a well oiled machine. More and more people visit the cafe everyday to try the fare and most often than not they end up returning, which happened to us too. The location of the cafe is perfect; idyllic yet not very remote. It's a leafy neighborhood that might look like a nice residencial place but it boasts of several corporate offices, gyms, boutiques and pubs. If you land up here on weekends seeking perfect breakfast, which you will obviously find, you might be in for a wait because the tables are mostly taken. At least the outside ones are, which are perfect spots to have a meal, while you have a sweeping view of the street and other cafes across.

Saili is the epitome of girl boss. Previously working in the IT sector she realized that her true love lay in food which made her jump headlong into the hospitality sector. From not having any previous knowledge of the workings of a restaurant to successfully setting up a cafe, she has done it all. Running a busy eatery as Yolkshire is a task in itself yet she finds out time to pop in to the Kothrud branch. She is a powerhouse and she's always on her feet, waiting tables or in the kitchen or behind the counter, making sure things run smooth.

Superwoman Saili

We were able to sit her down one day and talk about Yolkshire and food and other things. Saili, we know this post has been pending for ages now but we wouldn't have forgotten this for the world. Things have been busy at this end but this has always been on our minds.

Though these features we hope to put faces to our favorite eating places in Pune; to help you peek into the world of the people who are responsible for our favorite meals. We hope their journey is not only enlightening but also inspiring.

TKD: How did you plan to start a restaurant?

Saili: I have always been a complete foodie and great lover of food. My world revolves around food, it's all I think about. Even as I sit here I am already planning what I'm going to make for dinner. I really love eating and appreciate good food. I have a degree in engineering and was previously working in IT. I worked there for quite some time and though I loved food even then I hadn't really planned something like this.

Then I joined my dad in his company and that was when I got to travel a lot. I travelled through Europe and got to experience the different cuisine and culture. That was an eye-opener for me.

Yolkshire Kothrud was a few minutes walk from where I lived hence I used to frequent the place a lot and became a regular. It so happened that overtime I got to know the owners and I was in the position to give them suggestions about the dishes and the menu. Along the way I started to think about opening up a place of my own. I wanted to really convince myself that I could do it so I took up the management of the Kothrud branch doing everything from handling the accounts to being in the kitchen to cleaning. After a month I knew that I could handle it and I decided to take the leap.

TKD: Describe the setting up phase of the restaurant? Was it difficult or was it easy because Yolkshire as a brand already existed?

     It's not easy to do business in India. You'll face hurdles in every phase. I mean it took me 3 months just to get a food license. You have to keep everyone happy plus there is always a risk your work won't get done. For instance there was no way to track the status of my application for license. You don't get any email or message plus there is no way to contact them on the website. I had to make at least 5 rounds of the various offices before my query got answered.

     Another challenge is if you are a woman and especially of my age group you won't be taken seriously. If I'd been 10 years older I'm sure things would have been slightly better. I have done all my licensing work myself and I have always faced this problem in the government offices. I have had a hard time from applying for loans to acquiring license. Some people like troubling you just because you happen to be a female. But I can't do anything about this thing except for to fight it out.
      And these are just start up issues. It's even more difficult managing the staff especially when they don't take being bossed around by a woman very well. They have had a different upbringing where they don't understand the concept of men and women being equals and it is a task to make them look up to me as a leader.


TKD: So do you still face hiccups in the day to day operation of the place?

Saili: The challenges are always there. I always have a lot of worries at the back of mind. Like I have to look for a new manager or retaining the staff.

So to you it may seem like a glamorous job but there are lot of little hurdles like these and there are days I just want to give up. I sometimes start wishing for a 9-to-5 job but I can't since I have already leaped into the fire. So when my cousins tell me they want to do something just like me I tell "Please, don't. Because I love you too much!" :D

TKD: haha...but unlike a 9 to 5 job everyday must be eventful, right? No two days the same.

