Barrister-turned-restaurateur, executive chef and TV presenter, Nisha Katona’s inspirational (and fast-growing) business is known for championing authentic and healthy Indian recipes in a home-from-home setting. Founded just four years ago, Mowgli Street Food Restaurants now operates six sites in Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford, Nottingham and Birmingham – with four new openings planned in the next 12 months. A self-proclaimed ‘curry evangelist’, she’ll be sharing insights into her career so far – and future plans for Mowgli – in a highly-anticipated opening day Keynote interview.
What restaurant & pub operators do you particularly admire and why?
Karen Jones for the way that she employs every sinew of heart and mind in her approach to every aspect of business.
What do you feel is the key for operators to successfully compete against their competitors in 2019 and beyond?
Great food at a great price. It needs to be healthy and, quite frankly, addictive. The dishes need to have their own followers. The days of beguiling with brand are over.
What do you see as key trends in the coming year?
Healthy, which often means meat free. Spices are a good way of making vegan exciting and hence, we see an increased popularity of various Asian dishes.
What’s your bestselling dish / drink at the moment?
Yoghurt Chat Bombs and the Mowgli Chip Butty. Also our Smoked Cardamom Old Fashioned.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of your job?
Growing people in a working environment that is purposeful, fulfilling and nourishing.
And the most challenging?
We are not everyone’s cup of tea. My dishes taste like my grandmothers. Other Indians from other culinary regions take it most personally when my dishes do not taste like their grandmothers!
How important is the Casual Dining show to the casual dining sector?
For a little northern, striving, inexperienced entity like me, it means everything to be able to meet the brilliant giants of the casual dining fraternity, whose hallowed strata, I ordinarily would not be able to penetrate. So thank you!!
Describe the Casual Dining trade show in 3 words:
Necessary. Unifying. Encouraging.
Can you tell us a bit about your much anticipated session at Casual Dining 2019?
I love the question and answer format as it gets straight to the point and is an opportunity for on the hoof honesty. I may not do myself any favours but as a new entrepreneur, I think it’s important to share my tale, warts and all.
Who or what inspires you to be even better?
My failures will lead to a slowing of growth, which means slowing the development of my staff. Having a team animates the restaurant. They become the living embodiment of Mowgli so whatever lets her down, let’s them down.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Whatever is for you, will not go past you. This faith formed default means that, as long as I am doing my very best, there can thence be no regret, no sense of missing out, no bitterness and no deep anxiety.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself that most people don’t know:
I like a bit of Meatloaf Karaoke.
See Nisha at Casual Dining 2019
Exclusive Interview with Nisha Katona, CEO & Founder of Mowgli: 2.45pm in Keynote Theatre 1 on Wednesday 27 February.