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Choolaah Indian BBQ, a Company Committed to a People-Centric Culture
The Fast Casual Nation Podcast offers exclusive interviews with experts ranging from top chefs and brand makers to executives and restaurants who work in one of the fastest-growing segments of the restaurant industry. In this episode, I chat with Raji Sankar, co-founder of Wholesome International a multi-concept restaurant development company and co-chief executive officer of Choolaah Indian BBQ restaurants which is owned and operated by Wholesome International.
I asked Sankar about her background prior to getting into the restaurant industry and she says, “I was what you could term a permanent student so I went to school for metallurgical engineering and then mechanical engineering masters, went to school for artificial intelligence and then finally got my MBA from Carnegie Mellon and in between I worked in tech and finance in big consulting. I think I was always searching for my true passion.” Sankar adds how she found herself in food and says, “I did two startups with my classmates at Carnegie Mellon while we were still in our MBA course and it was so much fun. It was focused on tech and once we wound that up I ended up in a technology company and that's where I met my current Co-ceo, we hit it off. That company got sold to a larger company and we decided to start something because it's one of those things when you find a great team it's such a powerful thing.”
Sankar shared that in 2003 they wrote the business plan for a fast-casual Indian concept while looking at the trends around fast-casual and brands like Chipotle and Panera were emerging. She said that they saw that consumer behavior was leaning towards families who dined out needed speed and convenience. Consumers still wanted quality ingredients made fresh. Indian at the time was not mainstream and they decided to put that concept on hold.
Wholesome International in 2004 started to franchise Five Guys and Sankar talks about learning about the founders passion, values and staying true. She says they were blown away by the commitment from the brand.
Sankar and I speak about automation and technology available in the industry. She talks about always looking for ways to make things easier on the team, using technology as an enabler for that and constantly innovating.
When I ask about future plans for Choolaah, Sankar says, “so we want to bring that clean, healthy, good for you food across everywhere. We are in the process of opening number seven back in Cleveland. She adds, like I mentioned to you, God willing we will have the opportunity to open across the eastern seaboard and then across all of the U.S.
To hear more about being a people-centric company, the importance of growth & utilizing employee talents at the highest level, and a proactive approach to staffing, listen to this episode of Fast Casual Nation on Spotify.
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