Maneet Chauhan | Crain's San Francisco

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Maneet Chauhan

Background:  

After serving as executive chef for restaurants in Chicago and New York and appearing on Food Network shows such as "Chopped" and "Iron Chef America," Maneet Chauhan was drawn to Nashville to open her first restaurant. Chauhan Ale & Masala House welcomed its first diners in 2014. After launching Morph Hospitality Group two years later, Chauhan and her team opened two more Nashville restaurants, Tansuo and The Mockingbird. 

The Mistake:

I make mistakes all the time. I think they are very important because you learn from them, whether they are small or big errors. I don't think there has ever been a [decision] I have regretted — because I make the best of them. To me, something that seemed a mistake at the time has always been turned later to my advantage.

When we were thinking of opening a restaurant in Nashville, my husband, Vivek, had a couple of businesses over there, but we were based in New York. The plan was that we would open an outpost and commute but that New York would still be home base. So of course, best-laid plans, right?

The day we opened the restaurant, my son decided to be born three months early, so he was in the NICU in Nashville. At that time, we made the decision to move here, and it was frightening; New York is the food mecca of the world, and if you're in New York, you think you've arrived.

Of course, Vivek had to sell all of his shares in his businesses. At that time, we were asking ourselves, what are we doing? But three years later, we have three successful, thriving restaurants and two breweries — and no plans to stop.

You cannot be arrogant about cooking your food; you’re doing it for your customers.

The Lesson:

We turned [the move] to our advantage by exploring Nashville and asking ourselves what the gaps in the city’s culinary tapestry were. Moving to Nashville has put me on the international map. Nashville is a growing city, and it's a very exciting time for chefs and restaurateurs.

The customer base here appreciates good food. You cannot be arrogant about cooking your food; you’re doing it for your customers. Being here has really helped me because I am now a very vocal spokesperson for Nashville and its culinary scene.

I think the one philosophy my husband and I have is that we explore every opportunity that comes our way. So that's what we did. We fell in love with not only the soul of the city but also with the business promise here. We knew we would be the only restaurant doing what we were doing.

My biggest advice to people would be to do your homework. I cannot tell you the number of people who come to our restaurants and say they want to open their own. Everybody is under the impression that opening a restaurant is a simple thing to do, but it isn't. It takes a lot of planning and forecasting — it’s a business.

Maneet Chauhan is on Twitter: @ManeetChauhan.

Pi Photo courtesy of Morph Hospitality 

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