Sifat Mosaddek Bhuiyan, Md Tausif Rahman, Abu Taher Onik, Noor-E-Alam Siddique and Abdullah Ibrahim Mahdi , founders of Urban Spoon, recount their journey in the restaurant business. This story is part of our ongoing weekly restaurant feature series in collaboration with Food Talk, a platform for food connoisseurs
Every other weekend, our group of friends would seek out a hangout location in the Banani area. Picking the right spot to meet our disparate tastes would be the first hurdle. Everyone had their ideas, and each idea had its merits. We would eventually agree on a place, but a few repeat visits would be enough for the chosen spot to lose its appeal.
Some of our founding partners were already looking for a new venture to start together, but needed something we shared a mutual passion for. We decided to start our own restaurant – a place that would sell delicious multi-cuisine food items that are on par with contemporary tastes. Our collective experience of being dissatisfied with our search for a good hangout spot made us also want to focus on the ambience. We wanted to create an environment that would have an aura of comfort and excitement at the same time. When people would visit us, they would leave behind their worries, relax, and enjoy their time with their friends, family, loved ones, or even be able to have a good time in solitude.
Hence, Urban Spoon - a physical manifestation of our collective vision – was born in September, 2017.
The first year was more challenging than we had anticipated. Banani 11, where we are located, is a highly competitive area with many restaurants including casual diners like ours. We had big dreams but small wallets. We leaned on organic growth by providing top quality food and customer service. In terms of the look and feel of the restaurant, we steadily built on our vision, bit by bit. Almost three years later, we are very close to giving complete shape to our vision.
Our passion for serving our customers the way we would want to be served helped us gradually become one of the top casual diners in Banani. Slowly but very steadily, we saw our customer base grow to the impressive number it is today. What has kept us surviving and thriving till date is our strong commitment to continuous improvement in every aspect of our business. We pay careful attention to customer feedback, but also rely on intuition to seek out opportunities for growth. We know, however, that we still have a long way to go.
There were challenges, yes. Looking back, we are glad we overcame them. The first year, where we had to learn and build on experiences was especially challenging. During that period, we had to closely monitor customer responses to our offerings and adapt accordingly (we still do, but it is relatively easier now thanks to experience). We did adapt successfully, and when we successfully crossed the one-year mark, we were more certain than ever that we will eventually make it among the elites of the hospitality industry. Close to two years from that time, we are very confident that we were right.
Lessons from the pandemic
This pandemic has taught us a few important lessons. From our perspective, we learned to combat an existential threat right when our business reached arguably its best ever phase in terms of financial returns. It was hard to digest, but we accepted our fate and took on the challenge. We were closed for around a couple of months. However, we learned that indeed, we had a very loyal base of customers who stuck with us during the crisis, and this is one of the factors that helped us get out of the worst phases of the pandemic period when operations partially resumed after many days of complete closure.
This gave us the courage to not only continue operations, but also to expand carefully and smartly. We are looking forward to beginning operations in a cloud kitchen setting in Uttara. This requires much less operational expenditure, but gives us significant reach to new customers who prefer food delivered to their doorstep. The future looks challenging – we expect no less – but we firmly believe that we are well-equipped to face them and excel.