Spice of India is 8th best restaurant in the Caribbean
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.