Saili: That's true. There are days which are very exciting and days which are very depressing. And this is just not the sales point of view, it's from the operational and customer point of view. But it is fun. Trust me, everything that you may have planned goes for a toss. You don't get to do everything you planned and you end up doing what you need to do to survive.

TKD: However, going by the response you seem to have struck a chord with the people. Yolkshire aundh is now one of the most popular cafe in this area.

Saili: That is the only thing that keeps me going. The sales figure that we hit on day one was 3 times higher than the sales figure that we estimated and till date we haven't tied up with any marketing agency or PR and still our response has been as good. When I see the familiar faces that have been coming back since day one, I know that I am not doing horribly wrong things in life. :)

TKD: How popular has it been since it started off? How is the footfall and when are you the most crowded?

Saili: It's been over 6 months now and I have started noticing a dedicated footfall. I see the same faces for breakfast especially. That's mostly because I don't think any other place opens up as early as ours. Also there are gyms close by so we get the gym regulars every morning and evening.

TKD: What has been the weirdest experience managing a Cafe?

Saili: Believe it or not, people not paying their bill and walking off is one of the strangest experience. I didn't know this actually happened in Pune until I saw people do it. Also, people come up with a lot of excuses. One is "I've just come back from the gym and I don't have my wallet on me, so I'll pay tomorrow".
I maintain a register where I keep a track of these things and at the end of the day I end up paying from my pocket to tally the balances. And these are nice looking people with cars and fancy watches!

TKD: Which restaurants do you like in Pune personally that you'd like to suggest foodie to foodie?
Saili:  Well, one of the fine dine places I'd suggest is the buffet in Westin which is the best buffet I have had in Pune. Ditto for the buffet in Novotel. As for cafes, I really like the Where Else Cafe for their Parsi cuisine. Also, I can't get bored of barbeque in Barbecue Nation. Other than that, Arthur's Theme at Koregaon Park. Also do try waffles at Henny's food truck..they are the epitome of waffles.
        I like breakfast at Skip's too. I recommend it even though they are my competitors :D But I'd suggest that they make changes to their menu. They've had the same menu since the last 3 years though their food is good.

TKD: What are your picks from the menu that you'd recommend our readers?

Saili: Being a hardcore vegetarian, I would be very bad suggesting vegetarian options but for people visiting Yolkshire I'd suggest Mexican Salsa and Omelette Reve in eggs. Also my current favorite is the Stroganoff Rice so I'd suggest that. Also, Chocoburst pancakes because I personally like them too.

TKD: What, in your words, is the USP of Yolkshire?

Saili:  Nutritious, pocket-friendly food sums it up. We are very clear on keeping it pocket friendly even though it lowers the profit margin for us. We want people to come here again and again as frequently as possible and their pocket should permit them every time.

TKD: What are your plans for the future regarding this place?

Saili: I would really like to open up atleast 3-4 branches of Yolkshire in Pune in the next 2 or 3 years time. I have really realized the brand value of Yolkshire after coming to Aundh. Initially I was doubtful as how many people would really know about Yolkshire outside of Kothrud but I have been totally proven wrong by the response and I'm really happy about that.

Apart from that, I have plans for my own food truck. Though the plans are still in my head but I really hope to do it in Pune. I think we are really lacking good food truck.Also there is lot issues with starting a food truck. People in India still don't know about food trucks. There aren't many laws regarding their licensing and all and the people who are running food trucks are facing a lot of problems. However I think things should work out by the time Yolkshire Aundh settles in a bit.

The small little cozy spot

Well, she does seem like a feisty lady doesn't she? She sure knows how to get the work done, crossing the t's and dotting the i's. We wish her the best for the future and hope Yolkshire goes from strength to strength, especially since we are already in love with the egg benedicts there. We are glad we can count her as one of our good friends in the business.

We were also lucky enough to get a photoshoot done for their new menu and in the process were able to sample the newest additions to their selection. We will be putting a detailed review on the blog soon. Till then head over to Yolkshire and make sure you pass on a 'Hi' to Saili now that you know her too! 

Stairway to indoor seating

Kitchen entrance

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