Spice of In­dia is 8th best restau­rant in the Caribbean

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Dee Lundy-charles

When the hus­band and wife team of Adil and Nady Sher­wani opened Spice of In­dia at Bay Walk Mall in De­cem­ber 2010, it was with a lot of pas­sion and a lit­tle trep­i­da­tion. After all, Chef Adil ad­mits, it’s not an easy jump from be­ing em­ployed by high end re­sorts at an ex­ec­u­tive level to run­ning your own restau­rant, and there cer­tainly are no guar­an­tees. So when their lit­tle restau­rant hit the top spot on TripAd­vi­sor just four months later, in April 2011, the Sher­wa­nis were de­lighted and con­sid­ered it a good start.

Four years on and Spice of In­dia has re­mained TripAd­vi­sor’s num­ber one restau­rant in Saint Lu­cia, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing an in­cred­i­ble 809 reviews as of this week, with 83 per cent rat­ing the Rod­ney Bay eatery as “ex­cel­lent.” Any restau­rant owner who has felt the wrath of disgruntled guests on TripAd­vi­sor will know just what an as­ton­ish­ing achieve­ment this is – and just how much of a strug­gle it must be to main­tain.

This month on Oc­to­ber 7, Chef Adil made his daily trip to TripAd­vi­sor – he has per­son­ally re­sponded to ev­ery sin­gle one of the 800+ reviews since 2010 – and to his amaze­ment dis­cov­ered that Spice of In­dia has been voted one of the Top Ten Caribbean Restau­rants for 2014. No St. Lu­cian restau­rant has ever fea­tured in TripAd­vi­sor’s top ten, and nei­ther has In­dian cui­sine ever made it to that heady height, so the sur­prise was dou­bly sweet.

Sit­ting down this week with Adil and Nady, I was in­trigued to find out more about their win­ning for­mula for suc­cess, and almost im­me­di­ately the dy­namic be­tween them spoke vol­umes. While Adil’s pas­sion is for food – par­tic­u­larly the re­gional, home-style cui­sine of his In­dian roots – Nady is all about business, call­ing her­self the ‘be­hind the scenes’ com­ple­ment to her hus­band’s front-of-house pres­ence. Says Nady: “He’s hap­pi­est in the kitchen and I hate to cook. I’ve fo­cused on op­er­a­tions and HR be­cause of my man­age­ment de­gree and business ex­pe­ri­ence, so we make a good team!”

What the Sher­wa­nis have in common is a firm belief that ex­cel­lent ser­vice comes be­fore all else, and from day one they have led the restau­rant team from the front, in­still­ing best prac­tices and in­cul­cat­ing a de­sire to go the ex­tra mile for ev­ery cus­tomer, ev­ery time. They stick firmly to their belief in giv­ing guests an ex­pe­ri­ence that ex­ceeds ex­pec­ta­tions ev­ery sin­gle time, and ev­ery staff mem­ber is part of that process.

The Spice of In­dia team is a “co­he­sive unit” ac­cord­ing to their bosses, and in most cases, guests are blown away by the level of ser­vice they ex­pe­ri­ence – and there are scores of re­peat cus­tomers who will­ingly back up that rep­u­ta­tion by word of mouth, which is just as in­flu­en­tial as TripAd­vi­sor’s on­line im­pact. Prof­itabil­ity is one thing, but there is a real hu­man­ity be­hind the cul­ture and ethos of the Sher­wa­nis.

De­spite the ups and downs of the tourist sea­son, Adil and Nady em­ploy their staff year round. For months be­fore open­ing, they trained and ed­u­cated the team and while other restau­rants lay off and ro­tate their peo­ple in the off­sea­son months, Spice of In­dia‘s own­ers recog­nise the is­sues as­so­ci­ated with that prac­tice. In­vest­ing in their team means con­sis­tent em­ploy­ment, tak­ing a profit hit when nec­es­sary to main­tain the train­ing, com­mit­ment and ser­vice needed to be the Caribbean’s eighth most popular restau­rant on the global go-to site for travel and tourism.

“The staff works in synch to­gether, but it is a process of con­stantly ed­u­cat­ing and work­ing with them to make sure that they un­der­stand the pri­or­i­ties and stan­dards that we want for the business,” says Adil. And lead­ing by ex­am­ple is the proven method be­cause the stan­dards they ex­pect are con­sis­tent and not a sur­prise to any Spice of In­dia em­ployee.

Ac­cord­ing to Nady, it’s all about be­ing on the same page: “I am a very picky per­son and I look at ev­ery­thing from the per­spec­tive of the cus­tomer - is the door­mat swept; are the win­dows clean; what is the first im­pres­sion we give our guests? This is what we ex­pect ev­ery day so we re­in­force it con­stantly with our team, and of­ten if some­thing is not right I will find that some­one is al­ready on top of it. We get in­put and feed­back from all our staff, be­cause the de­ci­sions that we make af­fect ev­ery­one, so we want to know their thoughts be­fore­hand.”

The re­sult of this pro­gres­sive, in­clu­sive man­age­ment ap­proach is clear, not only from the TripAd­vi­sor ac­co­lades but from the de­voted lo­cal fol­low­ing that sus­tains the restau­rant in the tourism guava sea­son. Adil and Nady now con­sider many of their lo­cal cus­tomers as close friends, to say noth­ing of their fans in Mar­tinique, where word of mouth has made the restau­rant a bit of a legend for any week­end trip to Rod­ney Bay. “We had a guest re­cently who was check­ing in to fly to St. Lu­cia from Mi­ami, and some­one told her ‘you must go to Spice of In­dia’ so she did! That is re­ally hum­bling, but it con­firms to us we are on the right track,” smiles Adil, con­fi­dent that their spot on TripAd­vi­sor is prob­a­bly safe in the Sher­wa­nis’ hands for the fore­see­able fu­ture.

With such a fun-loving group, it’s no won­der that Spice

of In­dia is a favourite of lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike.

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